While, depending on the day, it may or may not quite feel like it, summertime is indeed almost here and with summer comes festival season. Undoubtedly, one of my favorites has to be the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest, which is now in its 34th year and takes place (much as the name would suggest) in Chicago’s Printers Row neighborhood on June 9th and 10th. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Program Manager Teresa Basso Gold and Publicist Dana Kaye for a sneak peek. Read on to see what they had to say.
Andrew DeCanniere (AD): While I am familiar with the Lit Fest and its history, I was thinking that perhaps the best place to begin is the beginning. So, I was wondering if you could provide some background about the festival.
Dana Kaye (DK): Well, the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest is the midwest’s largest literary festival and this year it will be taking place on June 9th and 10th, and we will have combination of indoor and outdoor programming. Outside, we have Little Lit Park, which is where all the family programming will take place. In addition, all of the various vendors will be out on the street, and it’ll run on Dearborn between Harrison and Polk and then down Polk from State to Clark. Vendors include local publishers and booksellers, artisans, literary organizations and other types of literary vendors.
There are also a number of indoor venues where programming will take place, most of it at Jones College Prep High School. We have many more spaces this year, which is exciting, because it’s always good to be expanding. So, there’ll be programming in the auditoriums, the cafeteria and the library over there. We’ll also be returning to the Harold Washington Library, as well as Grace Place. All of the programming will be indoors, except for Little Lit Park, which is where the kids music, readings and family entertainment will take place, and once again, the festival is free and open to the public.
If people want to guarantee themselves a seat at any event taking place at Jones College Prep or Grace Place, they will need to reserve tickets online and there is a two dollar registration fee, but that is only to guarantee themselves a seat. That said, if there is space available, and someone would like to attend an event but has not reserved a seat, we will let them in. For people who want to get the most out of the event, we are also offering a Fest Pass, which is a pass that will get people early ticketing and early seating. Additionally, Fest Pass holders will be among the first in the signing lines. So, it’s basically the premiere pass to Lit Fest.
Teresa Basso Gold (TBG): We’ll have poetry readings, performance-based programs, young adult programs. We work with young adult organizations like 826 CHI, the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Out Loud program, as well as Louder Than A Bomb. It’s great we’re able to incorporate those organizations every year. I also think that graphic novels and comics is a really strong area this year. We have Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, Nick Drnaso and Hillary Chute. In addition, we have Nicole Hollander from the Sylvia comic strip, and then we have Audrey Niffenegger who will also be doing a program. We will also have poetry programming. In addition to the young adult organizations, we will have Kevin Young and Natasha Tretheway, which I think will be great. We’re excited that came together. Under the TV category, we will have Michael Imperioli, who many will know from HBO’s The Sopranos. He has a novel that’s coming out. From NBC’s Chicago PD, we have Marina Squerciati. Jamila Woods will also be appearing at Lit Fest. Hers will be a sort of performance, along with contributors from The BreakBeat Poets: Black Girl Magic. It’s her anthology that just came out and we’re really excited about that program. Then we can’t forget about David Ross, former catcher from the Chicago Cubs. Country Financial is going to be sponsoring his program. Kerry Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy’s daughter, is going to speak. She has a new book out and it is about how her father influenced so many people and their reflections on that, and how they sort of lead their lives based on how he impacted so many people. I think that is a really special book.
For people who are into news and politics, the C-SPAN Auditorium is where most of that programming will take place. We have a lot of pop culture people from TV and movies who have written books. As was mentioned, we have David Ross on the sports side, and then of course there is the Food & Dining stage as well. We have Stephanie Izard and Rick Bayless — a lot of great Chicago chefs who are coming to do cooking demos and to talk about their cookbooks. So, there is definitely something for every interest and a lot of the stages are themed. There’s the Food & Dining stage in the cafeteria. The event with David Ross is in the gym. We try to kind of theme the locations by the type of programming.
AD: It really does sound as though there will be quite a wide array of programming. I know that last year was wonderful. I think the hardest thing was choosing what to go to, because there’s just so much that sounded interesting, albeit for different reasons.
DK: The goal is always to spread it out, of course, so that if people might have an interest in same types of programs, they are able to attend both. One of the other things this year that I think is really great is that Volumes Bookstore is coming back on to support book sales. While it is not with every author, they have arranged for some signings in their tent as well. So, if you don’t have the chance to catch the program or you weren’t able to get tickets to an event that was sold out, you can go to their tent later in the day and they are going to have a signing schedule with some of the authors, if you just would like to get your book signed.
We are also experimenting with live podcasts this year. We have a program on the Food & Dining stage, Chewing with Louisa Chu and Monica Eng. We have Being Boss, which is focused on becoming an entrepreneur, and then we also have Steve Almond and Kevin Coval.
AD: That sounds like it should be interesting.
DK: They’ll be doing live recordings that will air at a later date, but it will be fun for people to see what goes into recording a podcast.
AD: I know that there are just so many events that comprise Lit Fest, but is there anything else, in particular, you wanted to highlight?
TBG: I think we sort of have a bit of everything. I’m looking at my schedule right now. There are programs covering architecture, film, mystery. I think we touch on every different genre.
DK: We have family programming for people with young children, food & dining programming for the foodies, political programming, and then we have a lot of actresses, actors and pop culture icons who will be participating. In addition, the live podcasting will be bringing in that multimedia component this year. Of course, there’s a festival component, so for people who like rare books or want hand-bound leather journals or what to learn about the different publishers in Chicago, there’s something for them as well.
TBG: Lorrie Moore will also be at this year’s festival. So, we have a very strong novel/fiction program.
AD: Sounds like there’s quite a lot — a pretty broad appeal, I think.
TBG: For sure. That’s why we attract a lot of different types of people. People drive in from all over. There’s just something for everyone.
AD: Well, I know last year was great and it looks like this year is, as I said, shaping up to be no exception. Last year I know that Gillian Flynn was there. I personally went to the program featuring Megan Abbott and Jennifer Finney Boylan. Then, there was another one I went to — a conversation — that featured, among others, Catherine Lacey. Anyway, there were quite a few programs that I was fortunate to be able to attend. It really was wonderful. Getting down to the more technical details, if you will, the tickets for these programs are available on your website, right?
DK: Yes. So, Fest Pass is currently available for sale and then tickets go on sale [on May 15th].
TBG: Basically, to ensure that you get a seat at any of the events taking place in either Jones or Grace Place, you should get your tickets online, for which there is a small registration fee. However, if you are at the festival and want to see a program but you do not have tickets, you should still show up because we may be able to accommodate you. For the library, there aren’t any tickets. You have to register but you don’t pay for the tickets. Going back to guaranteeing a seat, I think when people see a program is sold out, we would still encourage them to go to the venue. So, we encourage you not to be discouraged if you see an event is sold out and, again, for events at the library, you do have to register but there isn’t a registration fee.
For more information about the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest, or to order tickets to programs, please visit the festival’s website. You can also find the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.