Bookstores We Love: Episode 1

September 10, 2010

Hey, Welcome to Bookstores We Love. We’ll be doing this on a ‘whenever the mood strikes’ basis, but we have a lot of love for indie bookstores, so expect to see a lot of posts like this in the future. We wanted to call attention to the bookstores that inspired us as we gear up for the launch of our own little shop, The Paper Cave.

During last year’s Dollar Store Summer Tour I had the enviable job of booking 7 readers in 11 cities across the country. Some towns we knew we wanted to hit. Home towns, fun towns. Austin, Texas where featherproof author Amelia Gray lives, and I used to. Atlanta, where Blake Butler is from. New Orleans, because New Orleans is awesome. But then there were the towns in-between. One of the big question marks was Houston. Nothing against Houston, I know a lot of nice folks from there, but we weren’t sure what kind of literary scene might be happening there. I started the usual round of calls to indie bookstores, looking for a spot, and eventually someone said “You sound like Domy people.”

I called up Russell at Domy, and he was good people indeed. The store’s site looked great, and they made a nice little write up for our event. When we got there, things were even better. I was honestly blown away at the awesomeness of Domy. They have a really great, eclectic collection of books on art, design, graffiti, counter-culture, crazy culture, and everything in-between. There are artist books and robot toys. The entire store is white, which gives it a gallery feel, and I have to say: the collection is very well curated. As well as the art! They have regular art shows with all sorts of awesome art-makers, and reading events.

Our reading was a lot of fun. We had a good crowd, and read to them out on the patio which was a great place for a reading. We caught a few people hanging out, reading and enjoying snacks from the cafe next door, and added our own group, there to see the reading. We had a big wooden porch, which we turned into a stage for a night. Domy offered us a reading discount, and we emptied our pockets. They bought a lot of our books to sell in the shop after we had gone as well. All around, a great place to have a reading, and a great discovery in Houston!

This past summer, during my annual pilgrimage to Austin, I had the chance to visit Domy Houston’s new sister store, Domy Austin, which has been open for just a year or two. Already it looks and feels amazing, with another creative mix of local and international printed matter. Austin definitely has its own vibe, with less toys and more DVDs, but the same Domy awesomeness is definitely to be found. Russell, who moved to Austin to open the Domy store, was kind enough to show Ally and I around, and we browsed and took photos and talked shopped until we had to run to the airport.

Two great bookstores deep in the heart of Texas! Recommended for all who live there, and any who visit.

It has been interesting to think about the idea of space over the summer, particularly what it means to build or define it. We’ve been working it over in a number of ways–from the on-going and often Quixotic search for a permanent location, to the building of a website, and then too, the building of our on-line bookstore. In the midst of these buildings, we are, meantime, developing our rapport as a team. We meet once a week as a group to talk over our anticipated program, touch base on various issues we’re struggling with and offer updates. The website should come together with a beta version on August 25th and we’re hoping to launch it properly this September. Meantime the on-line store is supposed to go on-line this October. There will still be a period of working out the kinks also, Zach and I are pretty sure we’ll use featherproof and the Green Lantern Press as guinea pigs, load those books on the site and then see what kinds of problems arise that way, before asking for books from other presses. Since it looks like we won’t have a physical bookstore until the new year (at the earliest) we’ll have ample time to trouble shoot.

That said, there is all of this other energy in the gallery aspect of the space–we’ve pretty much squared away all of fall’s programming and it’s super exciting to know that something physical is going to manifest from that aspect of this summer’s work. Similarly, Devin has been working out the public programming/events–another interesting aspect about that issue is that, while we hope to one day have a separate performance space, this fall the gallery and the performance space are one and the same. Therefore we have to co-ordinate the physical demands of those respective projects. In other words, if a performance artist wanted to come in and do a splatter paint Galager watermellon fest, it would be impossible–because there will inevitibly be art up on the wall, or installations on the ground. It means that our fall events programming has to be fairly modest in its theatrical proportion. Thus we have a lot of readings lined up, some film screenings, a number of talks and some music events. Here too, I can’t help feeling like it’s going to help us in the long run–because I feel like we can test the waters, figure out what works and what doesn’t, and then see if we can open up our venue for larger events.

It’s all so near–right around the corner. The last two weeks feel like there’s been a lull, a little–a kind of in-between time before which we’d planned everything we possibly could plan in advance. Now, preparations are starting in a new way, to get everything ready for the ever-nearer opening in September. It’s very exciting. My favorite thing, however–I ended up in a conversation last night about the Green Lantern in which a friend of mine asked about the longevity of the project. The Green Lantern has been operating in some form for about six years. However, this new stage of developement is totally new, totally different. I thought about the Marvel Green Lantern, and then it occured to me that actually what is starting up this fall, what has been incubating this summer, is a new generation of the project. What was originally setup in my house, and put together by one group of people, is now being established off-site, by an entirely new group of people. Further, there are new aims, new interests, and with those new individuals–Zach, Abby, Devin–each arm of the project has that much more weight behind it. Something I never could have accomplished before. Obviously there will be new issues to face, other areas of weakness or tension, but it’s incredibly exciting to be a part of a project that has enough flexibility to transform.


FRIDAY, JULY 30, 2010 /// 6 PM TO 11 PM


Lots of magazines. Books. Posters. Galore.
Broadsides & busy beavers. Newspapers & weeklies.
Zines. Poetry, fiction & all that. Buttons, stickers
& more. Reading & performing, or something like it.
Red carpet. Screenings, Web things & digital
writing — electrified in general; because PRINT DIGITAL .
Making, inking, stamping. Getting hands dirty.
Dancing, music, DJs. Playing. All free.

+ Beer, food & revelry.

Printers’ Ball 2010 Schedule
Friday, July 30, 6:00 – 11:00 PM

Scheduled Events:

6:00 PM: Christian Wiman introduces Printers’ Ball 2010
6:00 – 9:00 PM
: PRINTERESTING.ORG’s “COPY JAM!,” an interactive art print occurrence.
6:00 – 10:00 PM
: Dave Tompkins, the author of How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop, The Machine Speaks, dee-jays his vocoder playlist, with live vocoder and special guest
7:00 – 7:30 PM
: “The Precession,” a digital poem and live performance of original writing and real-time data collection by Mark Jeffrey and Judd Morrissey
8:00 – 10:00 PM
: The Show ‘n Tell Show, hosted by Zach Dodson and Michael Renaud, with Studio Blue’s Cheryl Towler Weese, Edie Fake, Isaac Tobin, and Kathleen Judge
10:00 – 11:00 PM
: Live music by Icy Demons

Ongoing Events:

  • Printers’ Ball limited-edition Busy Beaver Buttons to the first 500 guests
  • Red-carpet interviews with Amy Guth, digital news editor for books at the Chicago Tribune and co-host of ChicagoNow Radio on WGN
  • Gapers Block traffic jam of Chicago lit sites
  • Gallery presentation of and reading from the Printers’ Ball 2010 Art Book, with broadsides featuring the work of the Chicago Printers’ Guild and local poets and writers
  • Book binding by Chicago Books to Women in Prison
  • DEUSEXPAGINA, a live experiment in literary quantum mechanics and wholly fabricated reviews of wholly fabricated books
  • Elevated Diction: poems performed live during your elevator ride between floors
  • The Gnoetry poetry-making machine
  • “Pandora’s Star Box,” a poem-film by Carrie Olivia Adams
  • Public Media Institute’s Mobile Screen-printing Cart
  • Text Object,” a featured digital reading provided by Vanessa Place
  • Video gallery featuring Bound Off, contratiempo, Rattapalax, Switchback Books, and Wholphin DVD, plus metal type animation by students from the London College of Communication
  • Fresh Squeezed Poetry, poetry written to order by Illinois Arts Council award winners
  • Plus more with Anchor Graphics, Captain Carpenter, the students and alumni of Columbia College Chicago, and others
  • The Next Objectivists typing the poetry of the multitude. Poetypists will compose in public and turn “raw or/e” into poetry chapbooks to be distributed on-site.

and the afterparty…

The Printers’ Ball After-Party and MAKE Five-Year Anniversary Fiesta



FREE / 21+

After you gorge yourself on print and digital lit, The Show ‘n Tell Show and Icy Demons, head over to Reggie’s Music Joint for a night of music and piñatas celebrating the celebration of print and digital literature, as well as MAKE’s fifth year of publishing.

The Reggie’s bus will pick up party goers at the Ball at 9PM, 10PM, and 11PM. Look for it (it’s hard to miss) at the front entrance of the Ludington Building.

Enjoy drink specials such as “The Publishers’ Pair,” a cheap beer and a cheap whiskey shot for $5 or keep it clean and classy with $5 shots of Templeton Rye. Order from the grill too.

Beginning at 9PM, Shame That Tune, Chicago’s newest musical comedy game show kicks off the night with a special Printers’ Ball episode featuring Coupleskate’s Andrea Bauer, RUI’s Rob Duffer, and a volunteer from the audience.

Followed by the peerless Magical Beautiful, refined garage rockers Paul Cary and the Small Scaries, and the always delightful Coupleskate.

Preview the bands and download free tunes at

Arts and culture live talk show and podcast You, Me, Them, Everybody hosts an interview room in Record Breakers Record Store throughout thenight.    

Visit the FACEBOOK event page

Science of Obscurity

July 10, 2010

The Chicago Underground Library

celebrates the Science of Obscurity!

SATURDAY, JULY 10th from 7–10pm

at the Jupiter Outpost, 1139 W. Fulton Market

this event is free & for all ages
food & drink will be available for sale

An annual lead up event to the Printers’ Ball featuring new, unpublished, and in-progress works presented as science fair experiments.  Join an awesome line up of writers, designers, and publishers as the intricately explain the scientific principles underlying their work, real or imagined.

Reading experiments with Jennifer Karmin!
Storigami with Zach Dodson!
Distress charts with A D Jameson!
Teenage taxonomies with Mairead Case!
Curmudgeonly cuttlefish with Libby Walker!
Hand-cranked projector mad libs with Two With Water!
All participants will also have work for sale.

Special projects from the Society of Furthering Truth (SOFT), The Book Bike, readings from Featherproof Books’ iPhone application TripleQuick, surprise musical guests, video interviews with the CUL crew about your favorite forgotten and under-recognized Chicago publishers and writers.

The night will also feature a public “book launch” via catapult, scientist speed dating, and digital readings to warm your hardened techie heart. Left and right brains come together, print <3s digital, everyone wins when the laws of physics and literature collide.

If you’re a writer, publisher, bookmaker, or booklover of any stripe who has recently finished writing a book, has published a book in the past year, or just feels like taking out some aggression on a publication of your choice, we invite you to celebrate by participating in our public reading and launching your work into space–or at least halfway down the block. We define “book” broadly, so zines, magazines, chapbooks, textbooks, and more are welcome. Read a paragraph, then release! And if you want to donate your book to the collection of the Chicago Underground Library after it’s caught some air, we’re here for you.

About the Chicago Underground Library
The Chicago Underground Library provides an open forum for creative exchange between all producers and patrons of Chicago’s independent media, facilitating collaboration and awareness between diverse communities. Through innovative and inclusive approaches to acquisitions, cataloging and programming, we illuminate connections and provide both a historical and contemporary context for the creation of new local media.

About the Printers’ Ball
Founded by Poetry magazine with other independent Chicago literary organizations, the Printers’ Ball is an annual celebration of print culture, featuring thousands of magazines, books, and broadsides available free of charge; live readings and music; letterpress, offset, and paper-making demonstrations; and much more. The Printers’ Ball is co-produced with Columbia College Chicago and the Center for Book & Paper Arts, and takes place July 30th, 2010 in Chicago’s landmark Ludington Building, former home to the American Book Company, at 1104 South Wabash.

This Year’s Lit 50

June 10, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

This was published in Newcity’s weekly magazine. Happy to see one Zach Dodson in there and, of course, Jesse Ball. You can read the entire list and blurbs by going here.

Lit 50: Who really books in Chicago 2010

Illustration: Pamela Wishbow

A strange and unpleasant wind blows through the literary land. Our obsession with technocultural toys, whether iPhones, iPads or Kindles, makes the foundation of thought almost since thought was recorded, that is ink on paper, seem increasingly destined to be twittered into obsolescence. And it’s not just mere media frenzy, either. Massive upheaval among major publishers these last few years has left some of Chicago’s finest writers stranded in a strange land: that is, the work is finished, but no one is around to put it out. Who knows, maybe in two years when this version of Lit 50 returns, some, if not all, of our authors will be publishing mostly, if not entirely, in the digital realm. If that’s the case, let’s enjoy an old-fashioned book or two while we can.

As noted, this year’s list is limited to authors, poets, book designers and so on, with next year bringing back the behind-the-scenesters. As it was, this year’s project was daunting, with 126 viable names in consideration for fifty slots. The loss of our last #1 is most noteworthy, with the passing of Studs Terkel, but the list is populated by nineteen new faces, who either return to the list after an absence or show up for the first time. To make way for new names, some stalwarts had to be set aside; in many cases, this was due to their status as still between projects since our last go-round. We tried to limit ourselves in most cases to those with new work published between 2008 and 2010.

Lit 50 was written by Brian Hieggelke, Naomi Huffman, Tom Lynch, Andrew Rhoades and Rachel Sugar

posted by Caroline Picard

From Newcity’s 411 section:

You can read the whole piece by going here.

It’s a gallery! It’s a performance space! It’s a bookstore! It’s a café! The revived Green Lantern Gallery, temporarily housed at Chicago and Maplewood in Ukrainian Village, permanent location TBD, is aiming to be Chicago’s answer to Gertrude Stein’s living room. It’s an expanded vision of the original Green Lantern Gallery, which director Caroline Picard once ran out of her apartment. When the city shut it down due to an ordinance against such ventures, it left Picard with a choice: go big or go home (no pun intended). She’s going big. The new dream is a joint collaboration with featherproof books, another independent press interested in books that cross the boundaries between visual art and literature. “It’s like a high-school mega crush,” featherproof’s Zach Dodson says of the relationship between the presses. Picard recounts their fateful meeting at the NEXT art fair as a “marathon… of gossip and story-swapping and big-bang idea speculation.”

Summer, AWP, Drinking, Denver. Put ’em together and what do you got? Shots ‘n Shorts! Featherproof Books and Green Lantern Press are joining forces to bring you spinning wheels, shots, and shorts (the clothing as well as the story version) in a fabulous AWP Off-site event.

A fabulous line up of authors will be displaying their gams and literary prowess at Skylark Friday April 9th at 7pm. Each storyteller will step up to spin Nicolette Bond’s Wheel of Drunken Shame, determining which shot they will take or what fate they will endure before reading their short short. With returning authors from the national Dollar Store Tour, you can bet your sweet bippy this is going to be a gratifying night.

Leggy Ink Slingers include:

Nicolette Bond
Blake Butler
Zach Dodson
Amelia Gray
Mary Hamilton
Lindsay Hunter
Jac Jemc
Caroline Picard
Aaron Plasek
Patrick Somerville
Christian TeBordo
Jess Wigent

The juicy details:

Friday April 9th 7pm
Skylark Lounge
140 S Broadway
Denver, CO 80209.

Featherproof offers the perfect remedy to snoozy A.W.P. readings with this boozy H.O.T. reading. After you’ve slept it off come visit the featherproof table at AWP, #E17. There will be author signings, free mini books and more.

Be sure to check out Shots ‘n Shorts. It ain’t your average reading. Fantastic writers sporting short shorts and giving our stems a moment in the spotlight!

posted by caroline picard

posted by Caroline Picard

This is one of the stories Zach read during the Dollar Store Literary Tour last summer (which was awesome). He recently read it at SAIC’s Joan Flasch Collection. Personally, I’m especially impressed with their double-microphone podium set up. I think it looks vaguely presidential….

Boring boring boring boring boring boring boring

Zach Plague

2008 Featherproof Press

by Rachel Shine


Boring boring boring boring boring boring boring tries very hard not to live up to its namesake.  Using the tone and sophistication of a graphic novel similar to Brick, (the modern film noir film of high schoolers), Boring tells a labyrinthine tale of characters experimenting with power as dramatically as emperors chase conquests.  Plague employs identifying fonts and intricate graphics to comically draw the reader into the world of the University of Fine Arts and Academia but also into the world of the book itself.

What sets Boring apart from most novels on the shelf are the collages and elaborate illustrations which decorate the text.  Setting the tone of the book, they paint the characters almost as well as their actions.  The title written repeatedly over photographs, for example, handwritten pages, antique wallpaper, silhouettes, and the title written in playful textuality suggests the duality of individuality and sameness.  By showing the same identity (the word “boring”) in different clothes (each font), we are introduced to the ironies of individuality.  The word, after all, is boring, and what’s interesting about that?

Boring contains many such jokes and tongues thrust firmly into cheeks.  It is a play in which modern archetypes of students act out their power struggles: a punk named Punk who launches snot rockets, the spoiled Dean’s daughter that loves a meathead, her best friend who, in turn, loves the sleazy videographer; the videographer in turn  loves her and the art star–a disaffected narcissist whose work gives motivation to the story.  These colliding characters ultimately create a concordance of terms such as leaves, lonely, and the night, in order to fuel the book’s underlying meaning: a catalogue of art school kids and thier behavior.

Of them, we meet Ollister first, along with his love-no-more, Adelaide, and his rivalry with The Platypus.  Ollister is a former Uni-Arts student, a local hero, and a master manipulator eager to keep his budding lordship intact.  Adelaide is a Uni-Arts darling who is missing her ex-beau and a key bargaining chip.  The Platypus is the gothic puppet master of the art scene and thus the town.  To maintain this strong arm of power, however, he must have Ollister’s notebook of ideas which he believes Adelaide will lead him to.  To win her graces he offers her a show at the White Ball, the town’s biggest art show.  How can she resist?

Within such an accessible narrative, Boring takes available opportunities to teach without pontificating.  It proposes that art does not come from schools, but from a dialogue between independents.  It paints the art educational system as a motley crew of uncritical misfits and honors the power of those on the outside, the one who lives in the museum or the one that lives on the streets.  The plot is driven by the search for the gray papers, a journal of one character’s ideas.  It respects criticism and autonomy.  In the end the truth comes from the individuals who call their own shots.  That’s why chapters are called after the characters that participate in them.  That’s why Ollister is the hero.

That’s why the book is available with the variety it is.  If you don’t prefer a perfect bound book, try your ear at the audio book.  Or maybe you’d like the book in the poster version.  Or smaller? A downloadable mini-book is offered.  Or the ebook online.  You could try that.  Both the variety of the text and graphics and the multimedia approach bring attention to the format of the printed word.  As certainly as modernizing the time-honored tradition of the book-as-art invites the reader deeper into the reading of the text, it challenges the necessity of the bound hardcopy.  Perhaps a certain story is better told wheat-pasted to the side of a building or out of your back pocket on a hand-held electronic device.  Why is that?

posted by caroline picard

listen to Zach read from another burgeoning work here.

or visit  featherproof to see what else they are up to by going here.