Printer’s Row Lit Fest: Book Nerd Nirvana

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Since I’ve lived in the Chicagoland area most of my life, I can say this with great certainty: The weather in Chicago isn’t always the best (understatement).

But summer…Summer in Chicago makes up for the other seasons and their varying degrees of gloomy, frigid dampness. The city comes alive during the summer, and nothing says summer in Chicago like a good festival or 400, according to the City of Chicago’s tourism website.

From the Chicago Blues Festival downtown to the Ginza Holiday Festival in Old Town, there’s probably a festival for everyone.

My favorite so far has been the Printer’s Row Lit Fest. Lit Fest was an English major’s dream come true. Blocks upon blocks of books, authors, and publishers: it was a beautiful book bazaar.

Printer’s Row used to be the city’s main printing and publishing district. The Lit Fest has been around in various incarnations since 1985, according to the Chicago Tribune, who bought the festival in 2002.

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Columbia was a sponsor of the Lit Fest, and we had a great big, white tent right at the corner of Dearborn and Harrison. Students from Columbia’s Fiction Writing department, and even some faculty and staff, read their short pieces or excerpts. Fellow grad ambassadors Jenn Tatum-Cotmagana (Creative Nonfiction MFA) and Brian Miles (Poetry MFA) read their work to a crowd of passersby who stopped in to listen.

I was there not only as a literature geek, but also to help run the tent in my capacity as editorial assistant for Columbia’s Office of Communications.

It was a busy day spent troubleshooting any issues that came up in a big tent on a windy day, tweeting about the schedule, and checking-in readers or bands and then announcing them.

But it was so much fun!

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At one point when the afternoon sun was beating down on the corner of Harrison and Dearborn, and the reader at the mic was telling stories to a rapt audience, I paused for a second and really soaked it all in.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how my different degrees and work experiences fit together: a BA in English, an MA in Religious Studies, and now my Journalism MA– and I’ve often wondered about exactly what they’re preparing me to do. But this summer, it feels like things are starting to make sense.

Being an editorial assistant and writing for the alumni magazine has been fun and challenging. And taking Creative Nonfiction with the Fiction Writing Department this summer has reignited some creative spark in me that I thought left for good around the time I entered high school. I’m learning so much about who I am as a writer and a journalist.

The Printer’s Row Lit Fest was over five blocks of books–thousands of books. There are so many stories out there, and I know now I’ll be equipped to tell as many as I can.