Chicago’s Indie Scene

Chicago’s Indie Scene

As the semester’s end looms near, I have started to hunt for the elusive job/internship of post-grad life. This is my last semester of courses, so it is also the first time I’ve been on the lookout for a full-time job. In the past, I’ve just searched for a summer gig, but this time it’s more intense.

I’ve been fortunate enough not to have to work a hardcore job during my time as a graduate student here at Columbia. Everyone’s situation is different, though. Now that I’m moving into my thesis semester, I’ll have a lot more time on my hands (besides thesis writing time, of course). I’ve been exploring topics of interest, including editorial positions and publishing companies. It’s been a pretty grueling search, but I’ve found something pretty fascinating about Chicago.

The independent scene here is bursting at the seams. Over at the Chicago Review of Books, they posted an article urging Chicagoans to “buy indie” in response to Amazon’s newest bookstore opening. The article lists a handful of indie bookstores that are deserving of our patronage, and I love the message of it. In that same vein, Chicago is home to many independent publishers, too. This is not only good for the literary community, but it’s also great for literary lovers like myself. It’s no secret that writing doesn’t always pay the bills, so writers have to find other means of staying financially afloat. Being able to potentially work (or intern) at a Chicago-based indie publisher would be ideal. At least for me. And the city is in no shortage of opportunities.

Some of my favorite indie publishers in Chicago:

Haymarket Books
Curbside Splendor
Featherproof Books
Agate Publishing
Chicago Review Press
Rose Metal Press

A few of these offer internships, and sometimes they’re open for hiring. But even if there’s nothing available, being able to immerse yourself in the indie scene is such a plus for lovers of literature. New York is the place to go, they say, if you’re interested in publishing. But Chicago’s a close second, and arguably a better environment for it. But I’m probably biased ;)

My job search is still in the works, but a lot of connections can be found in the mix of faculty at Columbia. No one will unfairly pull strings, and I wouldn’t want them to, but it’s nice to be able to approach a professor or administrator and ask them for a recommendation or contact information of someone who is looking for a position to be filled. Part of the game is knowing someone who knows someone, and from there it’s just about putting your best foot forward. Wish me luck, and in the meantime, check out those bookstores and publishers. And don’t forget to buy indie!