Monday, November 30, 2009

Must-See Monday

Kick off December with Tuesday Funk at Hopleaf Bar (5148 N. Clark). Hear fiction, poetry and essays from authors Jennifer Scappettone, Jotham Burrello, Nicholas Michael Ravnikar and Nicholas Kryczka. The night kicks off at 7:00pm.

On Wednesday, December 2nd at 7:00pm, head over to Sheffield's (3248 N. Sheffield) for RUI: Reading Under the Influence. This month's theme is "Snow and Whiskey" and features Literary Death Match champion Jill Summers, performance artist Sean Ewert, 2nd Story ensemble member C.P. Chang and local author Jeff Phillips.

On Thursday, December 3rd, swing by Chicago Comics 6:00-8:00pm for the YI SOON SHIN: Warrior and Defender Issue #1 launch party. Help celebrate the launch of this historical comic book series with complimentary drinks and mingle with the Chicago author, Onrie Kompan.

Depaul hosts a Holiday Book Bash on Friday, December 4th 6:00-9:00pm at the John J. Egan Urban Center (1 E. Jackson). Hosted by "The Today Show" correspondent Mike Leonard and Young Chicago Authors president and WBEZ radio personality Sylvia Ewing, the event features over 30 authors, including Elizabeth Bracket and Janice Metzger. Tickets are $50, $15 for students. Visit the Young Chicago Authors website for more info.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Writer's Block Wednesday: Q&A with Onrie Kompan

Joining the Chicago Contingent just before the Thanksgiving festivities, is comic book author, Onrie Kompan. Onrie is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, a native to the area, and his first comic book series, YI SOON SHIN: Warrior and Defender, launches today!

Dana Kaye: What was your motivation for writing this series?

Onrie Kompan: I grew up reading many comic books and have always been intrigued by the struggles that super heroes dealt with. I always felt like I could relate to them on a personal level but there was always this line that couldn’t be crossed because none of these heroes actually existed.

When I first started writing comics I found that nothing I had produced was adding any value to the medium. Then one day, I came across a TV show called THE IMMORTAL YI SOON SHIN.

Like many super heroes, Admiral Yi endured very difficult hardships and I believe he stands out more because he existed. Not only is he real but you can also relate to him because he was just as human as everyone else. His philosophies not only guided me through the process of producing the series, but they also had a significant impact on my life in general.

Because so few people outside of Korea know who Yi Soon Shin is, I feel it is my calling to bring his story to the center stage of the world.

DK: Speak a little bit about the writing process. How is it different for comics and novels?

OK: I spent 5 years learning how to write novels and then spent two years unlearning it all. Not that writing novels is a bad thing but comics have a very different flow to them than novels. You need to get the point across very quickly.

In college, many of my professors asked me to slow down when I was writing so that I could see everything on the page. This forced me to pay attention to all the fine details going on in each scene, but I was no longer focused on the actual story itself and I often found myself stopping and asking, “Wait, what’s this about again?” In other words, when it comes to writing, I have a severe case of A.D.D and memory loss.

In prose forms, you control the whole playground and I find that to be a bit distracting. I like to get close to my characters and I like to watch them interact with one another. Writing comics has always felt natural to me because I can let my artist worry about the background details. I’m all about character interaction.

DK: Since this is your first series, what has surprised you about the publishing process? Anything you wish you knew going in?

OK: Oh yeah! I’m still learning things as I go and I’m making lots of mistakes and having lots of breakthroughs. I had many mentors who helped me along the way. Mort Castle and Len Strazewski taught me how to write and produce. My father taught me how to conduct business. All of them have been extremely supportive.

Putting my production team together was a dream come true but there were some difficult moments. Till this day, none of us have actually met each other face-to-face. David (the editor) and I talk on the phone fairly often but the rest of the team is pretty spread out. Gio’ lives in Italy and Adriana and Joel are from Argentina.

Despite our distance and how difficult it can sometimes be to communicate with each other, I have never worked with such a committed group of artists. They are all extremely talented and it’s a great honor working with them.

In my humble opinion, the ride isn’t worth it if you know what’s in store for you. If you decide to get involved in comics, you’re already taking a risk and are in store for a ton of surprises. Some are great and some just really suck. But there is nothing more gratifying than accomplishing the goals you set for yourself and standing out from everyone else.

DK: Which book or series made you want to write comics?

OK: Growing up, I was a huge Spider-Man fan and I always knew that I wanted to write comics professionally.

Over the last ten years, I began exposing myself to more mainstream comics and eventually started developing an interest in independent graphic novels.

I have a great deal of admiration for writers that choose to maintain their integrity and know when to walk away from a project. Alan Moore’s works are a prime example of that.

I would love to write all kinds of comics but I also feel that it’s important to add to the medium. The comic book industry as a whole is in dire need of afresh perspective in order to survive and attract new readers.

For decades comics have been seen as a childish form of entertainment. That’s something I would like to see change over the course of time and I’m really glad to see that there are so many talented writers out there who are telling their own stories.

Want a signed copy of Issue #1? E-mail Onrie and he'll send you one! For more information on Onrie and YI SOON SHIN, visit his website.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Must-See Monday

Ready to take your writing to the next level? Check out "Going Pro" at the Chicago Cultural Center (77 E. Randolph). StoryStudio founder Jill Pollack, author Carol Saller, and Agate Publishing president Doug Seibold discuss what it takes to become a professional writer tonight at 6:00pm.

2nd Story returns to Red Kiva (1108 W. Randolph) on Wednesday, November 26th at 7pm. Check out this long-running reading series where authors put their prose to music. Tickets include wine tasting.

Friday, November 28th at 8:00pm, head over to the Playground Theater (3209 N. Halsted) for Christopher Piatt's Thanksgiving Spectacular. The Time Out Chicago theater editor has put together a show of storytellers talking about their families. The catch? The families have to be present. No doubt, there will be plenty of laughs. And don't worry if you burned through your paycheck at the Black Friday sales, the event is free!

If you don't laugh enough on Friday, stop by Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln) on Saturday, November 29th for Comedy Night with the Kates. The literary stand-ups who once preformed at Kate The Great's Bookstore have now made the Book Cellar home. Show starts at 7pm.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Weekend Reading

This weekend I'll be inundated with upcoming releases (STEIN STONED by Hal Ackerman, THE DARKNESS by Jason Pinter, WHY MY THIRD HUSBAND WILL BE A DOG by Lisa Scottoline), but there are still plenty of great books out on the shelves now:

Michael Connelly finally did what his fans (and publisher) have always wanted him to do: write 2 books in a year. Detective Harry Bosch returns in NINE DRAGONS, and Connelly explores the world of Asian gangs. When the most important person in Bosch's life is taken from him, he's forced to do something he seldom does: leave LA.

If you ask Andrew Grant which book made him want to become a writer, he'll tell you it's ICE STATION ZEBRA by Alistair Maclean. It was published before I was born, so the book was never on my radar. But after Andrew's recommendation, I picked it up and couldn't put it down. If you like Espionage or Action/Adventure, ICE STATION ZEBRA is right up your alley. And if you want to write crime fiction, it's a necessary read.

Last weekend, I was up all night reading THE JOKER by Brian Azzarello. Even if you're not a graphic novel fan, it's impossible not to get sucked in to the gripping story, spot-on dialogue, and impressive illustrations. THE JOKER was published prior to The Dark Night's release, but judging by the similarities in illustrations, it's clear where the Hollywood guys got their image.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Writer's Block Wednesday: Expectations

I'm a firm believer in having reasonable expectations. This doesn't mean you shouldn't set lofty goals or you should have a pessimistic attitude. It simply means accepting the reality of situations and knowing that not everything is going to go perfectly or as planned.

Many authors have lots of unreasonable expectations and I'd like to address a few. This is not meant to be mean and I'm not trying to be a downer. It's simple honesty and I believe the more reasonable your expectations, the better chance you have at exceeding them.

The Expectation: I'll be rich and famous
The Reality: I always laugh when people think we become authors for the money, but apparently, a lot of writers do have the expectation of wealth and fame. Unfortunately, there is only a very small percentage of authors who make six figures and there are more authors who make less then 10K. This isn't to say if you work hard and market yourself you can't get up to that eight-figure-four-book contract, but it's not going to happen with your debut novel. Fame is even less likely. Even authors who I deem famous (Dennis Lehane, Nora Roberts, Junot Diaz) are still unknown to many non and infrequent readers. If you want to be rich, go into finance. If you want to be famous, star on a reality TV show. Write because you want to write.

The Expectation: You'll go on an extensive book tour and pack bookstores across the country
The Reality: Aside from your home town, you will be lucky to have 5 people at your book signing. Many times, it will be you and the two bookstore employees. The reality is, it is very difficult to get people to go to book signings, even for well known authors. I attended a duel signing with Michael Connelly and George Pelecanos at the Borders downtown. There were about 20 people in attendance. That was for two bestselling authors. Over time, you'll build up an audience and there may be a few signings where you do pack the room. But don't be surprised or disappointed when attendance is light. It's just the reality.

The Expectation: Your book will be reviewed in the New York Times and Washington Post, you'll have a feature on the Today show, and your book will chosen for Oprah's book club.
The Reality: If you have a decent publicist, the odds of landing a handful of newspaper reviews and radio spots are good. Odds of appearing on network television? Slim. Big media is hard to land, especially if you're a debut or mid-list author. Even the bestsellers don't always have luck. Online reviews can be just as effective as those in newspapers and an appearance on Leno isn't a guarantee that your book will be pushed up into the NYT bestseller list. Work to attain any possible media coverage rather than focusing on the most prestigious.

The Expectation: You won't have to market or promote your book; that's what the publisher is for.
The Reality: Unfortunately, writers cannot simply sit at their desks and churn out product while their publisher handles the promotion. Bookstore visits, writing conferences, and utilization of social media are all necessary steps for a successful writing career. If you have a supportive publisher, they'll attempt to attain press, maybe take out a few ads, but the grassroots marketing is all up to you. The most successful authors are accessible to their fans, which means attending conventions and scheduling bookstore signings.

Feel free to comment with additional unrealistic expectations. The more aspiring authors know about the business, the better, even if the reality can sometimes be harsh.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Must-See Monday

Tonight, stop by Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln) at 7pm for the debut of Essay Fiesta. This new reading series features readings of personal essays and a raffle to raise money for Howard Brown Health Center.

On Wednesday, November 18th, Jonathan Safran Foer will appear at the Harold Washington Library (400 S. State) at 6pm. The author of EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED and EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE will be reading from his latest work, EATING ANIMALS, a book about vegetarianism.

Young and Single? Like comic books? Stop by Holiday Club (4000 N. Sheridan) on Thursday, November 19th at 7:00pm for Dating for Nerds. Though this isn't actually a literary event, this month's guest emcee will be Chicago comic book author, Onrie Kompan. Stop by for board games, comic book trivia, and a chance to meet that special someone.

Head back to Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln) Saturday, November 21 at 7:30pm, for the Monkeybicycle and Knee Jerk Magazine readings. The event will feature contributing writers Billy Lombardo, Aaron Burch, Amy Guth, and others.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Writer's Block Wednesday: What I Learned at Court

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, know that I've spent the last couple of days serving on a jury. It was a criminal case, a drug dealer on Chicago's west side, and although it was extremely disruptive to take off work for so long, I did find the whole experience rather intriguing. I learned a lot about how our legal system works (or sometimes doesn't work), procedures cops must follow when apprehending a suspect, and really how hard it is to convict someone of a crime. All of this information, all of the details I experienced during my two days, could be used in a novel.

Though most of our research is done via the internet, nothing compares to the authority of personal experience. I can go on Google Earth and look at an aerial photo of a neighborhood, but it's not the same as growing up on that block. I truly believe the best research is active research, where you are experiencing something first hand rather than reading an account of it on your computer.

So, should all crime writers stand on the most violent corner to witness crime first hand? Should romance writers attempt to get involved with an unattainable man and overcome obstacles where love triumphs in the end? Of course not. We write fiction because it's more interesting than anything we've experienced. But there are small things we can do to research and bring more authenticity to our novels.

Talk to People. Say you're writing a police procedural or some novel involving a cop. Do not write a single word of dialogue before talking to a couple police officers. Cops have a different way of speaking, a specific way of saying things, and it's necessary to capture that on the page. Is one of your characters a lawyer? An ER nurse? Talking with people in these professions will give you insight into their daily lives, which you will bring into your book.

Explore the City. Most of us are perfectly content to stay in our house for days on end writing and not seeing the light of day. But if you're writing about people and places, you need to get out and experience them. I find driving or biking through different neighborhoods gets the creative juices flowing. If you know what certain neighborhoods look like first hand, your knowledge will shine through in your writing. You don't have to visit every location in your book, that takes too long. But if you're writing about a neighborhood you've never been to before, it's probably worth a trip.

Try Something New. Do you know what it feels like to hold a gun? To dig a ditch? To ride in a helicopter? Trying a few of these things can also help bring authenticity to your book. Again, you don't have to experience everything you write about, that's why they call it fiction. But if you have one or two new experiences a year, you'll eventually build a large stash of knowledge. Visit a shooting range (or in some states, Wal-Mart) and ask to hold a gun. Go on a helicopter ride. Even something as small as swimming in the ocean can serve as important research.

With all of these suggestions, comes a warning: Research is fun, sometimes more fun than writing. Don't get so caught up in the research that you use it as a way to push the writing aside. Remember your goal is to write a novel, a good novel, and while research is necessary, it does not take the place of writing.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Must-See Monday

Stop by The Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia) on Wednesday, November 11th for Funny Ha-Ha, the monthly comedy and reading series hosted by Claire Zulkey. This month's guests include Tribune critic Maureen Ryan, The Onion's A.V. Club, novelist Kevin Guilfoile, and filmmaker Steve Delahoyde.

Also on Wednesday, Time Out Chicago Kid's editor Judy Sutton-Taylor, reads from her contribution to P.S.:WHAT I DIDN'T SAY, a collection of unsent letters written by women to their friends. Stop by the Book Cellar at 7pm to hear readings from the anthology.

Feel like a road trip this weekend? Head up to Wisconsin for Murder and Mayhem in Muskego. This great library event features appearances by Marcus Sakey, Jamie Freveletti, Andrew Grant, Tasha Alexander, Michael Koryta, Sean Chercover and...who else...oh yeah, myself! Sign up for the Friday evening cocktail reception where I'll be interviewing Freveletti, Alexander, Grant and Koryta and stay Saturday for a long lineup of authors.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Weekend Reading

This weekend, I hope to read CHRONIC CITY by Jonathan Lethem, which was recently chosen for Indie Next List. For this book, he moves the setting to Manhattan, but hopefully it will be just as gripping as MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN.

Another one in my To Be Read pile is Martin Limon's G.I. BONES. Part of the Sueno/Bascom series, this military novel is set during 1970's Korea. Limon is a master at setting the scene and transporting readers into his world. If you're not familiar with the series, I encourage you to start from the beginning with JADE LADY BURNING.

If you're a sports fan or a history buff, pick up Mike Bohn's HEROES AND BALLYHOO: How the Golden Age of the 1920s Transformed American Sports. This nonfiction book profiles the great American sports heroes of that era , including Babe Ruth, Red Grange, and Bobby Jones. He goes further to explore those behind the scenes: sports writers, press agents, etc. Bohn is a knowledgeable storyteller and his book is a fascinating read.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Must-See Monday

Lots of big name authors are coming to Chicago this week, most as a part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. I've picked my favorites, but visit their website to get the full lineup.

Stop by Sheffields (3258 N. Sheffield) on Wednesday, November 4th for the monthly reading series RUI: Reading Under the Influence. This month's theme is "Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes" and features Chicago authors Kathie Bergquist and Geoff Hyatt.

Also on Wednesday at 7pm, the talented John Connolly reads from and signs his latest novel THE GATES at the Albany Park Borders (6103 N. Lincoln).

University of Illinois's literary magazine Ninth Letter celebrates the release of their latest issue at 57th St. Books (1301 E. 57th) on Thursday, November 5th at 6pm.

Head up north for another lit mag launch on Friday, November 6th. Fifth Wednesday Journal celebrates the release of their fall issue at Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln) at 7pm.

Also on Friday, Margaret Atwood reads from her latest novel, THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD at the Merle Reskin theatre (60 E. Balbo) at 7:30pm. Her novel is a follow up to ORYX AND CRAKE. Tickets are $20 for the public and $10 for DePaul students.

Sunday, November 8th at 12:00pm, radio host Victoria Laufman interviews bestselling author Jonathan Lethem at the Art Institute (111 S. Michigan) in the Fullerton auditorium. Tickets are $5, but Lethem fans will agree with me, it's totally worth it.