Printers Row Lit Fest

by Jenn (eating bender) on June 12, 2012

First of all, thank you so much for the kind words on our half marathon. You are all amazing and really helped me keep the race in perspective. I’ve spent the past couple of days foam rolling and stretching like crazy and am happy to report that the soreness is nearly gone. Now the real work begins – a summer dedicated to strengthening my IT band…and everywhere else for that matter.

But this post is about something even cooler: books!

I have been living in downtown Chicago for three years now, but have yet to attend the Printers Row Lit Fest. Last summer I made myself promise that I wouldn’t miss it, and I’m very glad I did. Situated near Dearborn Station, the Lit Fest features dozens of tents for anyone who loves the written word. People of all ages turned out for the event. The weather was perfect.


The basics of the Lit Fest are as follows (via Chicago Tribune):

The Printers Row Lit Fest was founded in 1985 by the Near South Planning Board to attract visitors to the Printers Row neighborhood (once the city’s bookmaking hub). By 2002, it had grown to five city blocks (on Dearborn, from Congress to Polk), attracting more than 200 booksellers from across the country displaying new, used and antiquarian books, and featuring seven stages with more than 100 free literary programs.

As part of its ongoing commitment to the written word and its support of literacy and literary endeavor, the Chicago Tribune purchased the Printers Row Book Fair in 2002 from the Near South Planning Board. Recently renamed to be the Printer’s Row Lit Fest, it is considered the largest free outdoor literary event in the Midwest-drawing more than 125,000 book lovers to the two-day showcase.

Sounds pretty ideal for a bookworm, right? I was all the more pumped when I found out that Veronica Roth was on one of the panels with three other Young Adult authors: Aprilynne Pike, Elizabeth Norris and Bethany Griffin.

I asked Jill, who is also a huge fan of the Divergent series, to join me in attending their talk. The panel was moderated by Claire Zulkey and discussed everything from writing style to book cover art.

I foolishly forgot to bring any sort of paper (guf) but managed to get a few tidbits down in my 21st century notebook, otherwise known as iPhone. The greatest takeaways for me were:

  • There is no “right order” for drafting. Aprilynne has to write chronologically. Elizabeth started by writing the ending and worked backward. Veronica wrote the beginning and middle, then filled in the blanks, wrote the ending and filled in the blanks again. To date, I’ve been in the chronological camp, but this panel inspired me to test out writing my ending – just because I can.
  • Uncertainty is power in a novel. The authors explained that they try to write their books so that the reader truly doesn’t know whether the main characters will live or die. It sounds gruesome, but it doesn’t mean you have to kill them off – it just means that you should never rule out the possibility. Veronica used The Hunger Games and Harry Potter as two prime examples – not knowing whether Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Harry, Ron, or Hermione would make it through the books alive is part of what compels us to continue turning the pages. And it certainly gives us more reason to care.
  • Don’t force a certain theme or message from your book down the reader’s throat. When asked to describe what they wanted the reader to get out of their work, all of the authors shied away and said that it should be up to the reader to decide. They stressed the fact that they wrote their books simply because they wanted to tell a story. By doing this, they ensure that the reader will have the opportunity to form their own opinions, opening the book up for further discussion long after the last page – and hearing reader feedback is one of the best parts.

Once the panel was over, Jill and I made our way to the book signing table. It was great to meet Veronica in person – she is so nice! I did my best not to sound awkward but am sure I did. It’s hard not to when I am proud of the fact that she graduated from my school and is a year younger than me to boot. We chatted briefly about a professor we both had while she signed my book copies.

Also spotted at the book signing table? Rick Bayless! Didn’t snap a picture with him though. 😉

I hope to attend the Printers Row Lit Fest again in the future. Any event that promotes literacy is a winner in my book, and it was cool to see families and little kids getting so excited about reading.

Now back to work

Have you ever met an author whose work you love in person? How did you react?


{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Erica June 13, 2012 at 6:00 am

How cool! Seems like such a great event for you
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2 Jenn (eating bender) June 14, 2012 at 10:13 am

It was right up my alley!


3 Lindsay @ Running the Windy City June 13, 2012 at 8:05 am

I LOVE the Lit Fest. I’ve lived within walking distance the past two summers so I’ve checked it out. My only problem is buying too many books. Last year I bought enough to last the entire summer.
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4 Jenn (eating bender) June 14, 2012 at 10:16 am

Oh my – it’s so tempting! I swear if there was ever a job that involved just reading books and nothing else, I’d be set for life. :)


5 Christina June 13, 2012 at 8:27 am

Oh wow! That fest looks like so much fun!! If I lived there I would defintely go. Glad you had fun and got to meet Veronica. The point about writing order was neat to think about.. I always think of something being written in order, but it does seem that it would be beneficial to know where you are going to (the ending) when starting.
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6 Jenn (eating bender) June 14, 2012 at 10:22 am

You’ll have to come to Chicago next year around this time. 😉 Glad you enjoyed the writing order tip as much as I did!


7 Katie June 13, 2012 at 8:42 am

I am SO incredibly jealous. I would have made a total fool out of myself there. Do you like Jen Lancaster? She’s doing a couple book signings in Chicago this week. I wish I were down there!
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8 Jenn (eating bender) June 14, 2012 at 10:23 am

Jen Lancaster is awesome! I will have to check out her site to see if she’s anywhere near me!


9 julie June 13, 2012 at 9:12 am

oh my god what an AMAZING time! so jealous you got to meet all of those cool authors! And rick bayless? SO awesome!!! congrats on the half marathon girl :) :) :) come to new york this summerrrrrr xoxox
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10 Jenn (eating bender) June 14, 2012 at 10:24 am

Thanks, Julie!! I want to come visit so badly…hopefully I can make it happen! Come to Chicago. :)


11 emily (a nutritionist eats) June 13, 2012 at 9:50 am

What a great event, and very fun that you got to meet her! I don’t think I’ve ever met an author…I’ve been tempted to go to a few book signings, but they are usually the more “celebrity authors” and not necessarily an author who I really enjoy. :)
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12 Jenn (eating bender) June 14, 2012 at 10:27 am

I totally hear you on that! Great excuse to meet a celebrity though. :)


13 Cara (Twinthusiast) June 13, 2012 at 10:44 am

Jealous! Wish I could have attended with ya. Just requested Veronica’s first book from the library. :)
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14 Jenn (eating bender) June 14, 2012 at 10:28 am

Yay!! I can’t wait to hear what you think!


15 Megan (Braise The Roof) June 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I’m surprised that I haven’t heard much about the Lit Fest- I guess you don’t see much signage north of the Loop? You would think you would, right? Sounds like a great and very informative time!
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16 Jenn (eating bender) June 14, 2012 at 10:29 am

They really don’t advertise it much except in the Tribune! Very strange. The first year I had no idea what was going on.


17 BroccoliHut June 13, 2012 at 8:42 pm

What a fantastic event! Posts like these make me wish I lived in a bigger city…someday!
He’s more of a TV personality than author, but I once met Alton Brown–he’s just as articulate and engaging in person as he is on TV :)
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18 Jenn (eating bender) June 14, 2012 at 10:29 am

Very cool that you met Alton Brown! I can imagine he’d be a really fun guy to talk to in person. :)


19 Wendi June 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I am SO very jealous of you hun! I have never been to the Lit. Fest myself but have always wanted to! It looks and sounds amazing. Hopefully next year! And I totes magotes agree with you…there is nothing quite like seeing families and kiddos getting pumped up about reading! Whoo hoo! :)
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20 Jenn (eating bender) June 14, 2012 at 10:30 am

Yes, please come next year!! And hurray for families reading. :)


21 Kate June 14, 2012 at 11:59 am

LOVE Lit Fest! A summer must for us. :) So happy you got to experience it! We didn’t have as much time this year to visit the stages or see speakers, but went briefly Saturday afternoon…enough time for me to come home with 4 more books than I meant to!


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