Kriti Festival: 2014

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CQR Editor Syed A. Haider, novelist Manil Suri, Katie Alstadt

by Katie Alstadt

A sense of community is difficult to find as a writer, a solitary profession that limits communication and interactions with those around you. If you’re a writer or if you write as a hobby, you know that sharing it is scary. Opening up your ideas and works-in-progress with other writers builds a sense of community, fuels ideas and keeps you moving forward with your work. This was the theme at the 2014 Kriti Festival, hosted on UIC campus in Chicago, Illinois. The week long festival celebrated authors, their works, their successes and the art of writing itself.

Syed A. Haider, the Chicago Quarterly Review’s chief editor, attended and spoke at three different panels and read a few selections from his short stories. He also shared his personal experiences in the arts, revealed his road to success, and discussed how to get work published.  Syed started his writing career later in life. He came to America to be an engineer, studied psychology, and pursued a career in social work. He studied at the University of Chicago and met a professor that was generous with her writing criticism of Syed’s early work. He then went on to publish a book of short stories. Syed stated that he always thought he could write but not well enough to make money.

When asked on the panel at the Kriti Festival for advice how to publish and handle rejection, Haider simply said, “Keep writing, keep writing. Don’t worry about rejection.” He also said that it’s important for writers not to share their work with publishers or writing groups too early, as criticism during the writing process can be overwhelming and harmful to early drafts. However, Syed encouraged the aspiring writers in the audience to join writing groups whether on social media or within school as they build their help community.

Other writers on the panel, including young adult writer Rajeep Paulus, author of Swimming Through Clouds, also encouraged writers to follow their dreams but to do it sensibly. “Pay attention to your art,” she stated, “while reminding everyone to remain realistic and maintain other jobs while you write. Always have a Plan B,” Paulus said.

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novelist Manil Suri

Manil Suri, award winning author and bestseller of a trilogy of novels named for Hindu gods, including The Death of Vishnu, also spoke at the  Festival. I had the honor of speaking to Manil after his panel to ask him for advice for aspiring writers.

Dignified and calm after signing a stack of books for excited readers and fans, Suri told me that he originally started writing as a hobby and that it was something he did only in his free time. But as he continued, he found that writing was something he really enjoyed because it added another dimension to his already busy life. Suri attended the University of Mumbai and Carnegie for a major in mathematics. He wrote his first novel in 1995, after keeping the project secret from his friends and family for about fifteen years. When I asked him about his publication process, Suri smiled and admitted that he was lucky when he found his agent. It all started when he submitted the first three chapters of his novel to an arts center as admittance to attend. He was surprised to find that he received harsh criticism that “tore it apart.” Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize winner, hosted the program and encouraged Suri to keep writing the novel at any cost. Cunningham also wrote Suri a recommendation to an artist colony in New Hampshire and it was there that Suri met a scout from Hollywood who took an interest in his manuscript. However, the novel was not right for film and he found an agent for Suri who later published the novel. Suri stated that writing should be for yourself first and that it should make you happy. If it does, then hard work and dedication will make success easier. “Don’t worry about the first ten years,” Suri said. “Try to get better and hone your craft, then worry about publication.”

I found that many audience members during other panels were interested in how authors found their inspiration, so I asked Suri the same thing. “I only need enough inspiration to get the idea but I think the mechanics are more important. I’ve found that biking or swimming will usually spark an idea.”

The Kriti Festival as a whole was inspiring for me as a writer. I met so many smart and gracious authors who were more than willing to share their secrets to writing, editing and submitting. But most of all, I felt very welcomed in the community as we all shared our experiences with the arts, and what we loved to read and write. The Kriti Festival advocated writers and their community, joining together and creating art, no matter what you may be interested in. I enjoyed meeting so many writers and even made some connections. I highly recommend attending the event next year and in the meantime, joining creative groups and getting yourself and your work out there.


CQR #18 –Bay Area contributors at Green Apple Books

Bay area contributors to CQR #18 read at Green Apple Books, August 18, 2014. Including Ali Eteraz, Thomas Lee, Willer de Oliveira, Dan Moreau and Moazzam Sheikh. A brilliant group!

Moazzam Sheikh, Syed Afzal Haider, Willer de Oliveira, Ali Eteraz, Dan Moreau
Moazzam Sheikh
Thomas Lee
Dan Moreau
Willer de Oliveira, Octavio Solis, Syed Afzal Haider
Willer de Oliveira
Dan Moreau
Elizabeth McKenzie, editor
Ali Eteraz
Syed Afzal Haider, editor

Chicago Quarterly Review at the Cliff Dwellers, May 7

Free and open to the public. Come celebrate the Chicago Issue of the Chicago Quarterly Review with Sharon Solwitz, Signe Ratcliff, Cecilia Pinto, Liz Radford, Syed Haider, John Blades, Jim Stacey, Elizabeth McKenzie, Umberto Tosi, R. Craig Sautter, Jason Economus, Natalia Nebel, Bill Lederer, Jim Stacey, Joe Weintraub, Jack Fuller, Robert Kerwin, Dipika Mukherjee, Paul Jones, Steve Trumpeter, Rogers Worthington, Garnett Kilberg Cohen, and Donald G. Evans. Join the writers at the bar at 6; reading starts at 7!
Cliff Dwellers

CQR at Pop-up Bookfair in Oak Park, hosted by Curbside Splendor & 826CHI

Pop-Up Book Fair at the Hemingway Museum in Oak Park

SUBMITTED ON MON, 03/10/2014 
Saturday, April 12, 2014 – 11:00am to 6:00pm

Curbside Splendor, The Ernest Hemingway Foundation, Oak Park Library, and826CHI are proud to present: POP-UP BOOK FAIR 2014


&NOW Books
2nd Story
57th Street Books / Seminary Co-op
Allium Press
Another Chicago Magazine
Artifice Books
Burial Day Books
Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP)
Chicago Literary Hall of Fame
Chicago Quarterly Review
Christian Larsen
Convulsive Editions
Dead Tree Press
Dream of Things
Fifth Star Press
Half Letter Press / Temporary Services
Hobart and Short Flight / Long Drive Books
Lake Claremont Press
Miss Nyet Publishing, LLC
Ricochet Review
Soberscove Press
Switchback Books

HideLocation and contact
The Hemingway Museum
200 N Oak Park Ave.
Oak Park  Illinois  60302

United States

Contact Phone Number:
(708) 848-2222PopUpBookFair_0

The Chicago Tribune Salutes the CQR Chicago Issue

Chicago Quarterly Review Turns 20
Literary journal turns its lens toward its hometown
by Rick Kogan

The authors of the editors’ note that begins Volume 17/2014 of Chicago Quarterly Review: The Chicago Issue are justifiably thrilled that the publication has reached its 20th birthday: “We are amazed and humbled to look back at the hundreds of writers who have lent their work to our pages. If ever there were a testament to the exuberance of the Chicago writing scene, and the Chicago influence on the mind and psyche of those touched by the city, this is it.”

In this gathering of 54 writers and artists is some very good writing (fiction, nonfiction and poetry), some interesting visual art, fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The editors say they hope to stimulate, entertain and inspire, and they do.

You will find here the work of a few of my erstwhile newspaper colleagues: Gary Houston, long gone from the Sun-Times, with a nonfiction entry; former Tribune editor and publisher Jack Fuller, with a short story titled “True With Time,” and former Tribune book editor/critic John Blades, who also serves as fiction editor of the review, with his “The Fourth Dementia” story.

Fuller and Blades have published novels, and they are joined here by former Tribune reporter Rogers Worthington with “Bugroast,” his first published short story.

The Chicago Reader’s Michael Miner breaks from his steady, decades-long stream of media columns and other musings to contribute three short poems, the first to reach the public since a couple were published in his ship’s newspaper when he served in the U.S. Navy.

The work of some of the city’s brightest young talents — Don De Grazia, Gina Frangello, Joe Meno and Christine Sneed among them — is here too, full of energy and coltish inventiveness. They are joined by veteran prose pros such as Rosellen Brown.

There is not a writer alive who will not benefit from reading “Writing and Publication,” Harry Mark Petrakis’ remembrance of his early stabs at writing, excerpted from his memoir, “Song of My Life,” due to be published next year. There is no one I can think of who has toiled more tirelessly and passionately for his place in the world of words than has Petrakis.

“What became apparent to me was the importance of revision,” he writes. “As I became more intensely involved with the writing of stories, I found myself revising beginnings and endings and certain crucial scenes through as many as eight to ten drafts.”

Also included here are three stories by local high school students, full of promise. These were the winners of the first Budding Literary Masters prizes, launched this year by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, which was created almost single-handedly by Donald G. Evans. Evans is a tireless sort who also has a piece for this volume, a sad-chilling story titled “The Princess of Portage Park.”

He orchestrated the fourth Hall of Fame induction ceremony this month at the Cultural Center. Inducted were Edna Ferber, Leon Forrest, L. Frank Baum, John H. Johnson, Thornton Wilder and Ben Hecht. (All inductions are posthumous.)

I would hope that those names register and that some of the names in this book will achieve whatever success or fame their words deserve. But I would also hope they realize that fame is tough to get and harder to hold.

If you want proof, it is in this issue of the review. In “The Paradox of Ben Hecht,” former Sun-Times’ reporter/columnist Jan Herman writes, “If Ben Hecht is remembered at all today, it is not for his novels. It is not even for his journalism or the movies he wrote, credited and uncredited, but for a more general reputation as the most successful screenwriter of his time.”

Rick Kogan is a Tribune senior writer and columnist.

“Chicago Quarterly Review: The Chicago Issue”

Edited by S. Afzal Haider and Elizabeth McKenzie, Chicago Quarterly Review, 373 pages, $16 paperback

CQR Contributors read in San Francisco: Alfredo Vea, Moazzam Sheikh, Yumi Wilson, Jory Post

The Bay Area contributors to CQR #16 read at Green Apple Books in San Francisco on October 28, 2013.  Moazzam Sheikh read “Invisible Strands,”  Yumi Wilson read “The Dog Park,”  Jory Post read “Worm Tag,”  and Alfredo Vea read “Every Goat on Earth.”


Alfredo Vea and Moazzam Sheikh


Yumi Wilson

IMG_0576Moazzam Sheikh


Elizabeth McKenzie, editor

IMG_0569 Syed Afzal Haider, Founder and editor

IMG_0590 Jory Post

2:12 a.m. by Kat Meads

The CQR-published essay “Among the Wakeful, These” by Kat Meads is now part of a collection, 2:12 a.m., just out from Stephen F. Austin State University Press.

Stephen F. Austin State University Press

ISBN 978-1-62288-039-3,7672.aspx

Advance Praise for 2:12 a.m.

Kat Meads can be funny, eloquent, enlightening and exciting—all in one compelling essay after another. Her new collection is a book to buy and enjoy from beginning to end.

—Lee Gutkind, Founder and Editor, Creative Nonfiction; author of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction—from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between

The personal essay is not only alive but well, very well, in this excellent new collection by Kat Meads, chronic insomniac, who takes the reader on “a red-eye tour of the world at large and the world within,” from the swampy lowland of her North Carolina childhood, to California, to Vegas, to upstate New York, to St. Petersburg. It’s a lively trip with a guide full of insight, wit, curiosity, compassion, intelligence, and charm. Distinctive in style, beautifully paced, it offers what the personal essay does best, a traveling companion for our own journey, the chance to feel less lonely as we make our way through the world.

—Lee Zacharias, author of At Random and The Only Sounds We Make

Kat Meads’ 2:12 a.m. is a deeply engaging collection of essays whose subjects and locales range from Patty Hearst and atomic testing to Las Vegas wedding chapels and the Salton Sea, all considered through the lively intelligence of a brilliant insomniac who walks in her sleep and makes profound connections between childhood friends in the coastal village of her youth and the human tragedies of great literature and history. A lovely and provocative book.

—Philip Gerard, author of Down the Wild Cape Fear and Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life

This is a fascinating and original collection that takes us into a night world undreamt of by those who inhabit daytime complacencies. “Jilted by sleep,” left to the torments of “night at its stalker best,” Meads finds ways of making the best of it, engaging in a whimsical game of naming and remembering every bed she’s ever slept in, seeking explanations for why she and her sleep were so rudely parted, her mind ranging widely over such subjects as Patty Hearst, Lee Harvey Oswald, the Duchess of Windsor. She muses about the strange, haunting Insomnia Drawings of Louise Bourgeois, that artist of insomnia, inhabiting Bourgeois’ “nighttime imagination” as only one who has a nighttime imagination of her own could do. She has a wonderful eye for the surreal, whether she’s describing a visit to the Salton Sea or the Nevada Test Site or a hilarious sleepless wedding night in Las Vegas. There is much to think about here, and much to enjoy, not least of which is the author’s wonderfully supple style, sentences that do arabesque leaps from the wickedly funny to the lyrical and hauntingly evocative.

—Gayle Greene, author of Insomniac




blog 9-18 photo (angela)

Chicago Quarterly Review intern Angela is a second-year student at the University of Chicago. She is double majoring in Economics and Art History.
On campus, she is involved in The Blue Chips, the U of C’s student investment club, Moneythink, a national nonprofit with which she tutors South Side high school students in financial literary, and the University Ballet. She is also founding editor of Dax Magazine, a spontaneous brainchild of hers and some friends that they decided would be the first experimental literary and arts magazine on campus. They figured that if any time were a good time to experiment with uncanny or unexplored method, form, or content…well, college would probably be that time. Prior to Dax, Angela also served as blog editor for on-campus, student-run literary magazine Memoryhouse.
Angela’s adventure with the Chicago Quarterly Review spawned from an innocuous email back in the beginning of April 2013 asking if there was any work she could help with. Five months, tens of submissions, and some pages of HTML later, the time has come for her to bid the magazine goodbye. She is incredibly grateful for having had the opportunity to work firsthand with such a distinctive and high-quality publication. She’d especially like to extend her thanks to head editor Elizabeth McKenzie for mentoring her through and through.
Angela is eager to see what the Chicago Quarterly Review puts together next. She can’t wait to get her hands on a copy of the upcoming issue.