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Fest Times: writers--the town's crawling with 'em

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The annual conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs takes place in Chicago March 24 through 27, and between that and Columbia College's Story Week Festival, which started March 18, the town is lousy with writers, editors, publishers, and assorted hangers-on. The AWP conference is open to registrants only, but many participants are seizing the opportunity to throw extracurricular readings and parties this week and next. Following is a selective guide to Story Week- and AWP-related proceedings. For more information see the Readings & Lectures listings in Section Two, which include a complete schedule of Story Week events. All are free and all ages unless otherwise noted.

Monday, March 22

Local writer, drummer, and part-time Columbia College instructor Brian Costello hosts an installment of his live talk show, The Brian Costello Show With Brian Costello. In the hot seat is John McNally, author of the just-released novel The Book of Ralph (Free Press), a coming-of-age story set on the southwest side in the 70s. Also performing: the writer Todd Dills and the bands Bang! Bang! and the Krunchies. It's at 8 PM at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600. There's a $3 cover; you must be 21 or over.

Wednesday, March 24

At 6 PM Story Week throws its annual Literary Rock & Roll party at Metro, 3730 N. Clark (773-549-0203). This year's guests are local literati Elizabeth Crane (When the Messenger Is Hot), Aleksandar Hemon (The Question of Bruno, Nowhere Man), and Shawn Shiflett (see facing page). They'll read from recently published work and sign books; following the talking, the local funk band Bumpus plays.

At 7:30 the New York-based literary magazine Fence hosts an evening of poetry as part of Danny's Reading Series. Scheduled readers include Rebecca Wolff, Chelsey Minnis, Michael Earl Craig, and Rosemary Griggs. It's at Danny's Tavern, 1951 W. Dickens, 773-489-6457. You must be 21 or over to attend.

Thursday, March 25

"Nobody who's ever skipped out on one has ever complained about a dearth of writers' conferences, but that's because they know exactly what it is they're missing," says the Web site of the D.C.-based Dissociated Writers Project, a co-op of writers, performers, artists, punk rockers, and filmmakers devoted to "creating a forum for a free exchange of ideas in the hopes of exploring artistic possibilities we and the audience might have missed." The group designed its year-old conference, the DWP Writing & Arts Festival, to provide an alternative to the podium-bound talking heads that usually dominate gatherings like AWP. It starts tonight with an event hosted by the Discrete Series at Bar Louie, 1704 N. Damen, with entertainment by Chicago acoustic duo Sin Living Lust Trusters and Philadelphia musician Mike Pomeranz. The DWP will host additional events on Friday and Saturday, March 26 and 27, including a discussion of speculative writing led by Matt Derby and Vincent Standley, at Sheffield's, 3258 N. Sheffield. You must be 21 or over to attend; call 773-860-8166 or see www.dissociatedwritersproject.com for more.

At 7:30 former Chicagoan and current New Yorker editor Ben Greenman reads from his novel, Superworse (Soft Skull), a "remix" of his McSweeney's-published collection Superbad: Stories and Pieces. He'll be joined by poet and fellow Soft Skull author Daniel Nester, whose God Save My Queen, a set of prose poems inspired by the band Queen, was published by the Brooklyn-based press last year. Also on the bill: Columbia poet in residence Clayton Eshleman and Fiction Collective Two authors Lucy Corin (Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls), Brian Evenson (The Wavering Knife), and A.B. West (Wakenight Emporium). It's at Quimby's, 1854 W. North, 773-342-0910.

At 9 PM contributors to O Taste and See: Food Poems (Bottom Dog Press), which recently won the American Poetry Anthology Award, will read at Russian Tea Time, 77 E. Adams. Among those delivering odes to blini and brisket will be volume editors Terry Hermsen and David Lee Garrison. The pair will return to the restaurant tomorrow afternoon at 3 (tea time) with a different batch of poets. Call 312-360-0000.

The Big Small Press Mall, a collective online marketing venture by independent publishers Open City, Fence, Verse, and McSweeney's, teams up with Drag City Records to host Aquacade I, a party, reading, and rock show, at the Empty Bottle. Silver Jews front man David Berman, whose first collection of poetry, Actual Air, was published in 1999 by Open City and reprinted last year by Drag City Books, is the headliner (see the Meter in Section Three). He'll be joined by poets Joe Wenderoth (Letters to Wendy's) and Prageeta Sharma, Smog auteur Bill Callahan, Bay Area novelist Stephen Elliott (Happy Baby), and filmmaker Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy), who'll read excerpts from his novel A Crackup at the Race Riots and his illustrated collaboration with painter Christopher Wool, Pass the Bitch Chicken. Drag City bands Chestnut Station and White Magic (see Spot Check) will play. It starts at 9 at 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600; tickets are $15. You must be 21 or over.

Friday, March 26

The Treasury Department recently announced that American publishers are forbidden to edit works authored in countries embargoed by the U.S. The editors of Circumference, a new journal of poetry in translation, protest. "Translators working from the languages of these countries are providing an incomparable and necessary service to audiences in this country," they wrote in a recent e-mail. "Cross-cultural exchange through poetry and translation is a force to be reckoned with." They're dedicating the next issue of the NYC-based journal to poetry from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and Cuba. At 7:30, on the second floor at Delilah's, 2771 N. Lincoln, they'll celebrate the release of their first issue with readings of poems--originals and translations--by Jen Hofer, Pierre Joris, Matthew Zapruder, and Christine Hume. You must be 21 or over; call 773-472-2771.

At 8 PM Fiction Collective Two celebrates 30 years of experimental publishing with readings by a slew of writers including O. Henry Award-winning Janice Eidus, whose first novel, Faithful Rebecca, was published by FC2 in 1987, and Leslie Scalapino, whose Dahlia's Iris: Secret Autobiography and Fiction, "a futuristic detective novel written in the tradition of an ancient Tibetan form," came out this fall. They and a baker's dozen of their peers read at Rain Dog Books, 408 S. Michigan; call 312-922-1200.

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