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These words were on one of author/editor Wendy McClure’s slides in her fantastic closing talk at this weekend’s inaugural Chicago Writers Conference:

Read, Read, for God’s Sake, READ!

It took me a full minute to realize that she probably meant, “read books,” not “read aloud.” But that’s how those words hit me because I attended all the talks on the Live Lit scene in Chicago, and this message rang out loud and clear.

It makes sense that a lot of the local presenters for the first-ever CWC are members of Chicago’s live lit COMMUNITY (a subject I just blogged about on The Storybook Girl). Readings make community.

How else are a bunch of introverts supposed to reach out and get inside each other’s brains? Readings make the most solitary of art forms public and awesome.

Did I just say awesome?

Yes, I done did.

Ian Belknap, the Overlord of the Write Club series, which now thrives in SIX cities, gave an inspired talk on live readings. Normally the epitome of cynicism, Ian pointed towards transcendent summits of connection and contention, feedback and communion. In a reading, he said, “You are trying to transmit the contents of your heart to another heart.”


Many of the presenters talked about how that act of transmission, that feedback, can serve your craft. They talked about networking, how one thing leads to another.

And yes, those are huge benefits to reading aloud, but the connection, the heart-to-heart exchange, is what I took away as the favored offspring of the Live Reading Motherload.

I learned this once. It’s part of what made grad school so magical. But I’d forgotten to seek it out in my own city. I’m so glad I submitted to read at the CWC Special Edition of Tuesday Funk.

Here’s my heart:

Tuesday Funk Readings at Open Books - Rachel Wilson

Here are some other hearts (including my bud Mary Winn Heider’s):

Tuesday Funk Readings at Open Books

I tried.

The crowd was fantastic. Open Books was magical. I met some amazing people. And good things happened.

[Pics by Kevin Swallow. Full Flickr stream here.]