Despite What Beer May Come

Plate of food and bottle drink

The dogs at Chicago’s Belly Shack are the best. In the bare, post-industrial setting of this diner beneath the rumbling tracks of the L, you can get a Belly Dog loaded with egg noodles and pickled green papaya. Add a little mustard and a side of Togarashi fries and you’ve got the makings of a beautiful episode of indigestion. Which I got. And which propelled me into a local 7-11 for some Tums on my way to the funky independent bookstore in Wicker Park. I was waiting on a plane to land at midnight, bringing … Continue reading Despite What Beer May Come

Art History by Gayatri Surendranathan


Art History   “A book ‘manuscript’ should be understood as a form of sacred space: a temple in microcosm, not only imbued with divine presence but also layered with the memories of many generations of users.” My mother was obsessed With early Buddhist palm-leaf Manuscripts, their gilded edges, Lush, inky script – every morning She would pore over them, lay them In a row on her desk and hunch With a magnifying glass, pencil Notes on things like richness of color, Simplicity of line. She measured, Translated, stopping only to write Or gulp lukewarm, tannic … Continue reading Art History by Gayatri Surendranathan

Resources for Writers Series: Midwest Writers Workshop

Two matches burning together

After I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop this summer, I made a vow to write about it. I had gone to other writing conferences, but this one felt different. Warmer, helpful. Permanent. As a dutiful outreach coordinator whose mission is to offer writers opportunities to publish and improve their craft, I reached out to Jama Kehoe Bigger, the long-term director of the workshop. Jama didn’t disappoint. The warmth and enthusiasm which will envelop you as you read on is the same whether conveyed in writing, from a podium or in a conversation. Karol Lagodzki: Jama, … Continue reading Resources for Writers Series: Midwest Writers Workshop

Skin by Marlena Baraf

dough in small tart pan

Sweet Tarts Tía Mimí was lumpy. My tía Esther was fat. My father’s two sisters never married. “You’ll grow up to be old maids like your aunts,” mami sang to Patricia and me. “Julita doesn’t appreciate your wonderful papi,” they refrained. “Your mami’s spoiled,” they said. “She doesn’t deserve him.” Our tías were surrogates for mami. One or the other would sleep at our house to help their brother Eddie when mami had to travel for treatment. Tía Mimí with dark brown hair and eyes like mine had little bumps all over her body and … Continue reading Skin by Marlena Baraf

The Faux Phenomenon by Laura Marello

Watch Out Fake written on 10 dollar bill

When I returned home from the grocery store a few weeks ago, in the Boonsboro neighborhood of Lynchburg, I looked up to see that my next-door neighbors’ shutters had been removed from the front façade of their house, leaving the darker green older paint exposed in the shutter area, and the lighter green, newer paint around it, creating a faux shutter phenomenon. It looks good. We don’t really need shutters, I realized. We can have faux shutters, using the old paint behind the shutters to create the illusion. In the last decade, commerce has exploded … Continue reading The Faux Phenomenon by Laura Marello

The Upside of Being an Airhead

Long line of stopped cars with drivers standing around

Here are the things I’ve always found challenging: Organization Instructions (written, spoken and pictorial) Maps (obviously) Sciencey things Paying attention The good news about these long-standing issues is that now that I am of a certain age I’m not overly concerned when I find I have accidentally sent the uneaten slab of a dinner ham in my husband’s lunch box–instead of the thinly sliced sandwich I made for him. Or that I’ve zoned out while driving and missed my exit by many, many digits. Or misplaced the Costco receipt somewhere after the cash register and … Continue reading The Upside of Being an Airhead

The Joplin Room by Anne-Marie Yerks


The woman walking into the lobby wore a brown skirt, white tights, and a pair of clogs. Her name was Shellay—she-lay—and she had a Polish last name that was hard to pronounce. She said she was a librarian and had a nerdy, unkempt look about her: Stringy hair that was dry on the ends, a pasty complexion, and a long thin nose. She wore glasses, of course. All librarians should wear glasses. Hers were a pale shade of rose. She wasn’t from Ohio, as Darcy was guessing, but from Oregon. “I’d like to stay in … Continue reading The Joplin Room by Anne-Marie Yerks