Chicago’s live literature scene just became available in a new format, in case you haven’t made your way to a show in person.
Now readers can peruse stories online, all of which have been performed before a live audience, thanks to Story Club Magazine. The quarterly magazine released its premiere issue last week, made up of stories performed not just at Story Club Chicago, but other live lit events in the area. It also features stories from performances in other cities, including those at Story Club Boston and Story Club Minneapolis.
“We’re spreading the gospel of live lit a little wider,” said Dana Norris, Story Club founder and producer.
Norris said the plans for the magazine came about this past fall. A former Story Club intern, David Lipowski, designed the clean-looking site from the bottom up. Another intern, Elle Kammerer, was interesting in managing and editing an online magazine, and Norris wanted to provide an outlet for her to do so.
Sarah Hollenbeck, a live lit veteran who also holds a masters in creative writing from Northwestern, was a natural fit to be the magazine’s senior editor.
“Effective live lit must have excellent pacing and clearly established stakes,” said Hollenbeck in an email to the Recorder. “Arguably, the same is true for any online article. … To snag and maintain an audience’s attention–whether virtually through writing or live on-stage–you must convey what is at stake in a way that’s visceral and crisp.”
Norris and Hollenbeck met at Northwestern in a creative nonfiction writing workshop.
“I remember on the first day of class someone made an unflattering remark about this floral cardigan that Dana was wearing,” said Hollenbeck. “I thought it was a super-cute cardigan and told her so. Naturally, that made us forever friends.”
Norris founded Story Club in 2009, and today it is a cornerstone in Chicago’s thriving live lit community. However, she also has a background in publishing, including editing Northwestern’s TriQuarterly literary magazine.
“I thought, ‘I wonder if I can run my own magazine,’” said Norris of her latest venture. “I want someone in Portland to be able to get a taste of [live lit]. I want it to get out there.”
Content for the magazine is curated by the staff, and is submitted to them from the many Story Club outfits now emerging across the country. Stories performed at other live lit events are also permitted.
“We take the ones we think are the most dynamic and put them in the quarterly issue,” said Norris.
Other stories will be posted as “stories of the week,” available with new content each Wednesday.
The movement is expected to only grow: Story Club Atlanta and Story Club Indianapolis are both in the works, with interest building all the time. Norris said she welcomes new chapters, and it’s an easy format to replicate city-to-city.
“Just have an open mic, pay your dues, and follow the brand, which is ‘openness’,” she said.
Holenbeck was an observer of live lit for years, she said, before stepping up the mic. Today, she can boast being on the stages of Guts & Glory, That’s All She Wrote, Story Club North Side, and Fillet of Solo. Her boyfriend, Andrew Marikis, runs Story Club South Side in Bridgeport.
“I didn’t consider myself a performer at all,” she said. “I get real nervous in front of crowds–my hands shake, my voice cracks–it can get pretty hairy. [But] as I started getting more and more involved in organizing and doing publicity for those events, gradually the whole ‘scene’ became much less daunting.”
She recommends the experience to any and all writers and performers, and credits Norris with being a warm, understanding leader into the medium.
“I would climb aboard any train that Dana Norris is conducting,” she said. “She makes good things happen.”
She is glad the magazine will be available to archive stories and further the reach of live lit.
“I’ve seen so many people tell amazing stories that are only heard once and often by a meager crowd,” she said. “It’s an honor to help them gain exposure. I also feel that the magazine is creating an invaluable archive, preserving some of the best live lit that’s been performed in Chicago and beyond.”
If you’ve never seen Story Club yourself or if you’re interested in performing, read about their (minimal) guidelines here. Story Club meets the first Thursday of each month at Holiday Club, and Story Club South Side performs on third Tuesdays.