Hail pilgrim. There’s a few things that I’m bound to do every year with my family, things that turn us into pilgrims, of a sort. The family I’m talking about here is an English teacher, a librarian, myself the book blogger, and my sister who is studying biology for whatever reason but reads a lot anyhow so we still love her. We do book things, lots of book things. Madeline, you may say, that’s a really vague description. What exactly are book things? Well, the short answer is that if there’s any place we could see, touch, smell, or even taste a book, my family and I will have been going to that thing for twenty years now. Chicago’s Printers Row Lit Festival is one of those book things. This weekend, my family is all ready to make our yearly pilgrimage to explore the heaps and heaps of books set out under tents in the street of Chicago.
A whole bunch of different vendors and special guests show up each year. There are panels, workshops, and loads of events for kids and adults. My favorite part of the festival though, is always the wild and crazy tables and tents with endless surprises and fascinating finds. My dearest father loves the vintage movie posters and comics, my mother loves the fun little decorative trinkets, like old printing press letters and equipment, and my sister and I love the geek chic souvenirs; funny t-shirts with references to classic books, like my Douglas Adams #42 sports jersey.
They’ve got loads of people trying to spread awareness about their books and literary journals too. It gives a lot of self published or obscure writers the chance for publicity. People do all sorts of stuff to make you pay attention to their books. One time two ladies at a table selling books about local paranormal and psychic encounters had me take a test and said I probably had precognitive abilities. As in, I’m psychic. I really appreciated the recognition of my talents but at the same time ended up not buying anything from them because I couldn’t foresee such events in my mind’s eye, and as a psychic you really have to stick with what your mind’s eye tells you. In all seriousness, I do love the chance to get to see and buy work from writers and artists just starting out or looking for new recognition. They’ll more often than not sign their books for you, which you now never fails to excite me. I like the feeling of reaching out to help a struggling writer while also possibly getting the gift of reading a really good book for myself.
They also have loads of groups, clubs, and writer’s guilds, mostly local, or Midwestern, at any rate, show up and hand out information on their organization and the chance to join them. You have to pay to get into such groups of course so I’ll only ever be able to look at their pamphlets until someone makes the crazy decision to pay me for my writing, but I always found the idea of joining one of these groups intriguing. Mostly its the groups that call themselves guilds. When I think of guilds I think of the crafty thieves and assassins guild in Discworld, which I was always convinced I would enjoy being a part of. Yes, mostly that part of the day is me fantasizing about wearing a fancy secret club hat and reciting poetry. I suppose that if I ever actually joined such an organizations, those expectations would go sadly unfulfilled, so I shall continue my life as a wandering pilgrim instead. It’s not such a lonely life. I’ll have my family
I’m excited not just to see my family, who do not solely define me as a person by how many final papers I have left to do, but to see all the new books waiting to be discovered. This isn’t the sort of convention you cosplay for, a la C2E2, but there’s no less a sense of community fostered by so many book lovers wandering around and showing of their goods. Printer’s Row does feel like I’m coming home, even if it’s only a mass of tents and folding tables set up once a year for an all too short weekend.