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Story Week Celebrates Its 15th Year

By Betsy Mikel in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 10, 2011 9:40PM

Story Week starts on Sunday. These are a few of the authors who will be participating in conversations, Q&As, and signings.
Columbia College does more than boast Colbert Report-worthy tweeters. The fiction writing department at Columbia College is also responsible for the ever-expanding and always interesting Story Week, a festival that gives the public free access to author readings, conversations, panels and performances. Story Week starts Sunday, March 13 with a 2nd Story performance and will continue on until March 18 with other events such as open mics and brown bag discussions; Q&As and signings from authors Audrey Niffenegger, Jennifer Egan, and Karen Tei Yamashita; and panels on topics like the future of and preparing manuscripts for publishing.

Randy Albers, who was the chair of the fiction writing department when he founded Story Week 15 years ago, said the festival started out simply as a way to make it easier to bring more writers to the department. Overworked faculty didn’t have much time to plan such events. The audiences to the author events responded so well, that Story Week applied for a grant and became a yearly event. “That wave of enthusiasm carried us forward, and the audiences began to broaden,” Albers said. “Over the years, they have continued to grow in numbers and breadth, and we have been very gratified to have that support, as well as the support of sponsors and Columbia College Chicago administration.”

Since that first Story Week 15 years ago, Albers and his team have learned that their audiences are hungry for a chance to interact with a wide range of authors, be they from Chicago or from abroad. People like to talk about wide range of literary topics, too, be it about the author’s work or discussions about publishing. And, they’ve learned that putting on such an event takes a lot of coordination and a lot of hands on deck. “No one makes a great deal of money in these roles, and it is truly a labor of love for all of us,” Albers said.

But, with such a great lineup of authors and events that are and always have been free, the department’s hard work definitely pays off. For example, the credibility and stature the festival has brought author participation that normally would have been too expensive for Story Week to afford. “While we don’t pay huge amounts of money very often, we are pleased that writers, agents, publishers, and the like have heard about us and think enough of the experience to come for perhaps something less than they would normally demand.”

View the Story Week schedule of events, check out more information about programming and about the authors on Facebook and Twitter, watch author videos, and read bios on the panelists, presenters and performers.