Indie Book Stores and Local Authors

I spent part of Independent Bookstore Day promoting my novel The Ghost of Jamie McVay to local shops. I found out not all bookstores are equally friendly to authors. Some owners throw their arms wide with enthusiasm, while others have limited programs with strict guidelines for accepting new works into their stores — and I guess some don’t seem to support local authors at all.

The first store to accept a book right from my hands was the Book Shop Batavia where JamesJosephowner James Stickling has been featuring local writers since the store opened a year ago. Beyond the walls of his small shop, James has sponsored my book launch party at nearby Bar Evolution, and contributed to the founding of an open mic and the Batavia Lyceum, among other literary commitments. James has been handling the library of the late Frank Rutledge, holding numerous sales and benefits for the poet’s family.

Another Fox Valley bookseTownHouseBooksller of note is David Hunt of Town House Books in St. Charles, Illinois. David is very welcoming to authors, hosting book signings and readings to promote their works. This is an awesome shop in a historic building, with a nice cafe attached. A very comfortable place to shop for books!

Barbara'sCounterA little farther from the scene of the crime, but no less enthusiastic, is Barbara’s Bookstore in Burr Ridge’s Village Center neighborhood. A longtime fan of Barbara’s in Chicago and Oak Park, I am pleased to have my book on the shelves of this Chicago institution.

Other stores that have local author programs acknowledge the great number of requests they get, promising only that they will review the books provided and will decide which ones they can find room for on their shelves. Right now I’m waiting to hear from Anderson’s in Naperville, The Bookstore of Glen Ellyn, Harvey’s Tales in Geneva, and Prairie Fox Books in Ottawa, Illinois. I’m also expecting Barnes and Noble in Naperville to order some books soon.

The only disappointing experience I’ve had was at Prairie Path Books of Wheaton, where I was sent off with disdainful looks and condescending remarks explaining that they just weren’t interested in self-published books or even small press publications. The attitude was indignation that such authors, if you can believe it, would probably even expect a book signing or something! Officially, no one ever deigned to return a phone call or email. I felt bad about this missed opportunity, for, as readers know, much of The Ghost of Jamie McVay takes place on the actual Prairie Path, and Wheaton area readers would be most likely to enjoy descriptions of the book’s fictional “Winston” setting. Ironically, this store had a table at the Wheaton Public Library’s recent local author fest. Not sure why.

Overall, though, I’m encouraged by the positive attitude of the independent bookstores in the Chicago west suburban area, and I look forward to selling more books to readers all around.

Frank Rutledge 1962 – 2019


Frank Rutledge

1962 – 2019

Frank Rutledge was the first writer I encountered when I ventured over to the Fox Valley looking for a writing group. I’ll never forget the warm welcome he gave me to the Batavia Writers Group he’d been “facilitating” for a number of years at the library. From that first enthusiastic welcome until his last days, Frank was always the supportive friend every writer — ever person — should have. In the group critiques his intelligence and instinctive understanding of the craft made better writers of all who joined the sessions.

Frank steered me to the Waterline Writers reading series where he helped curate the poetry submissions, and he introduced me to the classy side of the local literary scene. Our shared love of the written word made every Sunday at Waterline something to anticipate with excitement. And then those summer nights in Geneva at Harmonious Howl, the open mic of music and poetry he led on the front patio of Graham’s 418 Coffee Shop, will always be treasured memories. Even random Saturday mornings over coffee at Limestone Café in Batavia had their moments; I know a lot of writers went on from those discussions to more productive and positive week-ends. Frank did so much to enhance our lives and make us all so much better, even as his own real-life troubles wore him down.

Frank will be missed by all who knew and loved him. We must take solace from our memories, where the poet will live on multiplied through the community and beyond. Because his poetry outlives him, as literature outlives us all, and that is as it should be.

Frank’s four books of poetry are available from Amazon:

Eat the Punch Line, This Joke is Over, (2016)

Clothed in August Skin, (2016)

Voice In a Whisper, (2017)

The Corner of Tuesday and Happenstance, (2018)


To really appreciate Frank’s enthusiasm and love of the genre, look up his Waterline readings, which are available on You Tube and in the Waterline Writers Archive.

A sample: Frank Reading at Waterline Writers April 15, 2018

Frank’s work was published in numerous journals and appeared in several issues of Foxtales, the literary journal of the Fox Valley Writing Group.

Efforts are under way to collect and edit the great body of Frank’s unpublished works.

A web page produced by musical partner Dan Swigert:

Crop Circle Collective: A Collection of Frank’s Work

Other tributes and Obituaries:

“Fox Valley Poet ‘saw with his soul, inspired others to create'” by Harry Hitzeman (Daily Herald)

“Let Us Now Praise Famous Poets” by Rick Hollinger (Kane County Chronicle)

Batavia Lyceum

A loungeful of locals and I enjoyed the fact-crammed presentation on Monday night, October 16 at the Batavia Lyceum at Bar Evolution on River Street. What an excellent opportunity to listen and learn, and have a drink too! A brainchild of bookstore owner James Joseph, the Lyceum offers a monthly forum for the exchange of ideas on diverse topics that touch our lives. This was the second presentation of the season.

Last night it was Batavia history teacher Scott Bayer, shocking the audience with the truth about corporate collusion with America’s enemies during WWII. Bayer supported his notes with a power point presentation and documented his lecture well. Based on the follow-up Q and A, many were amazed to realize the guilty mega-corporations such as Ford, IBM, and Chase Bank continue to thrive into the current day.

Bayer covered a lot of material in his allotted hour, but had no problem holding the attention of the audience. Here’s hoping this new local institution continues to grow. Prosit!

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The Plot Thickens at Iowa Summer Writing Festival

IowaPictureI enjoyed a great week in Iowa city at the Summer Writing Festival. This is the second year I’ve indulged myself in this floating literary community, where writers of all genres, abilities and experience wade into the waters as deeply as they please. Personally, I wanted to dive into the deep end and participate as fully as I could. But getting the most out of it takes a lot of energy.

I had signed up for Kelly Dwyer’s class on “Plotting the Novel.” To start with, Kelly took it easy on us, not requiring any reading or writing before the class met. But from our first session Sunday night, it was work work work the rest of the week. Our ultimate goal was for each of us to produce a working plot outline for our fiction projects, but additional assignments had us writing every day.

Possible distractions from writing  are the social activities of the week-long sessions. I wouldn’t want to miss these bits that make the Summer Writing Festival special. Every day the “11th Hour” lectures feature presentations from the talented faculty. A Monday night reception (with open bar) at the most excellent Prairie Lights book store is followed by readings. The Beadology store offers an open mic for the participants to share their works in progress. Throughout the week there are dinners, dancing, and lunches with classmates. All day every day participants are hanging out writing, drinking coffee, and socializing at the Bread Garden.

Arriving in Iowa City I had only the vaguest idea for a book. By the end of the week I had somehow put together a fairly detailed outline for my next novel. Thanks to Kelly Dwyer and the helpful and astute comments from classmates, I have enough of a plan to start work immediately, plus an opening scene and lots of good ideas. Beyond that, I also feel refreshed , energized and motivated to begin the new project.

I won the award, but I couldn’t take it home.

The Naperville Writers’ Group awards the “Enwigger” each year to a member for Outstanding Contributions to the organization. This year I was honored to share the lovely object with likewise attractive Loretta Morris. In a fit of chivalry, I insisted that she take the award home to cherish — for the first six months, that is. I will claim the Enwigger for the last  half of the year, until the next popular vote, when it will be bestowed on another deserving writer. Meanwhile, I enjoy the warmth and fuzziness of my peers’ appreciation.

Last year I was recognized with “The Foot” Award, ostensibly for Most Improved Writer. Although also a prestigious honor, the Foot is not quite so pretty and shiny as the Enwigger. In fact, the Foot spent the previous year in an obscure corner of my library, where I could see it and enjoy its significance; but where the somewhat disturbing thing would be unlikely to invite awkward questions from visitors. Nevertheless, it’s the thought that counts.