Finding The Write Place: Volumes Book Cafe


Volumes Book Cafe

1474 N Milwaukee Ave

Chicago, IL 60622


Mon-Sat 9:30AM – 10PM

Sun: 10AM – 8PM

(Hours subject to change. Check the cafe’s website for up-to-date info)

Noise level: Medium level of noise. People are talking in small groups and there are board games you can play, but there is no music playing in the background.

Availability of space: Good amount of tables present (about 5 low tables, 2 hi-top tables and a bar of seating). I went during lunchtime on a Saturday and had no problem finding seating.

Bathrooms: Yes.

Food: Yes, pastries.

Wifi: Free (password on each table).

Outlets: Yes, at the bar top along the wall.

I loved this cute cafe, but the thing I loved most by far was that it’s also a USED BOOKSHOP! The whole back section is a bookstore. They also have adorable bookish knickknacks for sale and a book subscription program! I definitely recommend this to any writer who likes to find new reads when they’re writing and doesn’t mind conversations happening around them. (I just wore headphones and I was perfectly fine!) I think this is my new favorite neighborhood cafe and bookstore in the Wicker Park area!



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Chicago Reads: ChiYA Book Babies

Two ChiYA members released their book babies into the world! What a time to be alive!

On January 16, Samira Ahmed released her debut, LOVE HATE & OTHER FILTERS.


This amazing #ownvoices book tells the story of American-born 17-year-old Maya Aziz, who is torn between worlds: the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter, and the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe pursuing the boy she’s known since grade school, who’s finally falling into her orbit.

There’s also the real world. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, the community Maya’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must determine in which world she truly belongs.


On January 15, ChiYA members attended a launch party at Anderson’s Bookshop to celebrate the birth of this book baby.  The night was exciting! The event was packed; friends, family, and fans alike turned out to welcome LOVE, HATE & OTHER FILTERS into the world.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, the next week, we received the joyous news that LOVE, HATE & OTHER FILTERS debuted on the Young Adult Hardcover New York Times bestseller list! I get the feeling she’s only getting started.

On February 6, Gloria Chao released her debut, AMERICAN PANDA.


First of all, HOW CUTE IS THIS COVER? I can’t get enough of smiling POC on YA book covers. It makes me so happy and definitely sets the tone for the book.

AMERICAN PANDA is a hilarious, touching #ownvoices book about 17-year-old Mei, a freshman at MIT who is on track to fulfill a future predetermined by her parents: become a doctor, marry a pre-approved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, and produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth—that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is definitely not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if the secrets are worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?


Once again, CHiYA headed out to Anderson’s for Gloria’s launch event, and it was super fun. There was cake served on panda plates, sparkling cider, and joy all around. I know this book is deeply personal for Gloria, and I think that makes it all the more special.

And there’s more coming from these brilliant authors!

Samira is under contract for two books: MAD, BAD, & DANGEROUS TO KNOW, a YA thriller told in dueling narratives that weave between past and present, follows a Muslim-American teenager who partners with a descendant of French author Alexandre Dumas to unravel the mystery of a 19th-century Muslim woman who appears in letters between Dumas and Eugene Delacroix (2019), and INTERNMENT, a YA book about a near future in the United States where Muslim Americans are forced into an internment camp and a seventeen-year-old must fight against Islamophobia, oppression, and complicit silence (2019).

Gloria’s next project is MISALIGNED, a YA novel about a teen outcast who is simultaneously swept up in a whirlwind romance and down a rabbit hole of dark family secrets when another Taiwanese family moves to her small, predominantly white Midwestern town (2019).

Interested in meeting the authors in person and getting your book signed? This blog post outlines upcoming events, including a don’t miss one featuring both authors.

I’m so proud to be a member of ChiYA. Stayed tuned. Great things are coming from all of us!

This post is brought to you by Ronni Davis at

Inspiration Station: The Value of Artistic Detours

Inspiration Station is an occasional series on highlighting the people, places, and works of art that inspire us as writers.

I had a pleasantly chatty cab driver during a recent trip to the airport. He’s a painter who drives to pay the bills, and he told me about his artistic inspirations and growing interest in using metal as a canvas. I shared the premise of my latest novel and the characters who drive it.

“I used to write too,” he said. “I still think of poems every now and then. But at some point, I guess you have to choose.”

To some extent, he’s completely right: there are only so many hours in a day, after all, and gaining expertise in anything requires immense dedication, so you’d better choose your investment wisely.

And yet.

I went to a combined middle and high school focused on both academics and the arts. There, I was surrounded by people who, at age fourteen, were better painters than I will ever be. I personally focused on film photography, but my graduation requirements included classes in sculpture and painting. I also voluntarily participated in orchestra and—surprising me most of all—an intro-level drama class. At this school, even our “traditional” history and English classes often incorporated video, live sketches, or creative writing into assignments. Each of these art forms pushed me to think in nuanced ways about objects and perspective, color and sound, movement and light. Doing so improved my photographic eye at the time and, in the years since, has come to fundamentally shape my writing.

I only use my camera once or twice a year now, so I suppose I also chose one particular creative path. But I constantly draw on the lessons I learned through exploring other disciplines. They each changed my perspective and continue to reveal new worlds for my characters to explore. And why not? One of the first things we learn in crafting characters is to give them things—often multiple things—to be passionate about. This informs a character’s motivations but, more importantly, gives us the specific lens through which they see the world.

Writing may have been the path I committed myself to, but I know I can be more intentional about taking artistic detours. I may not have the hours to explore that I did in high school, but I can carve out a few minutes at a time to keep the road more interesting and my creative well more full.

As we reached O’Hare, my newfound artistic pal and I wished each other luck. He told me he planned to write a new poem, and I promised to take my camera out for a spin.

I hope, reader, that you’ll join us in embracing the scenic route.


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