Finding the Write Place: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

Finding the Write Place is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com that highlights some of our favorite places to write here in the Windy City.

Chicago Athletic Association Lobby

12 S Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60603
Open 24 hours, small bites menu & beverage service begins 11a.m. The Milk Room serves coffee and pastries beginning at 7a.m. that you can bring to your table.

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

Noise level: Quiet in the morning, but fills up and gets noisier throughout the day and best for those who don’t mind activity around them or wearing headphones. Music generally unobtrusive and varies–seasonal, 80s, etc.

Availability of space: Wide variety of seating, again, more available during the morning hours. There is one library-style table with outlets that seats 10 as well as small round tables that seat 2 along the windows. Large chairs and sofas are grouped together throughout the lobby and seating by the three fireplaces is always popular. On a Sunday afternoon, three of us were able to find spots at the library table.

Bathrooms: Yes (but hard to find–ask the front desk or a member of the wait staff)

Food: Yes! There is a small bites and drinks menu. The hotel also has a number of places to eat–including a Shake Shack on the ground floor and the Game Room next door to the lobby that you can step away to.

Wifi: Free

Outlets: Yes at the long table and some along the walls by the small round deuce tables.

When you enter the hotel, head up the stairs on the right of the ground floor entrance and you’ll be transported to old Chicago as you arrive in the lobby of the hotel. I love writing at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. In fact, I wrote and revised a large chunk of my debut novel here. It’s perfect for folks who want to feel like they are writing in a Hogwarts common room or love a clubby feel amidst beautifully preserved gothic architecture. Also excellent for those who want to treat themselves to a cocktail after they hit the day’s word count.

Great for small groups or for solo writers . This is one of ChiYA’s favorite haunts. And the hotel holiday decoration game is on point (and excellent for selfies). They even serve glögg.

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This post is brought to you by Samira Ahmed at ChiYAwriters.com.

Ask ChiYA: How to Find a Writing Group

Ask ChiYA is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com in which we answer readers’ questions about the world of YA writing and publishing.

question markQuestion: 

Hi! I’m interested in writing a YA novel, but I’m a senior in college—there’s no writing group on campus, and I’m not friends with anybody who wants to write. Is there a writing group related to Chicago YA writers I could join? Thanks!

Answer:

Hi Reader!

Thanks so much for reaching out. ChiYA doesn’t have a writing group, but here are a few suggestions from our bloggers:

  • The NaNoWriMo forums are a great community, and I found them super helpful and supportive when I was starting out. There’s also a local chapter called ChiWriMo. It’s not specifically YA focused, but writers for all ages/genres participate in their chats, meetups, etc. They have a Facebook group, as well.
  • The 88 Cups of Tea Facebook group is very supportive, and I know some folks have found critique partners through that.
  • The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) offers lots of resources for new writers, including local critique groups and mentorship programs. There is a fee to join the organization, but there’s a student rate if you’re interested. Also, the “Blueboard” discussion forums are open to everyone, even if you’re not a member.
  • You might try starting a writing group on campus by reaching out to creative writing professors or posting a flier in the English department. There’s a good chance some other students at your college would also love to join a writing group.

Finally, a word of caution: as always, be careful when using forums or other online resources. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or requests to meet up in person (outside of a group-sanctioned event in a public place), contact the forum moderator immediately.

Best of luck!

The ChiYA Writers

P.S. If you know of any other good resources for new writers, please leave them in the comments below!

P.P.S. If you have any questions for ChiYA, please reach out via our contact form. We’d love to hear from you!

Chicago YA Writers
This post is brought to you by ChiYAwriters.com.

Finding the Write Place: Everybody’s Coffee

Finding the Write Place is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com that highlights some of our favorite places to write here in the Windy City.

Everybody’s Coffee

935 W Wilson Ave
Chicago, IL 60640
Every Day: 7am – 5pm

(Hours subject to change. Please check the Everybody’s Coffee website for up-to-date hours.)

Noise level: Quiet. A great place to work.

Availability of space: There is plenty of space available.

Bathrooms: Yes

Food: Yes! Check out their delicious menu here.

Wifi: Free

Outlets: Yes

Everybody’s Coffee not only has plenty of space for patrons, they also have a theater available for events. The first time I was here was for an SCBWI event. Their theater has a projector and space for about sixty people (and you can bring food and drink in, which is awesome). As an avid tea drinker, I’m always happy to find a place with a good selection, as there was here.

This seems to be a great place for small groups, and they also have the capacity for large events. I know SCBWI-Illinois holds many of their events here, so clearly they have been happy with their experience!

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This post is brought to you by Gloria Chao at ChiYAwriters.com.

Inspiration Station: 3 Online Things Writers Can Do For Inspiration

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

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Last time, I chatted about things you can do offline for inspiration. But what if you’re more disciplined than I am? What if you tried all those and you’re still struggling? What if you just prefer the tech life over the analog life? I dig it. So I’m gonna share with you a few things I do online that inspire me:

one

Listen to music! I know you can do this offline, but hear me out. There is this amazing app called Spotify. Full disclosure: I spring for the premium version so I don’t have ads and I can make infinite playlists. But what I really love about Spotify is the vast amount of music you have access to. You can find something for every mood! In fact, they even have a setting where you can select the actual mood you’re looking for.

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Writing a kissing scene? There’s a playlist for that. How about a carefree summer day? They’ve got you covered. You can also put in a song you know has the mood you’re going for, set it to “radio,” and it’ll automatically pick songs that match for hours and hours and hours. You can thumbs down what you don’t like, thumbs up what you do like and it’ll tailor the station accordingly.

It’s fantastic.

I’m not getting paid for this or anything. I just really love Spotify.

But there are loads of other music services. Some free, some not, and some have free and premium options: Apple Music, Pandora, Soundcloud, heck, even YouTube. Any mood you’re trying to go for, you can find it.

two

Make Pinterest boards! I love gathering images that fit with my story, and organizing  them into a Pinterest board, which I may or may not share with trusted individuals. I search for images of models that look like I imagine my characters, scenery, props, clothing, quotes, hairstyles. Having the Pinterest board in the background really helps when I’m feeling stuck. I minimize my Word or Scrivener and take a look, and that’s usually enough to push me a few more words.

The trick is to not get caught up in searching for more pins, because Pinterest has this amazing ability to suck time away.

three

Make an aesthetic! I use Canva. It’s easy! I upload all those lovely Pinterest images and arrange them into a grid. It’s free as long as you upload your own photos—however, they do have a great library of free elements you can use as well. The cool thing about aesthetics is that they are portable. You can download one to your device and have it to glance at every time you need a boost, and you don’t need to be connected to the internet for it to work. Aesthetics are also fun to share. Here is the aesthetic of a story I might or might not write—I have no idea the direction of this book yet. But that’s OK. The important thing is that I had fun making it.

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That’s all I have for now. Do you have any suggestions? Sound off in the comments!


This post is brought to you by Ronni Davis at ChiYAwriters.com.

Chicago Reads: Upcoming YA Book Events (Nov/Dec 2017)

Chicago’s many wonderful independent bookstores host a wide variety of readings, signings, and discussions. Check out these upcoming Chicago-area YA events, and let us know about any events we missed in the comments!

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LANDSCAPE WITH INVISIBLE HAND
SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD

M.T. Anderson (accompanied by members of the Chicago Sinfonietta Quartet!)
Tuesday, November 14 at 7:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

Exit Pursued By A Bear book cover
EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR
GenYA Book Group Discussion
Saturday, November 18 at 2:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Downers Grove)

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COUNTING BY 7S
Never Too Old: A YA Book Club for Adults
Wednesday, November 29 at 7:30 PM
The Book Cellar (Lincoln Square)

Prince in Disguise book cover
PRINCE IN DISGUISE
Stephanie Kate Strohm
Tuesday, December 19 at 7:00 PM
The Book Cellar (Lincoln Square)

Keep an eye out for January/February events, including book launches by ChiYA’s very own Samira Ahmed (LOVE, HATE & OTHER FILTERS) and Gloria Chao (AMERICAN PANDA)!!!

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This post is brought to you by Lizzie Cooke at ChiYAwriters.com.

Chicago Reads: Jenny Han and Jennifer E. Smith

Here is an old post I had written up prior to our summer hiatus that I’m reviving! This was a post recapping an event from May 2, 2017:

I trekked up to Winnetka for a book event with Jenny Han and Jennifer E. Smith. They were there promoting their latest releases: Always and Forever, Lara Jean and Windfall, respectively.

The Book Stall is such a lovely bookstore. Their YA section is fantastic. One of the largest I’ve seen, with spot-on picks. I wish it wasn’t so far away because I would love to frequent this bookstore!

Jenny and Jennifer are friends, and it was fun to listen to their conversation.

Some of my favorite behind-the-scenes tidbits from the event:

  • Jennifer talked about how after each book, she wonders how she will ever write another book again. This was reassuring to hear, especially since she is a prolific writer!
  • Jennifer said her books begin with a big What If?, with the concept, and her characters come later.
  • Jenny Han was present for the cover photo shoot, and there are a lot of fun Easter eggs:
    • The photo in the upper left corner, to the left of the “A long forever” picture, is actually a photo of Jenny Han and the model from the shoot.
    • Jenny’s dress is hanging over the chair and the pink shoes on the floor are hers.
    • On the back flap, the framed photo of Leo and Claire Danes from Romeo and Juliet is Jenny’s, from high school. If you look closely, you can see the horizontal glue lines.
    • If I recall correctly, I believe the ladder on the back flap is also Jenny’s.
  • Jennifer brought the little figurines that are on her cover. She said the bear was originally a panda that they painted gold.
  • Jennifer had fun swag. Since her book is about winning the lottery, she had scratch tickets!

I love events with more than one author, and it’s an extra pro if they’re friends and have a great rapport!

About Always and Forever, Lara Jean:Always and Forever Lara Jean

Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

About Windfall:

WindfallThis romantic story of hope, chance, and change from the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is one Jenny Han says is filled with all of her “favorite things,” Morgan Matson calls “something wonderful,” and Stephanie Perkins says “is rich with the intensity of real love.”

Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

HeadshotGoriaChao 200x200 Author Photo


This post is brought to you by Gloria Chao at ChiYAwriters.com.

From A to Z: 5 Spooky Parts of Fiction Writing

From A to Z is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com that examines the nuts and bolts of the writing (and publishing) process.

In honor of Halloween, I wanted to reflect on several aspects of writing that can leave you quaking in your boots—and what to do when they happen to you. Take a look and let me know what other scary moments you’ve encountered in your own writing process!

1. When your characters take over your manuscript.

You have your plan (or maybe you don’t) and are merrily writing along—when one of your characters breaks out and does something so unexpected, you didn’t even see it coming. Maybe it’s a supporting character who rises to the occasion, or maybe your villain does something more dastardly than your darkest dreams. Maybe you don’t expect two characters to fall in love (or to break up!) and then they go and do just that.

Sometimes this is a sign that what you’d originally planned wasn’t working, or that your characters have developed beyond your first impressions of them and your subconscious is helping you embody those changes. Either way, these moments can feel scary and also thrilling, like a movie taking off before your eyes. Harness the creative energy by finishing up the scene and then reflecting on what this twist means for your characters and for the arc of the book.

2. When you come up with a plot twist and go back to incorporate foreshadowing…only to realize you already had.

This type of surprise sometimes makes you feel like you have less control of your writing than you’d like to believe. Other times, it makes you feel like a genius. It’s especially spooky when you’re far past the outline phase and find actual dialogue and character actions to provide evidence of your premonitions.

This can mean that you’ve been stewing on a character’s arc and purpose all along and the pieces are finally starting to click together. But be careful! Just because you find the original piece of foreshadowing doesn’t mean you’ve properly signaled it to the reader. Spend a bit more time thinking about whether your clue is too obvious (you’ve already thought of it twice, after all!), or whether you actually need to include additional bits of foreshadowing: a good rule is to include three separate moments in order to avoid your reveal coming totally out of left field, but that number will depend on the scale of the reveal and the length of your manuscript.

3. When the words aren’t coming.

Some writers say they don’t believe in writer’s block. I think what they really mean is that they’ve found strategies that work for them and can get them inspired—or at least help them push through—until the inertia eases. I’m not a fan of generalizations, but I’m comfortable saying that every writer reaches a crossroads where they aren’t sure what to do next, whether it’s which new idea to develop or how to deal with a manuscript that feels broken.

When this feeling creeps up on you, take a breath. You will get through it, just as you and countless other people have gotten through similar dilemmas before. Take a break from your writing if you need to—or, alternatively, set small goals that you know you can reach (one more sentence, one more paragraph, one more page). Consider revisiting your outline or reading the manuscript from the top. Gather some friends and tell them about your characters and plot, and ask them to throw ideas at you for what might happen next. Write all of these suggestions down, even if you don’t initially like them. The words will come again, but they can be shy little things: you have to find the right way to tempt them out of hiding.

4. The existential fear of never ____________.

Never getting an agent. Never getting published. Never having more than three people show up to your book signings. If you’re a writer who isn’t interested in publication and only writes for yourself, maybe you still have fears of not finishing your first book, your fifth book, your third short story. Maybe you’re afraid that even without pursuing publishing, you’ll ultimately disappoint yourself.

The fact that you’ve made it to a point where you can feel this kind of self-doubt, though, means that you’ve joined the ranks of thousands and thousands of writers, including Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, and Roshani Chokshi. Self-doubt to a point can even be healthy: it means you have goals and are working toward them. Just don’t let the pessimistic impulses sap your lifeblood entirely. If this happens to you often, you can even keep a scrap book of praise for your writing and/or of excerpts you’ve written and will always love.

5. Your Google search history.

I know what you looked up while writing your last piece.

Well, actually, I have no idea. But you and I both know it’d be scary out of context.

The only way around this one is to clear your browser history. 😉

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This post is brought to you by Anna Waggener at ChiYAwriters.com.