In the summer of 2010, a call went out for submissions to an anthology of writing by queer Chicagoans. Now, a little over a year later, the University of Wisconsin Press has published “Windy City Queer: LGBTQ Dispatches from the Third Coast,” edited by Kathie Bergquist. It includes poetry and prose by more than 30 Chicago writers – from Carol Anshaw to Mark Zubro. (Disclosure: Gregg Shapiro’s poem “’78” appears in the book.)
I spoke with Bergquist about the anthology in September.
Gregg Shapiro: How did “Windy City Queer” come about?
Kathie Bergquist: As a community, queer writers from Chicago have such a huge vibrant scene, with some really significant, impacting queer writers who live here. But it has never been recognized as a unique and distinctive literary culture. That always bothered me, and when something bothers me then I start to figure out what I can do about it.
Then, last summer, it came to my attention that there was an anthology based on queer writers from Portland. And I said, “Portland?” I have nothing against Portland – and (the book) won the Lambda (Literary) Award. But I said, “That’s it, this (Chicago) collection has to be done.” Conveniently it happened in the summer when I wasn’t teaching, and it also happened when I was trying to work on revisions for a novel I’ve been writing. What could be a better way to put off revising my novel than to suddenly take on this project? It was a product of both necessity and procrastination.
Do you think working in Chicago bookstores, such as Women & Children First and Unabridged, had an impact on you in terms of the LGBT Chicago literary scene?
Oh, yeah, a huge impact. Just in terms of familiarity with authors, abstract familiarity with their work and literal meeting of people, becoming friends and building relationships with so many writers in the Chicago area. I did an open call submission for this book, and through that I met a lot of great writers whose work I was completely unfamiliar with, but I could have practically filled a book just with the people I know personally. That came from being a book seller, a part of the community, because that’s when you meet and interface and interact with these other people.
Would it be fair to say that “Windy City Queer” combined with your previous book “A Field Guide to Gay and Lesbian Chicago” show your affection for and connection to Chicago?
That’s very fair to say. … I really, really love Chicago. I moved here in 1988, when I was 19, and so I’ve spent more of my life in Chicago then I have in Minneapolis, my birthplace. Although I am a proud Viking, my first impulse would be to call myself a Chicagoan, if somebody asked. But that said, I have been having a long-term affair with Paris. I lived there for over a year, and I would go back there if the opportunity arose for me to make that my permanent home.
Who do you see as the target audience for the book?
What’s really great about this collection is the strength of the contributions, of the individual writers. There’s a really nice mix of well-established, award-winning literary voices, but also people you may have never heard of – new emerging talent. So I hope that people who like to discover and find out who the new people are to watch out for will pick it up. I hope people who are attracted to the big names will become introduced to these other writers as a result. Anybody who loves Chicago, who has any connection to the city, anybody who loves great stories and poetry, with a little bit of an edge, will like and enjoy this.
“Windy City Queer” editor Kathie Bergquist and five of the contributors – Sheree Greer, Allison Gruber, j. Adams Oaks, Gregg Shapiro and Mark Zubro – are taking part in a book launch/reading at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at A Room of One’s Own, 307 W. Johnson, in Madison (608- 257-7888); and at 7 p.m., Nov. 12, at Outwords Books, 2710 N. Murray, Milwaukee (414-963-9089).