Mare Swallow discusses the Chicago Writers Conference with Chicago Literati

Mare Swallow discusses the Chicago Writers Conference with Chicago Literati
(Photo courtesy of Chicago Writers Conference)

 With the Chicago Writers Conference happening later this month, I took the time to interview Executive Director Mare Swallow about her role in the planning of the conference, and what makes it so successful.

The Chicago Writers Conference is a great event for all writers, as it affords them the unique opportunity to showcase their talents and network with fellow comrades. With incredible panels and keynote speakers, it’s easy to see why the Chicago Writers Conference is one of the best literary conferences in the Midwest. (Interview after the jump.)

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Writers Conference)

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Writers Conference)


Tell our readers a bit more about the Chicago Writers Conference.


The 2013 Chicago Writers Conference kicks off on Friday, September 27 with a party at Open Books Bookstore. Then, educational sessions happen on Saturday, September 28 and Sunday, September 29 at the Chicago Public Library – Harold Washington Library Center (400 S. State St., Chicago.)

The conference is for all writers: newbies or seasoned; fiction or non-fiction. Attendees will learn: ways to get work published, how to query agents, ways to connect with agents, dos and don’ts from various publishers, and strategies to promote their work online. We’re also planning a “pitchfest” premium option where attendees can sign up for an additional session and pitch their ideas to an agent or publisher.


How much planning goes into the event?


A ton! We spent most of the last year scouting space, sourcing our speakers and panelists, programming the sessions, planning with our charitable partner (Open Books) and promoting CWC.


What is the history behind the conference?


CWC grew out of Creator Camp Chicago, a one-day creativity conference I produced in 2011 with my friend, Neil Gorman. Neil and I met through podcasting. Our audience at CCC was comprised of artists and writers, and many of the writers asked for more events like Creator Camp, where they could get up close and learn from successful writers like Robert K. Elder. At the same time, I wanted a conference in Chicago where I could meet publishers, agents, and other literary folks who would give me advice on publishing – or just publicizing – my work. Chicago didn’t have such a conference (despite what others might say), so I created it.


Who have been your favorite keynote speakers in the past?


This year, our two keynoters are award-winning author Alex Shakar who will speak about the changes he’s seen in the publishing landscape in the last 10 years, and then the Chicago Headline Club is presenting Journalist Rick Kogan, who will speak on “The Power of Words and the Value of Memory.” In 2012, we had award-winner and MacArthur “Genius” Aleksandar Hemon as our keynoter.


Who would you like to be a keynote speaker?


Luis Alberto Urrea, Jennifer Egan, Sara Paretsky, Scott Turow, George Saunders, Tina Fey, Katori Hall, Sarah Vowell, Ira Glass, David Sedaris, and Dan Savage are all on my wish list. Oh, and I’ll take Jon Stewart any day of the week. Easy. Jon Stewart – call me!


What is the mission statement for the Chicago Writers Conference? Why?


We exist to connect writers with publishing professionals…and each other. Part of why we exist is because we have an amazing literary community in Chicago, and we want to celebrate and grow it.


What role do you play in the conference?


I’m the Executive Director, and we’re a young organization, which means I do everything from hauling tote bags to the conference to planning programs and hosting benefits. In 2013, we started offering workshops, so I manage those as well. We also offer four free programs each year at Open Books, so I oversee our event offerings. It’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun!

More on Mare Swallow: 

Mare Swallow is the founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Writers Conference. She writes personal essays and can often be found telling her stories in bars. By day, she is a professional speaker and speaking coach. 
Chicago Writers Conference: Friday September 27th through Sunday September 29th, 2013 
Keynote speakers include: Rick Kogan and Alex Shakar 

(Photo courtesy Chicago Writers Conference)

(Photo courtesy Chicago Writers Conference)


(Photo courtesy of Chicago Writers Conference)

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Writers Conference)


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