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Guide To: Printers' Ball

Printers' Ball: IT'S ALIVE!
(credit: Printers' Ball / designed by Susie Kirkwood)

Printers' Ball: IT'S ALIVE!
Presented by the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine with the Center for Book & Paper Arts, the Chicago Underground Library Columbia College Chicago, and MAKE magazine
The Ludington Building
1104 S. Wabash Ave.
Friday, July 29th
6 pm-11 pm

There is absolutely nothing like Printers' Ball. Anywhere. Its unique and vibrant nature makes it hard to tell you exactly what it is, so here's what it isn't: literally a ball, hoop skirts and tuxedos are not needed; a convention, or an expo, or a festival either, plenty is shown off and displayed, but nothing's sold; more than anything else, Printers' Ball is not something you want to miss.

Free words!
Printers' Ball 2010 (credit: Printers' Ball / Alexis Ellers)

Printers' Ball celebrates the printed word - glossy magazines, books, hand-stapled zines, the whole shebang - in a way you won't see anywhere else. All the while, the presenters make sure to entertain you the entire time you're there, going as far as to even include writers in the elevators to read you "nano fiction," never allowing you even a second to be bored.

Oh yeah, and there's free beer.

Have I won you over yet? If not, then read on, I'll take you through a small sampling of the goodness that's being planned for July 29th. If you like what you see, make sure to check out their website for full details of the night.

Printers' Ball 2010 (credit: Printers' Ball / Jonathan Mathias)

Free Words

One of the main points of Printers' Ball is to gather as many quality publications as possible and give them to us. You and me and everyone else. The list of participating organizations is long, from nationally known publications like The Believer, to locally made magazines like Artifice and Knee-Jerk, and even home-made zines by that smelly, but kinda cute, guy you see riding his bike to Quimby's all the time. Many good reads to be had, and all for nothin'. This isn't a trick! I know it sounds like some sort of elaborate trap for writers and veracious readers, but that is not the case. (Who would want us anyways?)

That's not all, folks! There's also the aforementioned free beer, along with food. Plus Uncle Fun goodie bags and tote bags from Columbia College Chicago's Silver Tongue Reading Series. It all seems a bit too good to be true. But it is true, so there. Just go, don't think about it, and take all the free stuff you can get.

Printers' Ball 2009 (credit: Printers' Ball / Stacee Droege)


This year's Printers' Ball is going with an otherworldly theme that includes monsters, murderers and dead authors. Much of the programming reflects this, like the giant Ouija Board provided by Chicago Underground Library. Also, expect to be haunted by what are probably some of your favorite authors: Ernest Hemingway, Harriet Monroe, and Nelson Algren. For those interested in the stories that come out of history, Paul Durica's Pocket Guide to Hell is presenting on The Whitechapel Club. Sounds wholesome, does it? If your definition of wholesome is a group of people who enjoy discussing the finer sides of murder and crime, then yes, the Whitechapel Club is wholesome. So check out their performances and, what the heck, get inducted into the club while you're at. (But seriously, they'll be inducting new members at Printers' Ball, so why not?)

One of the main events of the night will be a reading by David Berman, who's a poet, cartoonist, and most notably, the ex-frontman of the amazing, lo-fi, indie rock group Silver Jews. If a reading by one of the most prolific members of indie rock royalty sounds too bland for you, then check out some of the less conventional goings-ons. The animated preview of the novel Ghosts by Cesar Aira, which was made by Susie Kirkwood and Jill Summers with an original score by Daniel Knox, would fall into the "less conventional" category. There's even performances by bands, like the rockin', psychedelic, brother-sister duo White Mystery. All in all, Printers' Ball ain't your average literary event. If you can't find something there to satiate your appetite for entertainment, then you are a freak.

Printers' Ball in da house
Printers' Ball 2010 (credit: Printers' Ball)

There's also plenty of pre and post events going on around Printers' Ball that seem worth attending. Another Chicago Magazine will be hosting an after AFTER party for Printers' Ball on Saturday, the 30th, dubbed the Slumber Party Massacre: The Way We Sleep. Show up wearing whatever it is you sleep in (hopefully you don't go commando) and listen to some great DJs. This takes place at Beauty Bar (1444 W. Chicago Ave.), who will be providing a Jim Beam open bar for part of the night, but only for those who RSVP. Feel free to take a peek at the facebook event invite if you have any questions. It would also behoove you to read up on all the other pre and post events on the Printers' Ball website.

Hoop Skirts
Okay, you can wear your hoop skirts... (credit: Printers' Ball)


While most literary endeavors seem exclusive to their own boring cliques and are tedious in every way possible (just plain unfriendly to the outside world, to be honest), Printers' Ball is welcoming to everyone. That's probably what makes it so different from everything else in the world of words. They're having a party, not for their friends, but for anyone who wants to show up. Those who plan Printers' Ball go to great lengths to make sure you'll have a good time, even if you're not a part of the writing or print world. Good publications, an attention to eye-catching visuals, monstrously fun themes, and free beer all combine to create an event that has something for everybody. So just go to Printers' Ball, I promise you'll enjoy it. If you don't, you can punch me in the stomach. I know you want to.

Printers' Ball is organized by Mairead Case, Sarah Dodson, John Freyer, Susie Kirkwood, April Sheridan, Jill Summers, Fred Sasaki, and Nell Taylor. When you see them, thank them.

Mason Johnson, CBS Local Chicago
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