Smile Politely

Start your week off right with Stories, Beer & Luis Urrea

After nearly four weeks of waiting, Stories & Beer has returned to the Iron Post with an ever stonger lineup of local, visiting and U of I affiliated writers. Yes, I did say an ever stronger literary scene — which is in part evidenced in the fact that I’m writing a preview for S&B as well as Pulizer Prize finalist Luis Urrea who will be visiting the Champaign Public Library mere hours before the beer and the stories start to flow halfway across town.

Stories & Beer | Sunday | 4 p.m. | Iron Post | Free

Ladies & Gentlemen, I’m happy to say that Stories & Beer is back again at the same place, a different time and with a whole new line up!

This time around  U of I MFA student, regular Stories & Beer attendee and general badass, Matt Minicucci (pictured left) will be reading. We’re also honored to present local writers Hanna Ahn and Ben Matheson as well as novelist and U of I grad Arley McNeney.

And our visiting author this time around is Joe Meno. From his website:

Joe Meno is a fiction writer and playwright that lives in Chicago. He is a winner of the Nelson Algren Literary Award, the Great Lakes Book Award, and the Society of Midland Author’s Fiction Prize as well as a finalist for the Story Prize. He is the author of five novels, The Great Perhaps (W.W. Norton 2009,) The Boy Detective Fails (Akashic 2006,) Hairstyles of the Damned (Akashic 2004,) Tender as Hellfire (St. Martin’s 1999), and How the Hula Girl Sings (HarperCollins 2001.) His short story collections are Demons in the Spring (Akashic 2008) and Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir (TriQuarterly 2005.) His online serial, The Secret Hand, runs through Playboy magazine at His short fiction has been published in the likes of McSweeney’s, Witness, TriQuarterly, Mid-American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Washington Square, Other Voices, Gulf Coast, and broadcast on NPR. His non-fiction writing has appeared in The New York Times and Chicago magazine. He was a contributing editor to the now defunct Punk Planet magazine. He is also a professor who teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago.

Brought to you in part by the City of Urbana Arts Grant and Urbana Business Association.


Click HERE for Stories and Beer#1. Click HERE for Stories and Beer #2!!!



Luis Urrea | Sunday | 2 p.m. | Champaign Public Library | Free

Last year, I had the luxury of seeing Luis Urrea speak as a part of a panel at the Associate Writing Programs Conference in Chicago, and of the five or six presenters on that panel, Urrea is the one I remember most vividly.  Honest, down to earth and tenaciously intellectual, Urrea was an absolute treat to see in person. So when I saw that he was coming to town, I was stoked.  You shouldn’t miss this chance to see him in person at the CPL this Sunday — then afterwards you can trot on by to the Iron Post for a beer and then a story or two.

From the CPL website:

Join us for the keynote event in this year’s Big Read. A Pulitzer Prize nonfiction finalist for The Devil’s Highway, Luis Alberto Urrea is known for creating works of fiction and nonfiction that stir together magic with history, combining real emotional content with realism. As a speaker, he is funny and irreverent yet deeply moving, sharing insights into his own life, his research, and his remarkable writing.

Born on a dirt street in Tijuana to a Mexican father and an American mother, Urrea uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore themes of love, loss, and triumph. His acclaimed historical novel, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, tells the story of the woman known as the Mexican Joan of Arc. His latest book, Into the Beautiful North, is a humorous and uplifting tale of a young girl’s unforgettable journey to North America. Urrea teaches creative writing at UIC and is a member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame.

MFA/Music Dept. Collaboration | Sunday & Monday | 7:30 p.m. | Smith Memorial Hall | Free 

And now for a bonus event! This semester the music department and the MFA Writing Program combined forces to offer a course in song writing. Graduate students who signed up for this course worked collaboratively with on another to find a space where their work could grow as a dialectic, or in MFA Student Sara Gelston’s words, “This concert, these collaborations are proof that writers, musicians, composers, whoever, are often doing more or less the same thing–we’re just so rarely put in the same room to find that out.” Come check out the fruits of their labor this Sunday (after Stories and Beer) or on Monday at 7:30.


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