Monday, June 12, 2017

Two Cookie Season 7 Opener in Review

The seventh year of two cookie began and it couldn't have gone any better. I was reluctant to start another year, hoping that seven wasn't bad luck. This was the first reading in over 9 months. Its hard to take time off and immediately jump back into things. No one wants to go to work after the weekend. Kids aren't jazzed about heading to school after summer break. So would people still come out to the reading after months and so many changes these past few years? As a host, I think about these things a lot. But I felt the need to celebrate that this project I created has been a thing for seven years. When it started, I wanted to showcase great writers I saw in the communities I was part of. Those were people making zines, students in my fiction writing classes, other writers from the literary community, musicians, and maybe a few people that made comics. It was easy to gather them together when you’re providing free cookies. Over the years, the series has hosted first time readers alongside previously publishes writers. There have been a number of book and zine release shows. The reading series has supported the literary and arts community and they've supported right back. That’s what keeps me going. So if this proves to be the start of a bad luck year, bring it on. Its been a great ride and this year is just getting started.

Readers Amy (left) and Alenka (right)
For this first reading of the season, the variety was no different than what makes a TCM. Opening the night was Women Write About Comics contributor Alenka Figa. She hadn't read in public before, AND she never put out a zine. Well, she now can check both off her bucket list. Alenka shared a wonderfully woven narrative about caring for her cat Nova that has a rare feline disorder. At the same time, her grandmother has been receiving personalized care from her aunt. And while talking about the care of others, she reflected on the need for self-care. We can’t be there for others if we aren't there for ourselves. The chapters of her story flowed back and forth from family, to Nova, to herself in a seamless manner that was reflective of her work as a journalist, yet befittingly collected into a zine.

Amy Giacalone read second, sharing a great piece of fiction from a novel in progress. Where do we go when we die? We become ghosts that take the CTA, duh. Or so were the characters in her piece, materialized entities struggling with their afterlife. The story of how they became ghosts was vivid without seeming fantastic. Amy has a way of humanizing her characters to the point where we suspend reality and visualize their situations, back stories, and surroundings. Good fiction immerses the reader into its world, so upon leaving there is a sense of longing for more. 
"This year will be different..." Rebecca Mir Grady

Next was Rebecca Mir Grady, no stranger to reading at TCM. She self-publishes a series books called She is Restless, zines w/ a spine.  The first part of her reading was a discussion about the series which thematically tackles current natural disasters and climate change issues through fold out illustrations and paintings. The second part of her reading was a look at a project in process. Beginning January 1, 2017 , she started a daily journal and is not going back to edit. She shared a glimpse into her life and her partner’s documenting their workout routines, holiday gift giving,  the start of her new job as a nanny, participating in the Women’s March, oh and their engagement! That was really exciting to see on the screen. Stylistically this was more like field notes on the life of Rebecca rather than the type of web comics that daily entries have become. It was refreshing, personal and touching. Thanks Rebecca for sharing!
Celia pre-reading grumpy face

Normally during a reading I’ll take a break. Tonight I figured we were on a roll so no need. I was pretty excited to announce Celia Marquis, the CHIPRC artist in residence for this summer. She’s from Montreal and the reason why I booked this reading at CHIPRC. I wanted people to see her work, meet her and expose the series to a special guest that we otherwise wouldn't have been able to invite. After a typical Johnny Misfit long-winded introduction, Celia inquired about a break. Oops. I knew I should have done this. It didn't detract from her reading, which was a dual presentation of fiction and comics. Her comic Motel La Siesta was inspired by a story her boyfriend told her about his teenage friends. Celia has illustrated a comic version of his story, where a group of boys rent a hotel room to have a party. They smoke, drink, take a dip in the Jacuzzi, invite over girls, fart, basic teenage hotel party behavior. The nuance was that the printed comic, she also included an insert zine of the full story’s text. Celia read from the text, but followed along with the comic. I hadn't seen that before and was super glad to have one person read fiction and project comics. The circle was now complete.  Celia, keep on doing this!

Closing the night was Yewon Kwon reading a comic she put together and printed during her internship w/ Chicago’s only risograph printing house, Perfectly Acceptable Press. The comic was about a group of friends, The International Cult of the Dank Arts of Friendship. Not to give anything away b/c you should really grab a copy, but the story was full of hilarious situations, sex, weed, and online playlists. Her performance was topped off with some audio accompaniment, a feather cape, and a small trip around the crowd on a razor scooter.  It was a perfect ender and a crowd pleaser. Great job Yewon!

A big thanks to all the readers. This was a great beginning to the season. Thanks to my wife for making some good homemade vegan cookies. Thanks to all the supporters who have allowed TCM to be a series for seven years. Check back here for info on the rest of our summer meetings.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Two Cookie Minimum is Back This Summer Marking its 7th Season!

Chicago reading series stalwart Two Cookie Minimum is back to celebrate its seventh season with cookies and all things self-published. The first of its four zine- and comic-friendly summer readings will take place on Tuesday June 6, at Chicago Publishers Resource Center (858 N. Ashland Ave).

Special guest and CHIPRC Artist in Residence Celia Marquis (illustrator and zinester) will be visiting from Montreal, Canada. Joining her will be Chicagoans, Yewon Kwon (comics artist), Alenka Figa (journalist), Rebecca Mir Grady (comics artist), and Amy Giacalone (writer). Hosted by Johnny Misfit.

All readings are open to the public. The $5 cover benefits CHIPRC. Doors open at 8pm. Get there early to grab a seat. And as always, cookies will be provided.

Season Seven will include 4 readings this summer. June will open and September will close at CHIPRC. The other readings in July and August will be at venues TBA. Our July reading will mark our actual seventh anniversary so look for info on that. The full summer reading schedule will be posted on this blog.

Monday, August 15, 2016

August was a Literary Blast!

The August 9th reading was full of literary craftsmen and craftswomen who shared some great fiction. There was also a bit of music thrown in for good measure. Like we do at TCM, none of this was planned, it simply happened. Makes for an interesting night all the time. So here's how this one played out.

Leading off the night was Vincent Francone. He read two pieces of fiction that both had a slight comical tone. The first story centered around a failed relationship that nicely employed the image of a Loveseat (which doubled as the piece's title). Why did the narrator's ex leave him only the loveseat when she left? We find out a bit more about the two and as it stands, the loveseat is the only positive that's left of what they once shared. Vince then read a bit of satire in which he bemoaned his alderman to the point of wanting to kill him. He got longtime TCM supporter Julia Bortcherts to come up and join him (as seen above). It was a great start to the night for sure.

Second up was Kathy O'Neill. Her credentials included working for Good Morning America, NPR, and ABC news among others. She also works at the American Irish Heritage Center in Chicago. Her work mixed her journalistic background incorporating her Irish heritage in a piece of creative nonfiction about living in Boston for the summer between college semesters. Her voice was clear throughout the piece. The summer journey she took, living with dropouts from clown college and drinking at Irish pubs, was told with enough distance to make it all the funnier. It was a a lot of fun without trying to be. I could see this being turned into a script or maybe a radio serial. We'll see.

Kathy brought with a friend, Mark Piekarz to play a little something after her reading. When asking him what he would perform, he noticed the old piano in the Comfort Station and asked, "Does that work?" Indeed it did.  At our old home at Hungry Brain, there was a piano and sad to say no one at a TCM ever played on it. Mark got down and sang us a lilting melody on this calm summer night. I was glad to see the piano get used at a TCM.

The last two readers I knew were both great storytellers (which is why they were invited to read on the same night). Darwyn Jones is as charismatic and funny as he is dramatic and heartfelt. His stories at least. Not sure about his real life, but he did come dressed in a classy shirt and tie, so there's that about him.

He read a work of creative nonfiction about growing up and the small things that stick with us through the years. The focus of his work was a universal theme anyone could relate to from their childhood: deciding which candy to buy.  He took us to that time when children could be in control of this one choice that made them feel important. Employing objects, gestures, sounds, and smells, he took us back to that candy counter in Iowa, looking at him as a young kid, in a jacket too big for him, with a dollar in hand and candy on his mind. If you ever see his name on a reading lineup, go. You won't be disappointed.

Ending the night was Jill How, the co-founder of the live lit series Story Studio. That basically means she's got experience telling stories in front of strangers. She shared a personal narrative, barely looking at her notes for cues, rattling off a story about high school memories that only could be appreciated with age and distance. The story was about how she wanted to get the attention of a fellow band member by doing a parody of a pop culture song as her report on Hawthorne's the Scarlet Letter. The song, Alanis Morissette's Ironic. She recorded it on a cassette, as this was done in the 90s, but that tape no longer exists. So to drive it home, Jill pulled out her Ukulele and strummed along as she sang her version. Like I said earlier, tonight was a musical show. Glad she shared this embarrassing part of her high school past. Even if she didn't win over the guy, she won us all over for sure. This was how we ended the night,  because who can really follow a woman playing a alternative rock on a Uke?

This was August's Two Cookie. A great lineup on a cool summer night. We'll be back this summer to close things down for the season. Look back from more info on the last readings we'll do in 2016. Enjoy the rest of your summer until then.  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Always Allows Two Cookies - August Reading Info!

Coming off our 6 year anniversary last month, now into August we’re back to form with a lineup of talented storytellers you don’t want to miss. On Tuesday, August 9, Two Cookie Minimum welcomes Jill Howe (co-founder of Story Sessions), writer Darwyn Jones, author Vincent Francone, and journalist Kathy O'Neill with musical accompaniment of Mark Piekarz.

Readings are scheduled monthly on the second Tuesday each month at 8pm at the Comfort Station 2579 N Milwaukee Ave. The readings are open to the public.  The series is sponsored by Chicago Publishers Resource Center, a nonprofit that provides programming the local publishing community. Donations will be accepted at the door to support future readings

Thursday, July 14, 2016

How we spent our 6 Year birthday!


That's such an unbelievable statement for me to consider. Since the summer of 2010, the series has been welcoming writers and self publishers out for monthly readings. This month's reading was a bit special for obvious reasons. As a gift, not only did the lineup include many supporters who've read at past events (including yours truly as host), but with the release of Cookie Crumbs 3 zine.

Issue 3 included the first year of the series at Comfort Station. The zine includes drawings and comics from Alex Nall and Eric Bartholomew from the 2015 readings. A few past readers also sent in some of their thoughts on our new home. Layout by Anna Jo Beck. Printed at CHIPRC on a Risograph GR2750.

As for the readers, the night began with myself, Johnny Misfit reading from my zine Field Manual for the Human Body. For that project, I worked with good friend Dean Johnson who illustrated various images of the human anatomy to fit the text. For this occasion, Dean colored in his artwork which really made the difference. Enough about me.

Second up was long-time TCM supporter, comedian Tom Simmons. I met Tom at the readings when we were at the Hungry Brain. The first time I was introduced to him, I asked what he did and if he'd like to read sometime. I found out he was a writer and comedian and that was all it took. For this anniversary show, Tom read 3 pieces. The first were Yelp reviews for an assisted suicide hotel. The next two were open letters from pizza chain mascots: A random bro from Toppers and then Papa John. Each was funnier than the first. Sides were split and eyes watered. He could have easily ended the night and everyone could have left. But alas the night wasn't over yet.

The third reading was by Alex Nall. He's be one of the top supporters of the reading series, coming out consistently for 3 years now. Not only has he documented the monthly readings through comics and illustrations, but he's read at it often. And usually his readings are a bit more than simply sharing comics. This time he shared a narrative from his Teaching Comics, introducing his reading with a parody of the PBS children's show Mr. Rogers.  He did everything from a costume change to a special delivery from a mailman (played by zinester Eric Bartholomew). He read his Teaching Comics paired with comics from his students and an audio speech from Mr Rogers. The theme of community, support and caring were appropriate topics to share at an anniversary show.

Closing the night was Dave Roche. He's been a supporter of the zine community for decades and has ended many of a TCM reading (he was the last reader we had at our farewell show at the Hungry Brain in 2014). Being a seasoned Two Cookie reader, Dave shared an old letter he wrote to his friend and zinester Kieth Rosson who published it in Avow zine. It was a story of Dave giving away cupcakes in Wicker Park and the ensuing people he met.  Dave's always brought humor to TCM, and this time he literally did; bringing a handful of joke books, from which he shared some with us. There was a book of jokes about the USSR, Hillbillys, and Pickles. In true Roche form, he shared his opinions about each joke. He also downloaded an app of crowd noises which he fired off when the jokes were clunky (think of a rim shot followed by audience clapping). It was the way the night was meant to end.

Now we can look forward to what the sixth year brings. For 2016 there are two more summer readings at the Comfort Station in August and September. There may be a winter reading at CHIPRC to close out the year.

To all the audience members, venue staff, journalists that wrote about us, cookie eaters, and most importantly the readers, I wanted to extend a huge THANKS for letting the series last this long. Without that support, there couldn't be a Two Cookie Minimum.

Johnny Misfit

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Two Cookie Minimum Hits The Six Year Mark

On Tuesday, July 12, Two Cookie Minimum begins its sixth year. Things have definitely changed since the first reading back in 2010. But this month, I’m not looking to dwell on the past, simply reciting the accomplishments that have gotten the series this far. Sure its been doing great things over the past six years. There have been give or take 55 shows, a few hundred readers and performers, and thousands, nay millions of cookies consumed (forgive my math). The longevity of the series has been a testament of the self-publishing community, one that has exploded since our inception. Two Cookie couldn’t survive without your support. So how will this month stack up?

Here are the six things you can count on this month at Two Cookie Minimum.
  1. A live performanative reading from comics artist and teacher Alex Nall
  2. Side-splitting humor from writer and improv specialist Thomas Simmons
  3. Honest storytelling from zinester and CPS teacher Dave Roche
  4. A reading of not-so-practical health tips from host Johnny Misfit
  5. The release of the third issue of Cookie Crumbs, a 2015 year-in-review zine of the series with comics and art by Alex Nall and Eric Bartholowmew, notes from past readers, and layout skills by Anna Jo Beck
  6. Millions of free cookies! (you may recall my math skills from earlier)
The readings begin at 8pm. Donations will be accepted at the door to help support the reading into the next year. Everyone can grab free cookies and zines. I hope you can join us as this should be a fun one.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

June was All Comics and One Good Time

The year has been great for TCM. Each month the shows keep getting better. This was true for June, an All Comics reading that occurred 2 days after the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo. There was a  full crowd comprised of many other comics creators and self publishers. The readers all brought their A game. There were costumes, puppetry, collaborations and character voices. Here's what you missed.

Sage Coffey made her reading debut with us, marking the first time she'd read in public. It didn't show as she owed it. Sage introduced the reading asking the crowd to join in and help chant along with each panel. This was supplemented by a slew of snake puppets and capped off with an explosion of paper confetti. Great job to kick of the night. Plus she drew the show flyer which was a well loved hit.

Sean Mac read second, sharing with a comic about the Castlevania videogame series. He gave each character a funny voice, such as a fitting high pitch screech for the villain Dracula.
His reading brought many laughs and of course applause.

Two Cookie vet Rachel Foss read third sharing her brand of personal comics dealing with relationship, love and loss. The last two comics she shared were collaborations between writer Melinda Macentire. Rachel shared Melidna's text, short stories about dating, which were followed by her comics inspired by the text. The two will unveil their collaboration at this year's Milwaukee Arts Fest, so check out that this month if you can.

 Closing out the night were the duo of Mike Freiheit and Isabella Rotman each reading a part from their split comics Good Cat/Bad Dog. While one read, the other acted out the animal muse: Mike was a dog, and Izzy was a cat. The comic was a commentary on how humans to communicate with animals in a different way than we do to others. It was a pretty high energy reading from both artists.

Everyone then hung around outside after the reading, talking or saying goodbye to end the CAKE weekend. It was exactly the atmosphere that TCM breeds. Glad so many keep supporting the reading series. Its a testament to what the community is and who makes it up. That's probably why next month in July TCM is able to celebrate it's 6th year anniversary. Stay tuned for that lineup and hope you can make it out. Until then, have a good one.
                                    -Johnny Misift (host and curator of Two Cookie Minimum)