Earlier this month, about a dozen local authors gathered at LaFollete Park Auditorium, 1333 N. Laramie, for the inaugural West Side Literary Fest. The Oct. 15 event was hosted by The Queen Within, a West Side organization whose mission is to guide women to develop the queen that lives within each of them.
Bridgett McGill, the organization’s founder, said she wanted to host the event after realizing just how many writers there are in Chicago. She said she wanted more West Side residents to know who they are.
During the event, at least 14 authors were at numerous tables displaying and selling their books. Every half-hour or so, one of them took the mic to read an excerpt of their book or speak on their lives. There were a range of genres represented, including motivational, suspense and erotica.
“When I was a little child, I liked writing books so every day I would write a book,” said McGill. “I would get all of this paper and write a five- or six-page story. Then, I would put it together with some construction paper, place the holes and make a book. So in my mind, I’ve always been an author.”
McGill said she wrote her first book, “How Does Your Garden Grow: Cultivating A Life of Abundance,” in 2017. The book also has a journal that accompanies it. She said the idea for a West Side celebration of literacy was hatched in 2018.
“I purposefully named this the West Side Literacy Fest because I am a longtime West Side resident and I believe that people need to know there’s more than crime and punishment on the West Side,” she said. “There’s more than robberies and people hurting each other.”
Sandrise Bady, 26, said she’s been writing since grammar school. Bady created a learning activity coloring book for kids. Another book, “Tell,” teaches children the value of informing others when they’re harmed.
“I love kids—period,” she said. “Our kids are the next generation. When something is heavy on my mind I feel like I have to write about it because this is not just a book it’s a message.”
Orion Meadows, the author of “The Rose That Grew Through The Barbwire,” commissioned prisoners to take his ideas and put them into artwork, which he paired with his poetry.
“I’ve always been a writer,” said Orion, who is formerly incarcerated. “I used to write raps and things like that. You never know what you’re going to leave behind and I wanted to leave something meaningful behind. The only thing you can do in prison is write. That’s all I had left.”