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Culture Things To Do

5 Places Every Chicago Writer Needs to Visit

By Charli Renken

5 Places Every Chicago Writer Needs to Visit

Inspiration destinations for Chicago writers.

Feature image: @artwithintrigue

Chicago is New York’s lesser-known (but dare we say, better?) literary cousin. The city is a writer’s open playground of bookish delights. From the Chicago Tribune looming over aspiring journalism majors to every nook and cranny of the many independent bookstores, there’s something for every Chicago writer to enjoy.

1) Women and Children First Bookstore, Andersonville

Women and Children First’s Essays and Nonfiction Section. Photo: @emvreads

Celebrating its 40th year of feminist literary abandon, Women and Children First is an incredible bookstore located in the Andersonville neighborhood. With a vast collection of feminist books for all ages and author events throughout the year, this bookstore is a cozy, LGBTQ-friendly space for writers, readers, and families. Women and Children First is also a community space for Chicago’s thriving LGBTQ scene. They’re known to have Drag Queens host special children’s storytimes and encourage patrons to propose their own events. If your favorite author is Bell Hooks, you live for quality stationery, or you’re a fan of queer YA, this is the bookstore for you. 

 2) The Poetry Foundation, River North

Just a glimpse of the huge library at the Poetry Foundation. Photo: @ama.gaba

With its stunning indoor forest of Yoko Ono’s Wish Trees, The Poetry Foundation is a quiet respite of poetics in the heart of Chicago’s busy downtown. Home to over 30,000 volumes of poetry, the foundation holds regular (and often free) events, has a monthly literary magazine subscription and prestigious writing fellowships. Many writers come to peruse the library or simply sit and write among the muses. Poetry fans should also check out the foundation’s newest project, Ours Poetica, a poetry YouTube channel made in collaboration with Complexly, John Green’s video production company. Ours Poetica features poets, artists, actors, and other creators reading their favorite poetry. Whether online, in your mailbox, or off Superior St., The Poetry Foundation a lot to offer Chicago writers.

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3) Harold Washington Library, South Loop

The Winter Garden at the Harold Washington Library. Photo: @dsavickas

The architecture of this library alone makes it worth the visit. The Harold Washington Library is a massive, ten-story collection of books, film, social services and more. Glum from the gloomy weather? The Winter Garden at the top of the library is a picturesque writing spot to brighten even the coldest Chicago weather. With strong Wi-Fi, beautiful views of the city, and year-round natural lighting, writers will feel at home creating new worlds next to living trees and greenery. No reservations are needed for this mini-forest, but for those looking for more private writing spaces, the library also offers study rooms for groups and individuals. Best of all? Everything is free! 

 4) American Writers Museum, The Loop

A Nation of Writers exhibit at the American Writers Museum. Photo: @whilereadingandwalking

This was a given on our list of literary gems. Quaint but powerful, the American Writers Museum strives to celebrate, educate, and inspire American writers both past and present. The museum hosts a variety of both permanent and rotating exhibitions. Some popular permanent exhibitions include “The Mind of a Writer,” which encourages visitors to use writers’ tools of the trade, a children’s book illustration gallery, and the “Wintrust Chicago Gallery” which celebrates groundbreaking Chicago writers and activists. Its current shows include “Bob Dylan: Electric”, “Tools of the Trade,” and the upcoming “My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today.” AWM might not be a big museum, but it’s a fun, literary way to spend the afternoon. Tickets are also only $12!

5) Volume’s Book Cafe, Wicker Park

Step into Volumes Bookcafe in Wicker Park and write ’til happy hour. Photo: @literarychicagoland

This list wouldn’t be complete without a perfect spot to curl up with a new book or write the next American novel. Volume’s Book Cafe combines all three of writers’ greatest loves: books, hot beverages, and free wifi. They also have a selection of beer! Located in Wicker Park, Volume’s is a great place to find a new book or write one of your own during a rainy day in Chicago. Its cafe has a great menu of coffee, tea, and pastries situated right next to a great selection of books and stationery. This place is a one-stop-shop for all your writerly and bookish needs.