There's nothing wrong with the usual summer fest trifecta of curb-sitting, head-bobbing and beer-sipping, but if you're craving a little more substance, mark your calendar for Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest, held June 7 and 8 in the blocks surrounding Polk and Dearborn streets. Produced by RedEye's big sib Chicago Tribune, it's the largest free literary festival in the country, and this year, there's a lot to celebrate. In addition to it being the fest's 30th anniversary, RedEye will also have its very own stage booked with fun events (see schedule below). Beyond the RedEye stage, more than 300 authors and performers participating in discussions, workshops and more make for a seriously daunting event lineup. Luckily, our staffers have made their picks to help you decide what should make your short list.
>>Check out a festival map and browse the full (and searchable!) schedule of indoor and outdoor events at printersrowlitfest.org. For programs marked "tickets required," we suggest you nab a ticket online starting May 30; all events are free.
REDEYE STAGE SCHEDULE
Saturday, June 7
11 a.m. Bookbinding workshop
Learn to make books by hand the old-school way with North Branch Projects.
Noon 2nd Story
Flash back to the '90s with Bobby Biedrzycki, Sahar Mustafah and Coya Paz of local storytelling crew 2nd Story.
1 p.m. Mistakes We Made
Photo editor Lenny Gilmore and social media lady Jessica Galliart host a live taping of their storytelling podcast, produced by Mike Novak.
2 p.m. "I Saw You"
Actors from Bruised Orange Theater Company perform dramatic readings of "missed connection" personal ads.
3 p.m. The God, Sex and Death Variety Hour
Comedian Danny Black brings his storytelling sesh, regularly hosted at Hideout, to the RedEye stage, featuring Moth GrandSlam winner Shannon Cason, comedians Sean White and Angela Vera plus author and musician Tim Kinsella.
4 p.m. Storytelling in the Digital Age
RedEye reporter Mick Swasko moderates a panel discussion about multi-media storytelling with WGN RedEye Remix producer Kate Gibson, RedEye video editor Sean Ely, filmmaker Melissa Pierce and Chicago radio host James VanOsdol.
5 p.m. RedEye's Adult Spelling Bee
Features editor Dana Moran hosts a spelling bee, guaranteed to be more fun than the ones you did in elementary school.
Sunday, June 8
11 a.m. Locally Sourced
RedEye web editor Jordan Monroe Schultz moderates a discussion about the state of publishing with Victor David Giron of Curbside Splendor, Kathleen Rooney of Rose Metal Press, Doug Seibold of Agate Publishing, Ian Morris of Fifth Star Press and Terry Gant of Third Coast Comics.
Noon The Kates
Get ready to laugh with local comedy group The Kates, led by comedian Kelsie Huff and guests Amy Sumpter, Jen Bosworth, Deanna Moffitt and Jennifer Ann Coffeen.
1 p.m. Page Meets Stage
RedEye and Metromix general manager Amy Guth moderates a discussion with writer-performers Keith Ecker, Dana Norris and Robbie Telfer on how to use performance to enhance your writing career.
2 p.m. Guts & Glory: The Angst of Turning 30
Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby host a special edition of their popular live lit event Guts & Glory featuring Willy Nast and Dana Norris.
3 p.m. More Than Capes and Tights
RedEye "Geek to Me" columnist Elliott Serrano hosts a panel discussion about graphic novels and multimedia comics with Third Coast Comics owner Terry Gant and comic book writers/artists Jill Thompson, Gene Ha and Lyra Hill.
4 p.m. C2E2's Drink & Draw
Stop by a special Printers Row Lit Fest edition of the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo's social drawing session, which lasts until 6 p.m.
10 a.m. Saturday, Center Stage
At this discussion with four authors of Cubs- and Wrigley Field-related books—Ira Berkow, Josh Noel, Stuart Shea and Ed Sherman—maybe we'll have answers to questions like "Did Babe Ruth actually call his home run in the 1932 World Series?" or at least a ton of context. Also, don't hold it against Wrigley Field that the Cubs have never won a World Series there. Plenty of fascinating events have had the Friendly Confines as a backdrop, and these guys' perspectives are worth hearing --Chris Sosa
10 a.m. Saturday, Good Eating Stage
If you've got a penchant for pies, you already know this woman's name well. For the uninitiated, Paula Haney is the woman behind West Town's Hoosier Mama Pie Company, the source of at least 2 inches of my waistline. Haney, who's also the author of "The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie: Recipes, Techniques, and Wisdom from the Hoosier Mama Pie Company," is set for a cooking demo, and I'll be wildly impressed if she can pull off an entire pie in half an hour.--Dana Moran
Chicago Neighborhoods: Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski and Bill Hillmann
10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jones College Prep/Cafeteria (tickets required)
When you ask most people what their favorite part of living in Chicago is, many say it's the city's unique neighborhoods. Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski's "Painted Cities" was one of the best books I've read this year, and I'd love to hear him talk more about his childhood in Pilsen. Kate Bernot
We Have Not Forgotten: Second City Celebrates "The Breakfast Club"
11 a.m. Saturday, Jones College Prep/South Auditorium (tickets required)
Combine the best improv company and the greatest movie of all time and what do you get? An event for the ages. Imagining what Second City has planned for this "live adapted reading" of the movie makes me grin. Prediction: John Bender bullies the script somehow, some way ... and it's glorious. Count me in for this. --Sean Ely
12: 15 p.m. Saturday, Arts and Poetry Stage
This young spoken-word poet is definitely one to watch. In addition to winning Louder Than A Bomb in 2011, he is also a TED speaker and is involved with Young Chicago Authors. I can't wait to see what he has in store at this poetry reading session. --Lisa Arnett
2 p.m. Saturday, Jones College Prep/North Auditorium (tickets required)
I couldn't get through a gender studies class in college without reading some John D'Emilio, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. He wrote the book (actually, several books) on the history of American sexuality and gay identity, and was cited in the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of the anti-sodomy law Lawrence V. Texas. I'd like to hear his conversation with legal scholar Geoffrey Stone about contemporary queer legal issues. --Rachel Cromidas
3 p.m. Saturday, Jones College Prep/North Auditorium (tickets required)
Accomplished investigative journalist Barbara Ehrenreich has tackled poverty, labor, feminism and her own struggle with cancer. Her latest book switches tack: She has written a memoir about spiritualism, atheism and her search for existential truth. Ehrenreich's conversation with Tribune columnist Mary Schmich promises to be challenging and entertaining. --Megan Crepeau
The Mash 18 Under 18 Awards
3 p.m. Saturday, The Mash Stage
Get ready to meet some of Chicago's up-and-comers. RedEye's little sib, The Mash, has found 18 Chicago-area high school students who excel in categories such as entrepreneurship, sports, music and activism. Also, I'd love for you to nab tickets to my chat with Cris Mazza, author of "Something Wrong With Her: A Real-Time Memoir," in classroom 5038 of Jones College Prep at 1 p.m. Sunday. --Kristin Samuelson
Greg Kot and Mavis Staples
4 p.m. Saturday at Jones College Prep/South Auditorium (tickets required)
The legendary soul singer (and Chicago native) could be sitting at a bus stop and I would recommend that you attend. Tribune music critic Greg Kot profiled her in his new book "I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March Up Freedom's Highway," and both of them on the same stage is sure to be an insightful look into her life. --Ernest Wilkins
Drawing Conclusions with Scott Stantis
11:45 a.m. Sunday, Hotel Blake/Burnham Room (tickets required)
As someone who can draw with Photoshop but not with good old pen/pencil and paper, I've always appreciated what editorial cartoonists like Stantis from the Trib do for a living. --Jay St. Pierre
1-1:45 p.m. Sunday, Center Stage
The playwright and screenwriter is the scribe behind "Gladiator," "The Aviator" and "Hugo"—all of which earned him Oscar nominations—and the TV series "Penny Dreadful," currently airing on Showtime. See if the Chicago native and Northwestern graduate gives away any hints about what's next for 007—he's slated to write the next two James Bond films following his work on "Skyfall." --Elise De Los Santos
"Prep School" with James P. DeWan
2:30 p.m. Sunday, Good Eating Stage
From cooking with booze to conquering crab cakes, reading James P. DeWan's column has helped me graduate from cooking like I still live in a college dorm. The only thing that would make this session better is if there were free samples. --Aly Morris
The American Heritage Dictionary Define-A-Thon
3:30 p.m. Sunday, Center Stage
Fan of the board game Balderdash? This is just the opposite. Language buffs are given a definition and must pick the correct word—from the unfamiliar to downright obscure—to pair it with. Crack open the dictionary; only those with a commodious vocabulary will triumph. --Mick Swasko
>>Tune into RedEye Remix on WGN 720 for a Printers Row Lit Fest takeover from midnight June 7 through 2 a.m. June 8.
>>Keep tabs on Lit Fest on Twitter by following @PrintersRowFest and searching #printersrow.