In the Frunchroom: Ayana Contreras

It’s less than two weeks before our two-night, 2nd anniversary event at Beverly Woods on April 26th and 27th. We’ll have ten readers from all walks of life telling stories about the South Side. Our first reader is Ayana Contreras.

Photo by Andrew Collings.

Ayana hosts Reclaimed Soul on Vocalo 91.1 FM (sister station to WBEZ). On her radio show, she works to document the narratives, history, and cultural significance of the music scene in 20th Century Chicago. She’s also a producer on Sound Opinions, which airs on WBEZ and over 100 public radio stations nationwide.

Ayana was a 2014/15 Arts+Public Life Artist-in-Residence at the University of Chicago, during which time she studied Chicago music and culture from the Post-Civil Rights era. She was a 2015 AIR New Voices Scholar through the Association of Independents in Radio and currently lives in the South Shore neighborhood.

Ayana will read on April 26th, the first of our two nights. See her at Beverly Woods at 730pm.

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It’s the 2nd anniversary of The Frunchroom!

When The Beverly Area Arts Alliance and I started The Frunchroom two years ago, I imagined we’d tell a few stories to about 50-60 people every few months. I never expected we’d outgrow our first home at O’Rourke’s Office and expand to Beverly Woods where we now play to audiences two to three times what I initially imagined. Nor did I expect that we’d mix in visual art and cocktails.

But here we are. All thanks to a very supportive South Side community, which is apropos considering The Frunchroom has its roots in conversations with friends at Ellie’s, Horse Thief Hollow and the St. Barnabas gym that started “What would you think if…”

In two years, we’ve heard more than 40 stories from reporters, writers, local business owners, college professors, DJs, poets and even a few lawyers.

For our 2nd anniversary show, we wanted to do something special so we’ve expanded to two nights: Wednesday, April 26th and Thursday, April 27th at Beverly Woods Restaurant (11532 S Western Ave.) where a different set of five readers will perform each night. As usual, we’ll feature great art and craft cocktails. (And sometime in the next month, we’ll launch our long-promised podcast.)

The Frunchroom continues to be produced in partnership with The Beverly Area Arts Alliance, the organization responsible for local arts events like The Beverly Art Walk, the Uprising Craft Market and the upcoming Constant Struggle exhibits at the Beverly Arts Center. A $5 donation is requested at the door with all proceeds supporting future Alliance events.

The readers for April’s 2nd anniversary shows will be:

April 26th
Ayana Contreras
Radio host/producer, DJ and writer

Daniel Kay Hertz
Writer, reader, mapper, spreadsheeter

Rodney Walker
Author, educator, South Side native

Tom Cramer
Blogger, 70s kid, craft beer geek, native South Sider

Sue Sadlowski Garza
Alderwoman 10th Ward, CPS Counselor, Progressive Activist, Grandma

April 27th
Jahmal Cole
Founder of My Block, My Hood, My City

Bridget Gainer
Part-time pol, full-time Chicagoan, reader, mother & dual citizen 

Lendon Sadler
Activist & actor; performer, raconteur, unabashed lover

Kevin Coval
Poet; community builder; artistic director, Young Chicago Authors

Kim Bellware
Huffington Post reporter, bike adventurer and full-city wanderer

Photo credit: Holly Evanchik Donovan

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Everything you need to know for Volume VIII of The Frunchroom

Whether you’re a longtime fan or attending for the first time, we think there will be something for you at The Frunchroom.

South Side Weekly named us one of the Best of the South Side and with our eighth edition, we think we’ll live up to that reputation.

Here’s everything you need to know. Even if you’ve been to The Frunchroom before, there’s new info here for you like the artists whose work you’ll see and details on our craft cocktails.

frunchroom_vol8Who are the readers?

L.D. Barnes
Blogger, poet, mystery writer, essayist, wife and nerd

Robin Baumgarten
WGN Morning News anchor and lifetime South Sider

John Chatz
Blogger, tech consultant, softball player and father to many

Eric Charles May
Writer, professor, Sox fan, native South Sider

Jamie Nesbitt Golden
Journalist, mom, coffee-drinker, Buffy-expert

What’s the time? 730pm. But show up by 7-715pm to guarantee yourself a seat, chat with friends, get a drink from the bar and settle in. Even in our bigger location, we always pack the room and standing room only is a possibility.

Where’s the place? Beverly Woods Restaurant (11532 S. Western Ave.) in the Caravan Room.

What’s the cost? We ask for a $5 donation at the door to support the work of the non-profit Beverly Area Arts Alliance, which co-produces the show, sets up the room and coordinates the beautiful art you’ll see in our space.

Wait, there’s art? Yes, we will have gorgeous visual art from G.L. Smothers and Katherine Kampf (that’s her work at right) on display. Another great reason to come early.

Where do I park? Beverly Woods has ample parking. Park in the north lot and you’ll be closest to the entrance for the show.

How do I get there via transit? We’re a more car-friendly destination than a transit-friendly one. It’s a 15-20 walk from Metra’s 1115th St. stop on the Rock Island Line.* Or you can take the Western Avenue CTA bus (note to North Siders: this is a reaaaaally long ride) or the Pace 349.

Where can I eat? Get there early and you can eat in Beverly Woods’s restaurant area (try their famous rolls). Snapper’s is right next door for some fast-food fish and Lumes Pancake House is across the street. For more nearby restaurants, there’s this list from Yelp.

You mentioned drinks? Beer, wine and liquor will be available at the cash bar.

What are the stories like? Some are sincere, some are tongue-in-cheek. One may be a call-to-action, another might make you think. One might be historical, one might make you remember a place you haven’t been since childhood. Basically, like having a conversation with someone you haven’t seen in a while. This review from South Side Weekly really captures what we’re about.

Who’s helping you with this? I’m producing this in partnership with The Beverly Area Arts Alliance (or The Alliance, for short).

A big thanks to Monica Wilczak, Sal Campbell, David Barsotti, Jane Zia, Chris Wilczak and Lizzy Benner who’ve given this event material, financial and moral support. And a huge thanks to the McGann family and Beverly Woods for hosting us. (You can thank them by purchasing beverages and tipping profusely.)

And, of course, huge thanks to all our readers and, in advance, to you for coming.

* Take Metra’s Rock Island line to 115th St. Walk west on 115th St. then make a left on Longwood to 116th St. and make a right. Walk toward Bell Ave. and make a left until you get to 116th Pl. then make a right. Walk to Western Ave. and make a right. Cross Western at 116th St. You’ll see Beverly Woods on your left. This is kinda confusing so Google Maps will be your friend.

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In the Frunchroom: Eric Charles May

Our final reader for tomorrow’s edition of The Frunchroom – the last before we celebrate our 2nd anniversary in April – is Eric Charles May.

ericcharlesmayEric is the author of the novel Bedrock Faith, which was named a Notable African-American Title by Publishers Weekly. The 2015 recipient of the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s 21st Century Award, Eric is an associate professor in the fiction-writing program at Columbia College Chicago and a former reporter for The Washington Post. His short fiction has appeared in Criminal Class, Fish Stories, F, and We Speak Chicagoese.

In addition to his writing for the Post, his nonfiction has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Sport Literate, and the 2nd Story anthology, Briefly Knocked Unconscious By A Low-Flying Duck.

A South Side ex-pat – his novel Bedrock Faith takes place here and he’ll be reading an excerpt from it – Eric now lives in Lincoln Park. Join him and our other four readers tomorrow, January 19th at 730pm at Beverly Woods. ($5 donation at the door to benefit the Beverly Area Arts Alliance.)

Click here to RSVP on Facebook for a reminder about the event.

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In the Frunchroom: Jamie Nesbitt Golden

Our fourth reader for the 8th edition of The Frunchroom is Jamie Nesbitt Golden.

jng1Jamie is a wife, parent, and recovering journalist who hails from Chicago. Her work has appeared on a number of sites, including DNAInfo Chicago, Chicagoist, xoJane, Salon, and She loves liquor, historical biographies, and silence. Like most tech-savvy navel gazers of her generation, she can be found on a variety of social networks, including Twitter (@thewayoftheid), Tumblr, and Nerdgasm Noire Network, where she co-hosts a weekly podcast with four other nerdy, opinionated broads.

Jamie resides in Hyde Park and will be reading a story about the time her mother set her up on a “black friend” date in college.

See Jamie and our four other readers this Thursday at Beverly Woods at 730pm.

Click here to RSVP on Facebook for a reminder about the event.

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In the Frunchroom: L.D. Barnes

As usual, we have a couple readers from within the immediate neighborhood. And you don’t get more immediate than L.D. Barnes.

fedora-me1L.D. Barnes is a lifelong Chicagoan, proud of her beginnings on the West Side. She attended Roosevelt University and the Art Institute of Chicago before spending her work life at several cultural, medical, political, broadcasting and corporate institutions. Starting her writing with IT training guides and other technical pieces, she expanded into Star Trek fan fiction, short stories and following in her father’s footsteps, the occasional poem.

Using her longtime love of music, she told jazz stories in blog form for Rick O’Dell’s Smooth Jazz Chicago website in 2014 and 2015.

Her poetry has been published on The Skinny Poetry Journal website which uses a poetry form developed by Truth Thomas called the Skinny poem. One of her poems, “Recipe,” is included in Revising the Psalm: Work Celebrating the Writing of Gwendolyn Brooks, which Curbside Splendor recently released in honor of Gwendolyn Brooks’s 100th Birthday.

In 2015, she placed second in the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter’s Flash Fiction Contest at the 2015 Printer’s Row Lit Fest, which was judged by Sara Paretski, Clair Donahue and Lori Raider Day, local mystery writers.

Her story entitled “My Mount Greenwood Home” is included in the 2016 edition of the Tallgrass Writers Guild Anthology from Outrider Press. You will see her byline in The Villager from time to time – on different subjects from neighborhood events to pet care.

She divides her time between three writing groups, the Longwood Writers Guild, For Love of Writing (FLOW) and the Mystery Writers of America.

Currently, she is working on a police procedural murder mystery trilogy set in the late 1970’s with the aid of her husband Frank, a retired Chicago Patrolman. The first book, The 107th Street Murder is set in Beverly, Oak Lawn and Morgan Park. The second book, The Canyon Clinic Murders is set on the near west side and the third book, The Fine Art of Murder is set in the museums of downtown and the near south side.

For her appearance at The Frunchroom, she’ll read an excerpt from The 107th Street Murder.

A resident of Beverly Woods, she’s a mere stone’s throw away from our venue at 11532 S Western Ave. which shares that neighborhood’s name. She’ll see you there at 730pm on Thursday, January 19th.

Click here to RSVP on Facebook for a reminder about the event.

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In the Frunchroom: John Chatz

Our next reader at this week’s Frunchroom is John Chatz.

photo-12-15John grew up and lived in Evanston and the north side of Chicago most of his life until moving to the South Side in July 2010 when he married his wife who is a lifelong South Sider.

He’s an English major who was convinced to go to law school by his father to carry on a family lawyer history. He spent a few years practicing law, then 17 years working for Cook County Courts and is now a consultant for a large tech company advising justice agencies. Between he and his wife, they have seven kids, one who is four and (as he says) “is 100% ours and was born on the South Side.”

Five years ago, he started writing a blog for ChicagoNow (It’s Never Just Black and White), focusing on his new South Side status, his bi-racial marriage, and other big family, big city issues.

He’ll tell “some bi-racial tales of a North Sider turned South Sider” at the Frunchroom this Thursday, January 19th at 730pm. See you there!

Click here to RSVP on Facebook for a reminder about the event. A $5 donation is requested at the door to benefit the Beverly Area Arts Alliance.

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