Volunteer Spotlight: Shanti and Dominic on Open Books and CWC

As many of you know, we’re gearing up for our Second Annual Party With a Purpose. The fundraiser allows us to provide CWC scholarships to literacy tutors in Chicago via our partners, Open Books and 826CHI. Your support will help us send twenty volunteers to this year’s conference. We caught up with two of last year’s recipients, and asked them how attending the conference has helped their writing and their volunteer work.

lShanti Nagarkatti: “After being part of such a welcoming community of writers, I’ve gotten better at reaching out to others.”

Reading has always been central to my life. Recognizing the transformative power of books, I choose to donate my time and talents to literacy. I currently volunteer with Open Books, coaching elementary and middle school writing workshops where students read, write, and share their own prose and poetry. I also help out in Open Books’ office, typing and compiling field trip writing for inclusion in published anthologies. Earlier this year, I joined the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s Junior Board Society, where I serve as an ambassador to promote the work of the Chicago Public Library Foundation to other young professionals throughout Chicago

Currently I am trying to get back on the blogging horse after some time away and am keeping an idea journal to help with this endeavor. I am also revising a personal essay to submit for publication and experimenting with some shorter, creative nonfiction pieces. As an avid user of Yelp.com, I continue to curate my content on this platform (407 business reviews and counting).

One of the most memorable aspects of last year’s conference was the kick-off party at Open Books. Hearing other writers read their work—ranging from the hilarious to the profound—made me proud to be living in a city with such a thriving Live Lit scene. I found the format to be highly participative and embracing of a variety of voices. After being part of such a welcoming community of writers, I’ve gotten better at reaching out to others. Meeting other people who are able to juggle the demands of their lives while still carving out time for writing is a powerful motivator.

Dominic Loise: “I have focused more on my reading to widen the pool of recommendations I have for customers at Open Books.”


Since last month, I have gone from being a volunteer to being a part-time employee at Open Books. As a volunteer, I split my time between the bookstore and warehouse. At these two locations, the focus of my volunteering involved receiving donations, shelving books, and customer service.

In regards to my own writing since last year’s CWC, I have focused more on my reading to widen the pool of recommendations I have for customers at Open Books. In turn, I learn about new authors from customers as we discuss what they are looking for in their next read.

… Some of the panels that I found both informative and enjoyable were about what materials you write with and how the choice affects the experience, what skills are needed when reading material aloud for an audience, and how does writing for audio differ from just writing for the page.

We’re so proud of Shanti and Dominic’s continuing dedication to literacy! Help send volunteers like them to CWC by attending or contributing to Party With a Purpose. Admission for one is $50.00; buy two tickets at once and get a $5 discount on each ticket. We accept donations in any amount, and they are all tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Don’t delay! Unfortunately, tickets will not be available at the door.

Join us Oct.24–Oct. 26 for a fun and educational weekend! Regular Registration for this year’s conference is now open.

Want to be a part of CWC? Apply for our Photo and Video Production Internship! Deadline is Friday, July 18.

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