Letter from Our Founder – Farewell to a Friend

By this time next week, there will be only a placeholder on the Gapers Block home page. Thinking about this makes me sad. I will miss my favorite Chicago website.

gapers block logo

My husband stumbled on Gapers Block ages ago and shared it with me: “It’s this cool website about things to do in Chicago, and all about Chicago,” he said. I fell in love with the site instantly; whoever was was doing this, I wanted to work with this person. The creator of this site obviously shared a passion for Chicago, much like I did.

The founder of Gapers Block, Andrew Huff, and I eventually met at a blogger meet-up. When he introduced himself, I exploded: “I’ve been dying to meet you! I want to work with you!” like some obnoxious fangirl, I’m sure. I’m certain I was acting like someone I most definitely would not want to meet at a party. But Andrew was nothing less than kind to me.

Long story short, over the years, Andrew Huff and I moved in some of the same literary circles; he became co-host of Tuesday Funk, one of my favorite reading series. We sometimes saw each other at parties. We even shared an office for about 6 months.

I loved many things about Gapers Block.

First, Gapers Block was (and still is, until it goes on hiatus) an invaluable resource for Chicago and its visitors. Whenever I hired an intern, talked with a client or friend who was visiting Chicago, or spoke with a young literary newbie, the first place I sent them was Gapers Block. Wanna know what’s going on this weekend? Wanna read some coverage of sports, politics, or arts you won’t find anywhere else? GapersBlock.com. Just go – trust me. Each person I sent there thanked me, and often found great listings, new things to do, and some times, even new writing opportunities.

Andrew Huff at Creator Camp Chicago

GB Founder Andrew Huff speaks at Creator Camp Chicago, 2011.

As I grew my own literary shindigs, first with Creator Camp Chicago, which was the (unwitting) precursor to Chicago Writers Conference, Andrew Huff and Gapers Block were there. Literally, physically, and even metaphorically there. Andrew spoke on “Finding Your Writing Voice” at CCC. Once CWC came about, he gave a talk on writing for the web at the very first CWC in September, 2012.

One of the challenges (as I’m sure GB knows all too well) of being a small, nascent organization (like CWC) is that garnering support is difficult. CWC has seen its fair share of this – and continues to.

When others said “no,” to us, Gapers Block said yes. When no one wanted to be our media sponsor, Gapers Block did. Andrew, and by extension, Gapers Block, became our mouthpiece and our cheerleader. In the months leading up to each annual conference, Andrew allowed us to put out CWC bookmarks on tables at Tuesday Funk. (Btw, if you haven’t been to a Tuesday Funk, you should go soon. I’m reading on January 5. Just sayin’.) As CWC grew, Gapers Block faithfully posted our ads and ran our event listings.

And although this really wasn’t a GB thing, Andrew has loaned us the Tuesday Funk microphone, amplifier, and mic stand more times than I can count. If you’ve ever attended a CWC reading or event, most of those were made possible by Andrew’s kindness and loaner of the Tuesday Funk sound system.

Honestly, I think CWC should pony up the cash and buy their own damn microphone and amp. But Andrew has never balked at a request – and by doing so (or not doing so?), has been a silent supporter of ours, and a huge bolster. Thank you, Andrew. Thank you, Gapers Block.

I know many are sad to see Gapers Block go on hiatus – I certainly am. But moreover, I’m excited to see what comes next.

Thank you Andrew Huff and Gapers Block for writing about CWC.  Thank you for running CWC ads. Thank you for being our media sponsor. Thank you for loaning us your mic & amp more times than I can count.

Happy New Year. I wish you a good, long, well-deserved rest.

– Mare Swallow, Founder & Executive Director
Chicago Writers Conference