What is your name?

Claire Bartlett

NWA Writer Claire Bartlett (Photo by Sheila Barabad)

If you had to give yourself a title, what would it be?

I don’t really think of myself as having a title, but you say I have to give myself one, so I suppose it would be the Curious One.

How long have you lived in Chicago? Where in the city do you live?

I was born in the city and lived here until I was about 8. I just moved back two and a half months ago. I live on the border of Logan Square and Avondale. I like to call it Logandale.

Tell us something about your neighborhood. Why do you live there?

It seems to be made up of mostly working class families. There are a lot of Hispanics and Eastern Europeans, lots of children. It is very lively, with street vendors and kids playing and lots of traffic, which I appreciate a little less when I’m trying to sleep. I do love the little grocery stores near my house and how I can walk to so many things! I first moved here because my friend needed a roommate and I wanted to live closer to the train I take to work but it has ended up being a nice place to live for other reasons too.

Tell us something about Chicago. Why do you live here?

While it is kind of a segregated city, each neighborhood has its own personality and story to tell. I think it is a beautiful city filled with mostly well intentioned people (depending on the day). I live here mostly because I like living in the city better than in the suburbs. There is more going on in the city and more diversity of opinions and types of people. It just feels like there is more to explore and learn in the city (though I do sometimes fantasize about moving to the country).

How are you affiliated with the Neighborhood Writing Alliance (NWA)? How long have you been involved with NWA?

I attend the writing meetings in Humboldt Park at the San Lucas Church. I have been coming for I think a year and a half. One year ago, I also helped the office to update a list of resources for all the members of Neighborhood Writing Alliance.

Why are you involved with the Neighborhood Writing Alliance?

I enjoy having a space to share my writing and thoughts and getting feedback from the other participants. Writing is very important to me, and so is hearing other people’s writing and getting to share our opinions about what goes on in the world around us. One of my favorite things about going to group is that it has given me a chance to meet and make friends with a bunch of people whose lives are fairly different from my own. I don’t know what other place in the city would provide the same opportunity for me.

What is your arts background? How has the Neighborhood Writing Alliance changed the way that you think about the writing process?

I have written since I was very young. Probably since I knew how to read, I have written. It used to be mostly fairy tales about orphaned princesses…then in college I got a degree in Creative Writing. But I didn’t do as much writing about myself or my community until I started going to NWA meetings. I think I write a lot more short pieces now. And once again, I have a steady group of people to read my work, which is always nice.

Tell us about a piece published in the Journal of Ordinary Thought that has spoken to you. Why did it stand out to you?

When I first heard about the group, I went to the Harold Washington Library and checked out a couple copies of the Journal to see what it was like. I remember reading a lot of very interesting pieces about people’s struggles and experiences around the city. I remember that as I was checking one out, I met Earlene Strickland who was going to a performance at the same time. I don’t remember which journal I was looking at, but I re-read her piece and thought how cool it was to put a face to the story and powerful voice on the page.

Why do you think the Journal of Ordinary Thought is important?

For one thing, they published me! More seriously, I think it is important because it publishes a lot of people with very valid things to say who might have a hard time being heard normally. I love hearing the different perspectives and stories it has about Chicago.

What’s a social justice issue on your mind right now? What is the most pressing issue in your community? Please explain.

I’m interested in so many issues of social justice that it can be a little overwhelming. I recently saw a movie called “No Impact Man” and it made me think that I would like to get involved in some movement that combined more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, community, and hopefully making people’s lives better at the same time. I haven’t done a whole lot of research about how I might do that, but I would like to find a way to be involved in that. I haven’t had a lot of time to figure out what the most pressing issue in my community is because I haven’t lived here long… but right now, I am tempted to say it’s the heat!

What else do you do? Are you involved in other organizations? If yes, what do you do for them? What are your hobbies and interests?

I work for the Mount Prospect Public Library. It is a wonderful place to work! I read a lot of books, listen to music and go to concerts…I enjoy biking and have recently begun to learn to play the ukulele and the accordion. And when I have a chance, I write fiction.

What book has impacted you recently? Why? Who is your favorite author?

I just read Zeitoun by Dave Eggers and I cannot stop telling people about it. I heard snippets about what was happening in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but this book brought so many more issues to light. In particular, it was the story of an Arab-American who stayed behind to help and ended up in prison for several months on very tenuous charges that may have had something to do with his race. Needless to say, it was a very emotional book and I found myself sad, angry, and inspired by the whole story.

I have a hard time picking a favorite author because I like so many authors and books it would be hard to pick just one. I can tell you that my favorite cookbook author is Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

Hmm, my question is this: What are you eating right now?

Melted mini Reeses that have been in the refrigerator, but still melt in my hands. It’s kind of gross but I needed a sugar fix.