Happy NaNoWriMo, Forest Park!

What’s that? You’re wondering what language I’m speaking? It’s novelist. Aside from writing for this fine paper, bartending at the Beacon, and teaching creative writing, I’ve also written and published two young adult novels. But lately I’ve been struggling, so I’ve decided (perhaps quite foolishly) to participate in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. This is when (crazy) writers like me attempt a 50,000 word rough draft of a brand new novel in the month of November. Which only has thirty days. And a major holiday. Yeah, I’m not so sure I can pull it off.

But in honor of those making the attempt, I thought I’d talk about publishing in Forest Park. Did you know that in addition to all those great stores, bars, restaurants and our very own candy factory, there’s also a small press based in our fine town? Allium Press was founded in spring of 2009 by Emily Victorson, a proud Forest Parker.

After six years of working as a historian and book designer, Emily was laid off and she decided to “re-invent” herself. She had started her career as a librarian at the Chicago History Museum where she developed a deep appreciation for Chicago area history. “Too many people think that Chicago history is limited to Al Capone and other mobsters,” Emily said. “But Chicago has a wonderfully rich, diverse history that is crying out to be told in books – both fiction and non-fiction.”

She decided to combine her love for books, history and experience with book designing and Allium Press was born. Allium’s focus is history and historical fiction with a Chicago connection. Frances McNamara, a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist contest, was the first to be published by Allium. Her books Death at the Fair and Death at Hull House, mysteries set in Chicago during the 1890s came out in December 2009, and the third, Death at Pullman, comes out in February 2011.

“Because of advances in digital printing, and print-on-demand publishing, it is now much more feasible and affordable to be a small press publisher,” Emily told me, explaining that she works out of her home in Forest Park.

Emily and her husband moved to Forest Park in 1992 and love being part of the community. She thinks it’s “a fantastic place” to raise their son and to operate a small press. If she were ever to expand and need an office, she would find one in Forest Park.

She uses local businesses such as Forest Park National Bank and Forest Printing where she appreciates the friendly service. Augie Aleksy of Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore hosted Allium’s launch party and carries all of their titles. Emily has made a lot of important contacts at Augie’s store, including author Libby Fischer Hellmann, whose thriller Set the Night on Fire will be released by Allium Press in December. It takes place during the turbulent days of the late 1960s in Chicago, and there will be a release party for it at Centuries and Sleuths on Dec. 4 at 2 p.m.

Emily hasn’t published any books set in Forest Park yet, though she would definitely be interested because “the south side of Forest Park has a rather unique history,” she said. She did a history project for Betsy Ross School for their 80th birthday and found pictures of the World War II torpedo factory located where the mall is now and the racetrack nearby.

So if someone wanted to spend their November writing a novel about that, they could probably submit it to Allium Press. Learn more about them at www.alliumpress.com.

• Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.