By Megan Dooley
Due out this month is a book by a River Forest publishing company, penned by a River Forest author, and set in Oak Park and River Forest High School.
Publisher Eric Miller, of River Forest-based Wicker Park Press, is releasing The Girl Who Applied Everywhere, written by his neighbor, author and college professor John J. Binder. The book's cover art was created by Dave Wittekind, another River Forester. The model featured in the cover photograph is also a local. The list goes on and on.
"This is an indigenous River Forest book, set in Oak Park and River Forest High School," said Miller.
It is the latest of some 15 books that Miller has published since establishing the company in 2002. And though it may still be relatively small, Wicker Park Press is growing in many directions.
"It started out as a labor of love," said Miller. While operating another company, focused on sales within the books industry, Miller decided to moonlight as a publisher, a first step in a long-term dream to make his living in publishing.
He's now been at it for more than eight years. "I make a lot of mistakes, but I'm still here. I persevered," he said. Perhaps that's because the work represents a passion for the written word.
"I've always had a very book-oriented family," he said. That explains his initial career, as well as his transition to the publishing side of things, which has taken considerable time and dedication. "I'm very focused. I don't give up," he said.
The books published so far by Wicker Park Press reveal Miller's preference for fiction and poetry, with a side of satire. The authors often have long histories in the industry — Harry Mark Petrakis' short story collection, Cavafy's Stone, was that author's 23rd book, and the satirical Pope Mary and the Church of Almighty Good Food was author Gene Logsdon's 25th.
But Miller hasn't pigeon-holed himself into one genre. Due out in August is a cookbook called Food With Attitude, Cooking the Cuban-Rican Way by Chef Papi Perez. Then, just in time for Halloween will come Poe's Lighthouse, a dynamic work by a collection of writers in which each creates a different finale for Edgar Allen Poe's unfinished piece, "The Lighthouse."
Miller said he spends about a third of his time working on his publishing endeavors. The rest is still reserved for his day job. But he hopes to someday bump the publishing to the forefront.
"I want to be able to publish books to make my living," he said.
Each of the books he's published so far has had some Chicago connection. In The Girl Who Applied Everywhere, it's the setting in the western suburbs. The new cookbook is written by a Chicago-based chef, and many of the authors live in the area.
"I really think Chicago is the literary capital of the world," Miller said, calling it "underappreciated" in the publishing world. There is a great deal of talent here, he said. He has already tapped some of that talent and hopes to unearth much more.
"There's literature all around," he said.
it takes a village: 'The Girl Who Applied Everywhere' was written by a River Forester. The cover model and designer are both from River Forest, too.