While the Windy City has a rich literary history, creator Stephanie Plenner has a different goal for the Chicago Literary Map. The site and app are a platform for writers to share their fiction, nonfiction, and poetry inspired by the city.
The writing has come largely from people Plenner knows and from a collaboration with DePaul University’s Salli Berg Seely and students in her Explore Chicago class. The writing tends to be personal; vignettes and poetic snapshots of life in the city are common.
The map itself is created on a Google map base layer, with markers of muted colors. Clicking on a pin slides open a sidebar that usually includes a picture along with the first several lines of writing for a particular piece and a link to the complete text, hosted on the site’s blog.
The overall design of the site is minimalist and visually attractive. The map and blog posts float over distinct images of Chicago while a simple left sidebar provides easy navigation to the entire site. The map itself also has an internal hidden left sidebar that provides categorized lists of the content.
Despite the care Plenner has put into the design and her enthusiasm for the project, like so many of the maps we have reviewed it has struggled to grow, and I begin to wonder what it is about connecting literature and place that attracts so many creators to produce these projects while not attracting a significant number of users to populate them.
In any case I appreciate the goal of the Chicago Literary Map–to encourage people to notice their surroundings, to take the time to consider their experiences and translate them into written pieces, and to collect those varied voices into a written word collage of the city.
Have you discovered any other projects that encourage users to write about a place? Do you have any favorite literary maps? Let us know about them in the comments below or by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.