Saturday at the Windy City Story Slam's fourth All-City Championships, six finalists—who emerged victorious from a lineup of a dozen top local storytellers at last week's kick-ass semifinals competition—take the stage to see who gains the most audience votes to win a boxing-style championship belt and a spot at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Headlining the Championships is Scottish author and new permanent Chicago resident Irvine Welsh, whose latest novel, "Skagboys"—a prequel to his 1993 bestseller, "Trainspotting"—recently debuted in Britain and hits U.S. bookstores this fall. When we called Welsh to catch up, he was heading to Cannes for a distributors' screening of "The Magnificent Eleven," a film he co-wrote and co-produced, and to see a cut of "Filth," starring James McAvoy, based on Welsh's 1998 book of the same title.
He's also written an Americanized "Trainspotting" play, set in Kansas and Mexico—"It's called, imaginatively, 'Trainspotting U.S.A.,'" he says—which Chicago's Theater Wit is producing in October. But in the meantime, we chatted about "Skagboys," Chicago life and, of course, stories.
What inspired you to revisit the "Trainspotting" characters in your new book, "Skagboys?"
I had a lot of material left over from "Trainspotting," and I liked the characters, so I just thought it was time to go back to them and find out how they got into the mess that they're in, basically.
And apparently, that was a good idea. I read that 'Skagboys' debuted at No. 1 in Britain.
The U.K. release; it's not here until September. But yes, it gave John Grisham and James Patterson and Jeffrey Archer a good kicking like, you know? Heads must have rolled because of that one. I got knocked off the next week to No. 2 by Stephen King; he went straight to number one, as well. I think I'm No. 4 now in the latest one. So it's still selling steadily and holding its own with the big guns, which is good.
Are you reading from "Skagboys" at the Story Slam?
I don't know if I will or not. I just toured in Britain, and I'm getting really sick of [reading from] it. I might recharge the batteries and do something else. I'll see how it goes.
What kinds of stories do you like to hear when you go to a storytelling event?
I like to hear material that people are engaged in—you can tell if people are writing about something that's important to them, kind of personal.
As a writer, what about Chicago inspires you?
It just feels very American to me as compared to, say, L.A., New York. It's a big city, but it feels very homely.
Where are your favorite Chicago places?
Bars, really. I like Nick's [Beer Garden] in Wicker Park on Milwaukee. I used to live over there; that was my first "little bar" in Chicago. I like the L&L, a nice dive bar on Clark and Belmont. I like Jacqueline's on Broadway, where I sometimes go for a very early morning drink. I mix it up a bit, really.
I write in coffees. There's a whole stock of Caribou Coffees right near where I live that I can walk in a little triangle—just kind of go around to all of them. And there's a great place on Southport called The Safari, which is my local coffee shop where I spend a lot of time.
I've got a membership at the Art Institute, and I go whenever they change the exhibitions. I enjoy the boxing so I go to those events, and I go to the [White] Soxquite a lot, as well.
What about the Cubs?
I live right next to the Cubs' field. I go to the Cubs a bit, as well, but the first guy that I met who was passionate about baseball in Chicago was a Sox fan and he insisted that if you love baseball, it's not the Cubs—it's the White Sox. So he got me hooked, and I've been a Sox fan ever since.
The Cubs have a good sport, as well, but it is a bit like going to an office party. Great fun and all that, but it's a lot of people from out of out of town coming in to enjoy the atmosphere rather than for the baseball. And if anybody's on the lookout for a husband or a wife or a girlfriend or a boyfriend [laughs], that's the place to go. It's the biggest singles bar in North America.
But in terms of your interest in baseball, if you want to watch baseball with 'real baseball people,' then The Cell's the place to go.
Windy City Story Slam All-City Championships
Go: 10 p.m. Saturday at Viaduct Theater, 3111 N. Western Ave.
Tickets: $8; 773-296-6024; facebook.com/events/309143702497651
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
The Windy City Story Slam All-City Championship finalists and their winning stories
Pictured: Shannon Cason, Patrick Salem, Luis Perez, Samantha Irby, Scott Whitehair and Cara Brigandi
The Moth GrandSLAM champion hit with his tale of "borrowing" $50K in ATM deposits while working at a bank in an attempt to regain gambling losses during a lunch-hour trip to a casino.
The Bitches Gotta Eat blogger brought down the house with a hilarious account of getting way more than she bargained for by consenting to a partner's seemingly harmless fetish request.
The local writer and former Marine shared a discussion with his mom about Obama's gay marriage pronouncement that led to an awkward realization about his parents' sex life.
The vocalo.org radio host entertained with a humorous and dramatic story about bullying, underdogs and his love-hate relationship with the sport of running.
The Grown Folks Stories founder earned a trip to the finals with a lively anecdote about pubic hair trimming gone horribly awry.