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Crush of the Month: Claire Zulkey

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I’m a shell. A husk; all my sweet yellow corny bits gone, eaten, tossed aside at the end of some soulless street fest. You see I’ve lost sight of my purpose. Since launching my crush blog and my subsequent meteoric rise, crush suggestions have flown thick and fast. Where once I might follow a crush from Evanston to Pilsen, content only to stare at his back and perhaps tap him on the shoulder before ducking into a Dunkin' Donuts, now I wake sometimes to find crush wannabes camped out in my entryway.

People, crushes are about risk, the potential for public humiliation, sometimes a mild sedative and a telescope. If you prostrate yourselves at my feet and I eat a peeled grape then nod languidly in your direction, is it really a crush?

This month I decided to take a risk. I would renounce my influence, surrender control, I would do the twenty-first century equivalent of standing beneath my crush’s window blasting my boom box. I would tweet. But who to target approach?

In real life, crushes take root slowly. First you spot an attractive stranger at your local five and dime, next she’s cropping up at all your favorite haunts. What’s the online equivalent? I wondered, stepping over Rahm Emanuel, still sitting glumly on my front stoop. That’s when it hit me.
“Not now, Rahm,” I said, averting my eyes from his tattered “make me your crush” sign.
"But I ride the brown line!" He called as I locked the front door.
Back upstairs in my office, I toggled over to Twitter. Heart in my throat I tweeted:

@Zulkey Wanna be interviewed for The Sun Times Blog? This is my first PUBLIC crush request. Be honored.

Claire Zulkey. Blogger, author, critic and local performer. Increasingly, I’d seen her work at various web hangouts, linked to on Facebook, blogging for WBEZ, even moonlighting at Jezebel. Clearly Claire and I were meant to be.

An excruciating ten minutes later she responded:

@SarahTerez me! blush. Thank you--yes, crush on!

Just like that, I was back, adrenaline-fueled and dreamy, all because I took a chance! I encourage you, dear reader, to do the same.

Name: Claire Zulkey
Hometown: Evanston, IL
Profession: Editor's Assistant/Writer
Hobbies: Cooking, Reading, Travel, Chicago Sports, Running, Dogs

Our Town You’re pretty active on the Chicago scene. Tell me about the reading series Funny Ha-Ha.
Claire Zulkey Around 2003 my friend John Green (the future famous writer) and I were talking about how at literary readings, everyone always enjoys the funny pieces most and how it would be great to have a reading that was all funny, nothing serious or pretentious. People seem to enjoy the series despite my constant fear that everyone only comes to be nice and secretly resents me the whole time for passive-aggressively forcing them to attend.

OT So many writers go into writing so as never to speak to a live human being. How important are the increasingly ubiquitous live storytelling/reading series/ stand around having a persona events for a writer’s career?
CZ Unless you're a super famous important person and people are lining up to buy your book and have you sign it, I'm not sure you're very likely to build an audience based off reading appearances. However, I think building a coterie of like-minded people is integral to having a successful creative career and doing and attending readings is great for that. You need friends with whom you can have a beer and bitch about writing [without worrying] they're going to say "Must be nice having 'problems' like that."

OT What inspired your book, An Off Year?
CZ It began as a short story I wrote to entertain myself in an attempt to emulate this book I love called Celine by Brock Cole--it's about an idiosyncratic, strong-voiced female protagonist and I wanted to write a story like that. Over many years it mutated into a full book.

OT Your blog has been mentioned in places like the New Yorker and USA Today. Any advice for a novice blogger looking to expand his or her readership?
CZ I can only speak from my experiences but figure out what people are talking about, ideally something that's pretty fresh. Write about that, ideally in a way that hasn't been done quite yet. Try and get other places to link to you writing about that. Send an email to Gawker or Chicagoist or Eric Zorn or whomever and see if they'll be nice enough to send some traffic your way. But you gotta have a good feel for what's worth putting out there and how to beg for attention nicely and sparingly.

OT Describe your perfect day.
CZ One of perfect balance. I want to eat indulgently but just enough so I don’t feel uncomfortably full. I want to drink booze outside in the sun but not feel barfy. Hang out with my husband and feeling like we were playing hooky but with a distinct sense that I earned it. The rest is just details.

OT Relationship Deal breaker?
CZ Romantic relationship? I know it's superficial but I don’t know how realistic it would be for me to try and have a long-term relationship with someone who didn't drink or who had serious food restrictions. In general? People who just don’t get me, which I know sounds awfully vague but I think I'm pretty gettable. Be nice and do stuff and ask me the occasional question and I like you. Bonus if you're funny. Or have a pool or boat. Kidding (I am totally not kidding.)

OT
Who was your first crush?
CZ This guy Ben Marcus in preschool. He had beautiful golden curls and if I remember correctly he was into me and then not. That was probably one of my few relationships that went south that didn't contribute to the unnecessary chip on my shoulder.

OT Why are you crushworthy?
CZ Because I'm fun and I'm pretty great at finding things to talk about and I ask questions and I'm nice and I'm cute enough that you won't be embarrassed to be seen with me out in public but not in a threatening way.

OT Any questions for me?
CZ Is that you who keeps taking the hair from my shower drain? If so, thanks!


A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Soft Skull, an imprint of Counterpoint Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following facebook.com/OurTownBlog.ChicagoSunTimes and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

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This page contains a single entry by Sarah Terez-Rosenblum published on September 1, 2011 11:30 AM.

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