Spotlight on Evanston: Agate Publishing

Agate.jpgWhen moving to any new city, you try to get the lay of the land early on.  Where’s the closest grocery?  The local bookstore?  The library branch (or three!).  And since I moved here from NYC I wanted to immediately know precisely which publishers were local.  Because my previous focus was children’s book publishing, I identified outposts of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and National Geographic fairly early on, alongside the small independent publisher Albert Whitman & Co and (naturally) Chicago Review Press.  Adult publishers?  Previously not my bag, baby.  But people change.  People grow.  And after purchasing the adult books for the EPL system I’ve grown curious about where to find folks.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I found a publisher of books right smack dab here in Evanston.  And not just any publisher either.  A bee-autiful publisher!  One that makes books so gorgeous and appealing you’d be crazy not to check ’em out.

Introducing Agate Publishing.

Originally Agate was founded in 2002, when Doug Seibold decided to create a company that would speak specifically to business books and titles of interest to African-Americans.  In fact, there’s a lovely Chicago Reader piece on Mr. Seibold and his dream found here.  In time (and due to his success) the company was able to expand.  Now they publish cookbooks, Chicago-centric titles, a large swath of ebooks, and in February 2017 they’ll be debuting a children’s book imprint.

These days they’re churning out some pretty darn attractive books.  Curious about what they look like?  Happily, Evanston Public Library owns quite a few books from Agate.  If you’re interested in checking them out then we would recommend . . . .


As Publishers Weekly said of it, “You can say one thing for this collection of modern kosher recipes-it ain’t chopped liver. That fatty, flavorful favorite is replaced with fancy-schmancy fare like Artichoke Confit and Fava Bean Salad. Frankel, owner of Shallots restaurant in Chicago, deserves credit for widening the horizons of kosher cooking, as she incorporates novelties such as venison (Ginger-Marinated Venison Loin with Purple Sticky Rice and Spring Pea Salad) and bison (Bison, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches) . . . Even without a strong hook, though, bubbe would approve, and the two million kosher households in the U.S., as the publisher figures, will likely be grateful for these new recipes.”

Job Search

Both practical, insightful “real world” perspectives with the technical knowledge job seekers need in order to excel at every aspect of the job search are included in this book.  A book for transition.


Prepare to drool.  50 cakes of all kinds are included in this book, including different versions of Southern classics like pineapple upside-down hummingbird pound cake and `nana pudding tiramisu cake. Family memories and photographs accompany the recipes, which are ranked from easy (“Grandbaby Cakes”) to hard (“Big Mama Cakes”).  Library Journal called this one an “instant classic”.


As the description from the publisher puts it, “In 1992, Carol Moseley Braun became the first, and to this day only, African-American woman elected to the US Senate. Long before this historic victory, which Barack Obama would later say prefigured his own path to the Senate and presidency, veteran Chicago journalist Jeannie Morris saw an incredible opportunity. Here was a bold and politically courageous candidate, a feminist and sensible progressive with whom Morris quickly identified on a personal level. Morris joined the campaign to write the official story of a brilliant retail politician with a charismatic smile. Morris brings the social and political impact of Moseley Braun’s story — from her meteoric rise to her eventual downfall — into clear focus.”

By the way, if you happen to know someone who would like to be a publishing intern, Agate Publishing does have an internship program.


Spotlight on Evanston: The Collage Cafe

CollageCafe1There are distinct advantages to belonging to the Evanston Mamas Facebook group.  As a still relatively new transplant (almost a year in!) I continue to explore this wild, untamed wilderness you call “Evanston”.  To aid me in my research I call upon folks who know the ins, the outs, and in the in-betweens.  I suspect this is what led to my discovery of The Collage Cafe and my inclination to share this discovery with others.

Before we begin, we need to make one thing very clear.

The Collage Cafe is for Grown-Ups.

Get it? Got it? Good.

The place describes itself as “part unique gift boutique, part playshop/workshop/event space and all fun“.  What does that mean?  Well, if you’re in the market for an original gift, this is a good place to visit.

CollageCafe2The cool part is that it also has these fun little events on the side.  For example, on Wednesdays you can take part in Casual Craftmaking.  Every Wednesday (weather permitting) for any 2 hours between 1-5pm you can work on a project they have going on (vision boards, greeting cards, painted/collage stones, etc.) or bring in your own.  Into crafty stuff but prefer to do it under the influence of alcohol?  Coloring & Cocktails is the 4th Friday of every month between 6-8.  Color, mingle, drink, and nosh.

Be sure to follow their blog here.

The Collage Cafe doesn’t offer a booklist of recommended titles online, but we sure as heck do.  Feed your creative impulses with some of these recent releases:

Cross-Stitch to Calm : Stitch and De-Stress with 40 Simple Patterns by Leah Lintz


A review in Library Journal for this title said of it, “This collection is ideal for beginners looking for no-fuss patterns that don’t require a rainbow of floss colors, or for experienced cross-stitchers seeking a quick, easy-to-finish, small project.”

Supercraft: Easy Projects for Every Weekend by Sophie Pester


52 projects, one for each week of the year, intended to encourage experimentation with new techniques and materials and to take advantage of what each season has to offer. Numerous techniques are covered, including paper craft, painting, crochet, embroidery, weaving, origami, and sewing, making this a veritable buffet of ideas.

Street Craft : Guerrilla gardening, yarnbombing, light graffiti, street sculpture, and more by Riikka Kuittinen

Street Craft

Just in case you’ve an inclination to go Banksy on us. A collection of uncommissioned, site-specific works employing a range of art and craft techniques, including weaving, crocheting, sculpting, painting, gardening, light installation, and more.

Paper Craft by Gemma Fletcher

Paper Craft

50 projects including card making, gift wrapping, scrapbooking, and beautiful paper flowers.  Also includes greeting cards, boxes and desk sets, jewelry and pleated paper blinds.

What Would Jesus Craft? : 30 simple projects for making a blessed home by Ross MacDonald

What Would Jesus Craft

Not a real craft book.  I repeat – not a real craft book.  What this actually is, is a hilarious send-up of the craft book form.  If you’re easily offended, do not check it out.  But if you like a good chuckle, this one’s for you.

C.R.A.F.T. : Creating really awesome free things : 100 seriously fun, super-easy projects for kids by Jamie Dorobek


I am the mother of a crafty child.  This can be a problem since I am not a naturally crafty person myself.  That is why I am grateful for this book.  Parents and caregivers (like myself) looking for rainy-day projects can find a wealth of ideas in this collection-and they won’t have to make a run to the craft store for supplies.