CCLaP's origins and future

Last updated: February 2014

The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (or CCLaP) is the brainchild of Jason Pettus, a former writer and photographer whose DIY roots go back to the punk/zine days of the 1980s. Driven by many of the lessons learned from being a self-publishing author in the 1990s, and a constantly touring performer through the slam-poetry community, CCLaP opened online in summer 2007 under an initial start-up budget of just $300 (for business cards and a high-end digital recorder), concentrating in its first two years merely on such virtual content as a weekly podcast and over 200 book and movie reviews per year, controversial at times and which first gathered the center a large online audience.

In 2008 CCLaP first started publishing original books, which at first included only one new title a year and released strictly in electronic form; then in 2011 blossomed to half a dozen titles per year and now with all of them coming out in a special handmade paper edition as well. That year the center started offering its first merchandise as well (stickers and blank journals), with posters and refrigerator magnets of book covers coming the following year; and it was around this time that it first started sponsoring internships, at least one every semester since summer 2011. In 2012 CCLaP put together its first academic-style summer writing camp, sent half a dozen writers to New York for a four-day mini-tour, and also started bringing on long-term apprentices for the first time, as part of training for interested individuals for eventually becoming paid content producers.

In 2013, suffering welcomed growing pains, CCLaP expanded its paid staff for the first time, eventually bringing on its first marketing director, art director, and photography director, three new book reviewers for the blog, and half a dozen new senior book editors. The center also expanded to seven new releases in 2013, and started creating an occasional magazine edition of its busy blog content. In 2014, becoming a victim of its own success, CCLaP put an official end to its short handmade "Hypermodern" books, capping the series at 25 titles; and at the same time it signed with the printer/distributor team Lightning Source/Ingram and started publishing its first-ever full-length paperback books, rapidly expanding its catalog as a result and releasing a grand total of 17 new titles in 2014, plus twelve issues of its now monthly magazine, now being published as a 200-page full-color paperback book itself.

The center is currently in the midst of a grander "CCLaP 2020" plan, which will hopefully culminate that target year with the establishment of its first permanent physical location in Chicago, a planned multi-use facility that would include a large central space serving multiple duties (classroom, art gallery, performance venue, recording studio, etc), a front room for retail sales of the center's rare-book collection and commercial merchandise, and a back workshop for large-scale production of handmade books by a full staff. It's at this point that CCLaP also plans to delve much more heavily into the photography side of its name, including coffeetable catalogs of all its gallery exhibitions, classes and workshops, and sponsorship of local groups and events.

Interested in knowing more about the CCLaP staff? Please click here.