The Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook
Red State Blues: Stories from Midwestern Life on the Left
Martha Bayne is a senior acquisitions editor with University of Illinois Press. She was previously a senior editor with Belt Publishing and a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her work has been published in regional and national outlets including Buzzfeed, Eater, the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Reporter, the Baffler, and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism. She is also the author of the narrative cookbook Soup & Bread Cookbook: Building Community One Pot at a Time (Agate, 2011).
Why I Love Belt
I started working as an editor with Belt in 2014, way back when we'd only published three books. Over the next seven years I was lucky enough to work on many more, with scores of brilliant Belt writers. Even though I'm no longer on staff, I retain such a strong sense of ownership in the work of the press, both literally (I'm a worker-owner) and emotionally, that it feels impossible to recommend one over another—but here are a few whose stories stick out.
How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass: This is one of the first Belt books I edited, the book that launched Aaron Foley into what may soon be the stratosphere. It is funny, smart, profane, tender, and real af. One of my favorite things to do staffing the Belt table at book fairs was watch the Vernors-green cover [of the first edition] catch the eye of passersby. You could always tell who was a Detroiter from the deep belly laugh.
The Belt Cookie Table Cookbook: Community cookbooks are near and dear to my heart, and this one—inspired by Belt's Youngstown anthology and an ongoing conversation between me and Anne—was a joy to see take root and blossom. After I pitched the idea to Bonnie Tawse she dug into the research with gusto, which maybe wasn't so hard because it involved eating and making a lot of cookies. The result is as adorable and sweet as the cookies on the table.
Midwest Architecture Journeys: Hands-down the most ambitious project tackled during my tenure, this book still hasn't gotten the love it deserves, IMO. The design is so gorgeous—and the words are good too. It is, to me, an excellent example of the Belt editorial ethos: take a subject (architecture) and a place (the Midwest) to which readers may come with a lot of preconceptions and expectations, and then turn those expectations inside out through sheer wit and originality of thought.
Where to Find Me
On Twitter @marthabayne