Dear Friend of Lit Youngstown,
As we close out our third year, let’s take stock of all the fun we had in 2017.
We opened the year as presenters at the prestigious AWP Writing Conference in Washington D.C. in February. Our panel discussed literary arts outreach into the community, and our co-panelists were other Great Lakes literary arts centers including the Wick Poetry Center in Kent and Literary Cleveland. We talked about our Phenomenal Women:Twelve Youngstown Stories oral history project, and about what a pleasure it was to meet and hear the stories of these women in our community.
The First Wednesday Readers Series helped to put our city on the literary map, bringing in visiting writers and giving our own authors a venue to share their work. Many readings were followed by an open mic, and courageous writers aged twelve to seventy read their poems and stories. We loved our open mic emcees, too!
First Wednesday 2017 featured faculty from The Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts, Chatham University and Carlow University, as well as YSU student essayists, and poets and writers from Youngstown, Erie, North Carolina and Tennessee. Nin Andrews read poems inspired by her childhood in Virginia, J. Everett Prewitt read from his novel set in Vietnam, and Lori Jakiela had us laughing at the trials of being a flight attendant.
In April, with many community partners, we hosted nationally recognized food policy author Mark Winne from New Mexico, who gave a reading and led a workshop on nutritious food access in low income neighborhoods.
We were also invited into the community, where we read original work at the Women Artist’s Show at the YWCA, contemporary Scottish poems at Opera Western Reserve’s Highland Fling, and modernist works at the McDonough Museum’s Salon de Fleurus, a recreation of Gertrude Stein’s Parisian salon. In April, we brought Phenomenal Women to Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, where three African-American students performed the staged reading.
For a second year, our collaboration with Selah Dessert Theater, The Strand Project, sold out. This staged production of original dramatic monologues featured many local actors, some new to the stage, performing the work of writers from the Valley and beyond.
Our Food for Thought Book Club completed a food-themed book series and began a series on the American experience, including The Coldest Night by visiting writer Robert Olmstead, about a young American who lies about his age to get into the military, and ends up in the Korean War.
We also offered workshops on writing. Topics included strengthening voice in fiction writing, setting stories in a post-industrial landscape, and editing. This fall, we were invited to teach a series of memoir workshops at the Boardman Library.
Partnering with St. John’s Episcopal Church, the Public Library of Youngstown & the Mahoning Valley, and the McDonough Museum of Art, we kicked off the annual Fall Literary Festival, with a stellar faculty including NEA and Guggenheim fellows Denise Duhamel and Robert Olmstead, Ohioana poet Nin Andrews, poet-editors Susana H. Case and Margo Taft Stever, and beloved local writers Kelly Bancroft and William Soldan.
Highlights of the Festival: The sessions where I could write and/or work on my writing. The fellowship. The cake. The McDonough. The chapel.
We will bookend the year as presenters at the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference at the University of Arkansas-Conway in November, joining other literary arts organizations working with women in the community, and talking about Phenomenal Women: Twelve Youngstown Stories.
It was a busy and transitional year for Lit Youngstown’s Board of Directors, as well. We thanked Debra Weaver, Melissa Papini and Kris Harrington as they went on to other adventures. Founding co-director Liz Hill departed Youngstown for lovely Lake Chapala, Mexico. We welcomed in Nicole Robinson, Anne Garwig, Stacey Schneider, Ginny Taylor and Kelly Bancroft. The newest members join Davita Fitzgerald, Molly Toth, Sean Posey and William Soldan in a congenial, hard-working governing body with many talents and interests.
The hundreds of people working with us—visiting writers, teaching artists, workshop participants, board members, YSU interns, audience members, funders and volunteers—help us make Lit Youngstown a community.
We are busy planning for 2018!
And we are looking forward. The 2018 First Wednesday Readers Series is ready to go, with novelists, short story writers and poets from as far away as Arkansas and Maryland. We are also adding a storytelling night, world poetry night, and the staged reading of an original play.
The Strand Project will continue in its third year; submissions for dramatic monologues are due in November.
Our workshop series will continue, with a variety of topics taught by experienced teaching artists, held throughout the year.
Food for Thought Book Club will continue to meet each month until summer, taking up varying points of view in the American experience. We’ll read March, Rep. John Lewis’s graphic novel trilogy on The Civil Rights Movement, historical novel Blacksnake’s Path: The True Adventures of William Wells by visiting writer William Heath, and the memoir My Own Country by physician Dr. Abraham Verghese.
Planning for our 2018 Fall Literary Festival, September 22, is underway. We will bring in an NEA-fellow poet, a veteran-surgeon memoirist, a Kenneth Patchen scholar and an attorney-writer, among others, who will offer readings, craft talks and sessions on building an author website, legal aspects of publishing, and our literary ancestor.
And we’ll again partner with St. John’s and the Public Library for our first Winter Writing Camp, Saturday, February 24, which will feature sessions for writers and readers of all ages.
Thank you for your support!
With the exception of our new bookkeeper, we are an all-volunteer operation. We are the grateful recipients of grants from The Nathalie & James Andrews Foundation, The Raymond J. Wean Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council and the Summer Festival of the Arts, and we will continue to pursue competitive grant funding. But we couldn’t make it work without you!
No gift is too small. There are nearly 1000 people on our email list, and if each sent us just $5.00 dollars, we’d be sailing into the new year. All contributors will be entered into a drawing for a bundle of Fall Literary Festival author books. We’ll deliver or ship them.
Your gift is tax deductible and so appreciated.
To send a check, please address Lit Youngstown and mail to P.O. Box 804/Youngstown/44501.
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Thank you, as always.
Karen Schubert, Director