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August 5: Ted Lardner & Kathleen Strafford

Join us for a First Wednesday Series reading by poets Ted Lardner & Kathleen Strafford on Zoom and Facebook Live, Wednesday, August 5 from 7:00-9:00. Open mic to follow (readers: please register for Zoom).


Here is the link to register for Zoom. The Zoom room opens at 6:30. Is this your first Zoom call? Click here to watch a brief tutorial. To watch on Facebook Live, tune in to our Facebook page and it will begin automatically.

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Food for Thought: Bringing Nature Home


The last selection in our series on humankind and the nature world is Bringing Nature Home by Douglas H. Tallamy. This is a fantastic guide for anyone with a lawn or garden, to restore the lost biodiversity from many decades of popular landscaping choices. The book is well organized and readable, with plenty of anecdotes and examples.

This month’s book talk falls in the midst of our stay-at-home order, so if you’ve read the book, let’s talk it up, and if you would like to bring 3 other books to recommend for summer reading, please do.

Food for Thought book discussion Wednesday, May 13 from 6:00-7:00 via Zoom. To make a reservation, please send a note to

Next year’s series will be books written by Black authors. For your pandemic reading pleasure!

September (fiction) The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith
October (fiction) The Water Dancer by Ta Nehisi Coates
November (poetry) Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay
December Any children’s book
January (short stories) The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
February (fiction) The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
March (fiction) We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
April (speculative fiction) Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
May (fiction) An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Writers Circle June 21

Would you like some gentle feedback on new work you’ve written?34340988_1083713075100405_5111685658393444352_n

The Lit Youngstown Writers Circle will meet in our office at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 323 Wick Ave. at 6:00, Thursday, June 21. Come to the door on the right, under the arch, and ring the buzzer.

We welcome facilitator Allison Pitinii Davis. Bring 5 copies of one poem or story excerpt, maximum 5 pages.

For the Birds! And for You

IMG_5623Each summer, we raffle a large piece of art and split the purse with the artist. Thanks so very much to Youngstown sculptor Tony Armeni for collaborating with us on this gorgeous piece. Word is, with an Armeni in your back yard, the birds show up in top hats.

Your donation helps us fund our programs, and we’re so grateful. Good luck! If you win, we’ll come and take a picture. We will draw the winning ticket July 8 at the YSU Summer Festival of the Arts.

Ginny Taylor on #OccupiedWarren

Lit Youngstown’s intern Josh Naumann asked Lit Youngstown board member Ginny Taylor about her upcoming visual-literary art collaboration with #OccupiedWarren.

JN: When is the event, and what time during the day?

JT: #OccupiedWarren is a 2-day temporary art exhibit in Warren’s Garden District, June 8 (5-7pm) and June 9 (12-5pm).  The project is hosted by Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership (TNP) and the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County (FACT). What’s really interesting about this exhibit is that the art is themed around blight, abandonment, and revitalization, and it’s being displayed in an abandoned, non-salvageable house that will be demolished in the future along with any of the art created on the walls or within the rooms.

So some of the art will be transient, some will probably be removed. The timing of this event also coincides with the Warren Art Hop which is happening on Saturday, June 9, so Warren will be alive with art this weekend!

What kind of art will be at the event? Paintings, sculptures, a mix of everything?

Yes! The artists are free to choose whatever medium they want. Some of the art will be painted on the walls. Other pieces will be sculpted into and out of the walls. Other pieces are free standing. My work focuses on mixed media art journaling, which I’m creating on sketchbook paper and on some of the ceiling tiles from the house. The exhibit is really going to be quite diverse, interesting, eclectic, and exciting.

Will the art reflect on life in the Warren area, or is there a broader range?

I believe the art will reflect what’s happening in Warren, but by extension the Rust Belt area which includes the Mahoning Valley. The topics of blight, population loss, industry and job loss, and how we transition from what we once knew into what we might become as a culture and society are universal themes. The project is also modeled to some extent on the highly successful Rooms to Let: CLE produced by the Slavic Village Community Development Corporation. What’s unique about #occupiedwarren is that there is a theme of blight to revitalization.

I remember you said the house has been long abandoned; is there a history behind that house?

I don’t know the history of the home, other than at some point, it was remodeled into apartments, so there’s a kitchen on the second floor. From some of the papers organizer James Shuttic salvaged from the house (and I’ll use in my work), it’s evident that people who lived there paid bills, read newspapers, wrapped children’s birthday gifts, liked Currier and Ives calendars. Pretty normal everyday people living their lives like everyone else.

What is something you want the event to express to those who visit?

While I can’t speak for what other artists are doing because it’s going to be a surprise when we all see how each of us has interpreted the house and the theme, I want the event to express hope. That despite really trying times for our area, we as a community are in the process of a transition, moving from what we once were into what is now emerging. And the arts and small businesses are helping to create this new renaissance for Warren.

First Wednesday Readers Series 2018

Here they are, the big, beautiful lineup of visiting and local writers who will make up our year’s series. We thank them most sincerely, as well as the Nathalie & James Andrews Foundation, the Soap Gallery, the open mic emcees and readers.

All readings take place at The Soap Gallery, 117. S. Champion St. Free street parking/in the lot at Champion & Front Streets. Doors open at 7:15, after the lights come on (please don’t disturb the yoga class); reading begins at 7:30. Open mic readers are invited to read for 5 minutes.

January 3 : Sarah Minor & Krysia Orlowski
Open mic emcee Sarah Lowry

Minor_Headshot (2)Sarah Minor is the author of The Persistence of The Bonyleg: Annotated from Essay Press (2015). She’s an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the Cleveland Institute of Art and the video editor at TriQuarterly Review. Her recent work appears in Diagram, Creative Nonfiction, and The Atlantic.

Krysia Orlowski lives and writes in Cleveland, Ohio. Her poems IMG_3839 (2)have appeared in Barn Owl Review, Dressing Room Journal, Helen, jubilat, and RealPoetik. Krysia is the author of the play Jan and the Trickster (Talespinner Children’s Theater, 2018.) She teaches at Cleveland State University and is the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award.

February 7: Stacey Graber & CROW
No open mic this evening.

Graber PhotoCROW (Compose: A Review of Writing) is a yearly publication of student essays, edited by Angela Messenger, Director of the YSU Writing Center and NEOMFA candidate and Writing Center graduate assistant Amanda Miller. Congratulations to featured essayists Emily Null, Madison Metheny, Lauren Laws, Tricia Miller, Lindsay Hicks & Beverly Nelson.

Stacy Graber is an assistant professor of English at Youngstown State University. Her research interests include popular culture, pedagogy, critical theory, and semiotics. Her work has appeared in The ALAN Review, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Gravel Literary Magazine, Hamilton Stone Review, Storm Cellar, Modern Times Magazine, and YA Wednesday.

March 7: Adam Hughes & Stephanie Sesic
Open mic emcee Liz Skeels

adam hughesAdam Hughes is the author of four full-length collections, most recently Allow the Stars to Catch Me When I Rise (Salmon Poetry, 2017) and Deep Cries Out to Deep (Aldrich Press, 2017). He resides in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Stephanie Sesic teaches writing and literature at Kent State stephanie sesicUniversity and Cuyahoga Community College. Her work has appeared most recently online in Rascal. Her chapbook, The Intimate Verge, was published by Pudding House Publications in 2008. Her work reveals an obsession with the sky and tends to stick to the classic themes of sex and death.

April 4: Jennifer Jackson Berry, Heather Dobbins & Christian Anton Gerard
Open mic emcee Tyler Rothbauer

jennifer jackson berryJennifer Jackson Berry is the author of The Feeder (YesYes Books, 2016), as well as the chapbook When I Was a Girl (Sundress Publications). She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Heather Dobbins is a native of Memphis, Tennessee. She earned a HeatherMaster of Fine Arts from Bennington College. Her poems and poetry reviews have been published in Beloit Poetry Journal, Pacific Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology (Tennessee), The Rumpus, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and TriQuarterly Review, among others. She has been an instructor for nearly twenty years in Oakland, California; Memphis, Tennessee; and now in Fort Smith, Arkansas, yet another river town.

christianChristian Anton Gerard’s the author of Holdfast (C&R Press, 2017) and Wilmot Here, Collect For Stella (WordTech, 2014). He’s received Pushcart Prize nominations, a Best of the Net nomination, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference scholarships among other awards. He teaches at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.


May 2: Lori Bodkin & Stacey Schneider
Open mic emcee Jennifer Kuczek

Lori profile picLori Bodkin is a freelance writer and the Continuous Improvement Coordinator for Fyda Freightliner’s Pittsburgh and Youngtown locations. She is an accountant by degree, but her creativity eventually won out and Lori started her own customer service consulting business and has also facilitated several leadership workshops. She published a women’s non-fiction book, had a featured column in a North Carolina parenting magazine and writes for her own blog.

Stacey Schneider is a freelance writer and editor, as well as a professor at Northeast OhioStacey Schneider Medical University in Rootstown, Ohio. She earned her Doctor of Pharmacy degree and practiced as a pharmacist for many years but teaching and writing emerged as her true life calling. She has published a book in women’s non-fiction, edited a book on communication skills for women and contributed to several books for the medical professional.

June 6: Melissa Barger & William Heath
Open mic emceed by Amanda Miller

MelissaMelissa Barger has been writing for half her life. She is employed with the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County and is revising a Young Adult Historical Fiction novel set in Youngstown during the summer of 1863.

William Heath was born in Youngstown and grew up in Poland. Heheath is the national-award-winning author of novels: The Children Bob Moses Led, Blacksnake’s Path, Devil Dancer; poetry: The Walking Man; history: William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest; and interviews: Conversations with Robert Stone. He will be reading some recent poems set in the Steel Valley.

July 11: Storytelling Night
No open mic this month.

Join us for a night of community storytellers and desserts. Stories by Tom Beck, Arthur Byrd, Becky Ann Rosen Harker, Skye Hildebrand-Grapentine, Sue Hukari, Andrea Wells.
No open mic this month.

August 1: Kari Gunter-Seymour, Sherri Saines & Kathleen Strafford 
Open mic emcee Jeanne Bryner

gunter_seymour_portraitAn Appalachian, Kari Gunter-Seymour blames her method of writing on the rich Ohio soil, her wildly eclectic family and neighbors and her upbringing. Her poems can be found in many fine journals and publications including Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, The American Journal of Poetry, and The LA Times. She is an Instructor in the School of Journalism at Ohio University and is the Poet Laureate for Athens, Ohio.

Sherri Saines is a librarian, mother, eighteenth-century reenactor, dancer and poet. She Sherri Reenacterhas been reading, writing, memorizing, and performing poetry since her grandmother gave her A Golden Book of Poetry for her 6th birthday. She has been published in Pig Iron, Allegheny Magazine, Mothering Magazine, Muse, Clover, Penguin Review and other small press publications. Her poems have been anthologized in The Ides of March (2012) and Everything Stops and Listens. Her husband, Steve, is her best critic and greatest support.

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Kathleen Strafford holds an MA in Creative Writing from Leeds Trinity University.  Originally from Ohio, Kathleen

moved to Leeds in 1998 and now is chief editor of Runcible Spoon Webzine. She has been widely published in anthologies and webzines, and is working on her second collection called  Women Changed Everything. Her debut poetry collection was published in 2018 called Her Own Language.

September 5: World Poetry Night
Open mic participants are welcome to bring poetry in translation.

Dragana Crnjak & Karen Schubert will moderate a reading of international poetry.

October 3: Kathleen McGookey & Rikki Santer
Open mic Chris Gibowicz

kathi mcgookeyKathleen McGookey has published three books of poems, most recently Heart in a Jar. Her work has appeared in journals including Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, Field, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and Quarterly West. She has received grants from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sustainable Arts Foundation.

Rikki Santer is an award-winning poet living in Columbus, Ohio. HerRikki Santer photo work has appeared in numerous publications including Ms. Magazine, Poetry East, Margie, Crab Orchard Review, Grimm, Slipstream and The Main Street Rag. Her fifth collection, Make Me That Happy, was recently published by NightBallet Press.

November 7: Clarissa Jakobsons & Barbara Sabol
Open mic emcee Lidia Cornelio

Clarissa Jakobsons_Holding Her Artist BookClarissa Jakobsons instructs at Cuyahoga Community College, often weaving one-of-a-kind artist books exhibited internationally. Sometimes she combines artist books with her poems and paintings. She writes, “Don’t be surprised to see my inner artist kicking sandcastles, climbing Mount Diablo, painting Provincetown dunes, or writing under an Ohio crescent moon.”

Barbara Sabol’s debut book, Solitary Spin, was published in 2017. She won the Mary Jean Barbara SabolIrion Poetry Prize in 2014. Barbara reviews poetry books in the blog, Poetry Matters. She lives and works in Akron, Ohio.

December 5: Mike Geither
NEOMFA Reunion Reading
Open mic

Join us for a staged reading of Heirloom by Mike Geither. Open mic to follow. Special invitation to NEOMFA alumni, students and faculty.

Heirloom considers the effects of incest and violence across four generations of a Cleveland family. It considers the commonalities between family dysfunction and the genocide of Native Americans carried out by the US government in a search to bring dignity and awareness to their victims.

Mike GeitherMike Geither is a playwright and solo performer whose works have been staged in San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, New York and London. He is a four-time Ohio Arts Council fellow and is currently a Professor of English at Cleveland State University where he teaches in the Northeast Ohio MFA in creative writing.



Food for Thought: March Trilogy

Our next book discussion will focus on the graphic novel trilogy March by john lewis 1Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Representative John Lewis.

We will meet at Cultivate Cafe, 901 Elm St., on Wednesday, January 10, from 6:00-7:00 pm. If you would like to order a bite to eat, please arrive before the counter closes at 6:00.

We are in the midst of a series of books that explore the American experience. Peruse the rest of the titles here.


First Wednesday Features Cleveland Writers

Wednesday, January 3, join us for a reading by award-winning writers Sarah Minor & Krysia Orlowski. Open mic to follow, emceed by Sarah Lowry.

The Soap Gallery, 117 S. Champion St. Doors open at 7:15, reading begins at 7:30. 

Minor_Headshot (2)

Sarah Minor is the author of The Persistence of The Bonyleg: Annotated from Essay Press (2015). She’s an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the Cleveland Institute of Art and the video editor at TriQuarterly Review. Her recent work appears in Diagram, Creative Nonfiction, and The Atlantic.


Krysia Orlowski lives and writes in Cleveland, Ohio. Her work hasIMG_3839 (2) appeared in Barn Owl Review, Dressing Room Journal, Helen, jubilat, and RealPoetik. She teaches at Cleveland State University and is the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award.


One Million Thanks

Congratulations to Dominic Marchionda, Jr., on winning a stack of DSC_0566books penned by the visiting writers to our Fall Literary Festival. All  donors to our Fall Fundraiser were entered.

Please join us in thanking our generous contributors.

Major donors, $250 and Above
Frederick & Mary Lou Alexander, Liz Hill, Don Martin

Friends of Lit Youngstown
Ann Cliness, Dianne Borsenik, Gayle Catinella, Benjamin & Joyce Davidson, Barry & Miriam Davis, Andy Gray, Miriam Klein, Pam Lilak,  Anthony Manna, Dominic Marchionda, Jr., Gary & Sue Sexton, Urig Family Foundation, Vaughn Wascovich

Thank You!