A festival for literature

Daylong event Saturday brings together writers and the people who read them


On Saturday, the CityLit Project will host its third annual literary arts festival at the Enoch Pratt Free Library. The daylong event, which celebrates the culture of literature in Baltimore, will feature three major book debuts and several poetry readings, as well as lectures, writing workshops and an open mike.

Chicago-based performance poet Tyehimba Jess, recently named one of the 18 new poets to watch by Poets & Writers Magazine, will head the poetry schedule with a reading from his newest anthology leadbelly.

Also at the festival, Tom Adelman will debut Black and Blue, and Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who housed more than 1,000 Tutsi refugees during the Rwandan genocide, will debut his autobiography An Ordinary Man, after a screening of the film Hotel Rwanda, which tells his story.

More than 60 people and organizations, including Baltimore Review and other local literary journals, have signed up for free exhibition space in the library's main hall, which will be transformed into "a buzzing, neat, high-energy, literary marketplace," says CityLit president and chief executive Gregg Wilhelm. This year, for the first time, self-published authors will also have the opportunity to share their work at an open-mike event called "Pitch Your Lit."

The annual event was conceived when Tropical Storm Isabel forced the cancellation of the Baltimore Book Festival in September 2003.

"The literary arts community got together and said it would be a shame for two years to go by without one," Wilhelm said, "and so we put together CityLit Festival for the springtime."

That first event, held in April 2004, drew a crowd of more than 750. Wilhelm expects a similar turnout this year. The free festival aims to provide an open and nurturing environment for creative interaction.

"It's very important to me to make these things as accessible as possible to a wide array of people," he says.

"I had been a publisher in town for 12 years, and in 2002 it dawned on me that I needed to do more to nurture a culture of reading and writing to develop an audience that would be interested in the books I was publishing."

Today, the organization has evolved into a literary arts association that seeks to nurture the culture of literature in Baltimore by educating writers, engaging the general public and creating opportunities for the two to meet.

"We try to help writers write better, help authors promote their work better, and provide public events [to promote interaction between] the general reading public who consumes the art and the writers who create the art," he says.

In addition to producing literary festivals, conducting writers conferences and workshops, and promoting author events, CityLit maintains its own publishing imprint. Pagoda Press, which takes its name and logo from Patterson Park, publishes books by local writers who might otherwise find it difficult to get published, as well as those with regional relevance.


CityLit III

Here are some highlights from Saturday's festival schedule. The event takes place at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral St. For a full schedule and more information, go to citylitproject.org.

Main Hall

10:15 a.m.:


11 a.m.-1 p.m.:

Pitch Your Lit! -- Authors get a chance to promote their books.

1 p.m.-3 p.m.:

Poet's Ink Workshops

3 p.m.-4:30 p.m.:

Open mike

Former Maryland Room

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.:

Baltimore Noir -- the debut of this crime-fiction collection.

1 p.m.-1:45 p.m.:

Thomas Glave, Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent

2 p.m.-2:45 p.m.:

Tyehimba Jess, leadbelly

Poe Room

11 p.m.-12:15 p.m.:

Poetry readings

12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.:

Tom Adelman and Special Guest

1:45 p.m.-2:45 p.m.:

State of the Lit Address

Children's Garden

10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.:

Welcome Parade

noon.-1 p.m.:

The Journey That Saved Curious George, the real-life adventure of H.A. and Margret Rey, creators of Curious George, with author Louise Borden and illustrator Allan Drummond.

1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m:

The Rising Tides of Freedom, a biography of Frederick Douglass and Isaac Myers created by students at Living Classrooms' Crossroads School.

Student Express

10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.:

Make Your Own Mini-Comics

1 p.m.-2:30 p.m.:

Walking the Line, Writing for Teens

Wheeler Auditorium

10:30 a.m.-11:15 p.m.

John Slaughter, Brother in the Bush: An African American's Search for Self in East Africa.

11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.:

Allegra Bennett, home repair demonstrations and tips by the personality behind Renovating Woman.

12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.:

Hotel Rwanda screening.

3 p.m.-4:30 p.m.:

Paul Rusesabagina, An Ordinary Man

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