A Festival for Writers

By John Stran

The first Fall Literary Arts Festival will be held Saturday in the McDonough Museum of Art at Youngstown State University.

The event correlates with the Salon de Fleurus exhibition that is currently at the museum. The exhibition features the 1920’s salon of Gertrude Stein, a place many famous writers used to gather.

Leslie Brothers, director of the museum, said hosting the event is something she looks forward to.

“We were thrilled to find out that the Fall Literary Festival wanted to schedule a discussion and film screening here,” Brothers said. “It’s a perfect match.”

The film being shown is “Arriving at Bessie,” produced by Kelly Bancroft. The film depicts Bancroft’s search to gather information about a deceased family member she never knew.

“She was accidentally uncovered during research,” Bancroft said. “The film traces the search for information about her death and puts it into a context that remains politically significant.”

Other appearances will be made by bestselling author Robert Olmstead, poets Denise Duhamel and Nin Andrews and YSU English professor Chris Barzak.

Lit Youngstown is hosting the festival. The director of Lit Youngstown, Karen Schubert, said she thought enough literary enthusiasts lived in the area to hold a festival. She said bringing in well-regarded writers will make people travel from all over to attend the event.

For Schubert, the popularity of the Literary Arts can be seen all throughout Youngstown, and she is expecting a decent turnout.

“There are writing and reading groups all over the valley,” Schubert said. “Open mics, poetry slams, programs at public libraries, senior centers, schools and bookstores.”

Schubert said it can be surprising as to just how many people of all ages in Youngstown take an interesting in writing.

“There’s a good mix of people, from experienced writers to novices and readers,” Schubert said. “It’s primarily adults but there are some older teens.”

The festival may help up-and-coming local writers network with each other without having to travel a far distance, Bancroft said.

“Writing festivals are an exciting way for writers to get together and explore their craft and resources,” Bancroft said. “The cost of larger ones prohibits a lot of people from attending so to have one in Youngstown gives local writers access to these stimulating events.”

Bancroft’s advice to those who may be looking to get into memoir or screenwriting is to write frequently.

“Write daily and determine what your strengths are,” Bancroft said. “Be honest with yourself and get feedback from people you trust and don’t be too delicate about what you hear.”

The McDonough is hosting the event from 2-3:30 p.m. The festival will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church before and after the film screening as well.

The admission price for the entire day is $25. Those interested in attending can visit lityoungstown.org for payment instructions and specific times of events throughout the day.