Falling into literature with Lit Youngstown

Craig Duster, owener of Pop! Art, Books, Culture, was one of the vendors at the book fair hosted in McDonough Museum. Photo by Elizabeth Coss / The Jambar

By Elizabeth Coss

Lit Youngstown hosted its 7th annual Fall Literary Festival from Oct. 19 through Oct. 21 around Youngstown State University’s campus. 

With community at its core, the event hosted a variety of sessions, workshops, speakers and performances. 

Karen Schubert, director of Lit Youngstown, said the festival is a way to incorporate many aspects of the literary arts within the community. 

“Writing is a solitary act and it can give us the impression that that’s all there is … but really the work comes out to the community — that’s how it’s fulfilled — is by being taken in by the community,” Schubert said. 

Schubert said part of the event’s planning was showcasing that the literary arts consist of a diverse group of voices. 

“We really try to design the conference with [community] in mind,” Schubert said. “I loved all of the different ways that language was expressed — in different languages, through rhythms and music and just so many different stories.”

A spoken word poetry reading took place in McDonough Museum of Art on Oct. 19 and kicked off the festival. 

Carolina Loyola-Garcia, one of the guest speakers, was part of McDonough Museum’s #NotWhiteCollective.

Loyola-Garcia, a multi-disciplinary artist and professor at Robert Morris University, said she was invited by Lit Youngstown and the #NotWhiteCollective alongside other performers to show diversity in creative works. 

“The collective prepared a selection of works, a lot of it original work by the different members, and we structured it in a way that was more performative because we all have very different backgrounds,” Loyola-Garcia said. 

Loyola-Garcia said she highlighted stories of discrimination during Spain’s colonial history through Flamenco singing. 

“If you listen to the lyrics of Flamenco music, you’re going to get a lot of the history of Spain throughout the many centuries,” Loyola-Garcia said. “I made a selection of lyrics that were talking about those themes and I sang them.”

A book fair was hosted in McDonough Museum the following days. Pop! Art, Books, Culture is a bookstore in Boardman that tabled at the fair. Craig Duster, owner of the bookstore, said the event offered a mix of fun with business. 

“There are people who read and there are people who are into literature,” Duster said. “I was here last year, too. We’ve only been open for two years … I was kind of blind to a lot of stuff that goes on in the literary community in this area and just to be a small dinky part of it is really exciting to me.”

People could check out and buy books at the book fair. Photo by Elizabeth Coss / The Jambar

Duster was also on the planning committee for Lit Youngstown. He said the event was a reflection of how committed Schubert is to bringing the arts to the community. 

“This is such a great event and it really is a reflection of how committed [Schubert] is to Youngstown and the arts — not just the literary arts,” Duster said. “I don’t know any place else in this part of the country where you’re going to see this many poets all together.”

One of the event’s featured authors, Alison Stine, hosted a fiction workshop. Stine, originally from Mansfield, Ohio, said guiding writers during the workshop was impactful.

“I don’t teach full-time. I work as a writer for my day job as a journalist and so I really missed the classroom,” Stine said. “Getting to interact with people who are maybe at the beginnings of their career — maybe they feel stuck or maybe they hadn’t considered the things I write about as things they could is really exciting for me.”

Schubert said every February, Lit Youngstown opens a portal every February for feedback and proposals to request sessions for the next festival. 

“Every year we put out a call for proposals. We have columns of ideas for people to consider when they’re proposing,” Schubert said. “We really encourage students and students working with faculty members to put in a proposal … anything that touches the literary arts, we’re interested in.”

More information and upcoming event schedules by Lit Youngstown can be found at lityoungstown.org.