By C. Aileen Blaine
With the winter cold and the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, Lit Youngstown still offers virtual events to provide readers and writers around the nation the opportunity to get their minds off their troubles.
Karen Schubert is the executive director for Lit Youngstown, a community-based nonprofit organization for the literary arts. She’s busy involving the organization in multiple programs despite the pandemic, such as the First Wednesday Readers Series, Teen Writers Workshops and Food for Thought book discussions, all hosted via Zoom.
This year’s Winter Writing Camp was canceled due to the pandemic. In past years, the camp offered sessions for different styles of writing, including poetry, fiction and nonfiction. However, a new series is taking its place this year.
The “New Book News” series features writers whose new books were published during the pandemic. On Sunday evenings, three authors read from their books and have a conversation afterward. Schubert’s idea for the Sunday series came to her when the pandemic forced friend and Cleveland poet Philip Metres to cancel his readings and live events.
“The readings have been so fun because the readers themselves are amazing, and they are Zooming in from all over the U.S., coast to coast, and even Trinidad and the U.K.,” Schubert said. “Readers can talk to one another on the level they’re working. It has led to elegant and enlightening conversations.”
Poet and novelist Kevin Carey was a featured author for the Jan. 31 reading, sharing pieces from his poetry anthology “Set in Stone.” He said he enjoyed the format of the series, and he appreciates how it brings writers together.
“Thank God for having just the ability to still stay in touch with the literary world and listen to each other’s work,” Carey said. “I can’t imagine the void that would be there if we didn’t have the capacity to do it this way.”
Author Kim Roberts also participated in the Jan. 31 reading. She reached out to Schubert, interested in sharing work from her book “By Broad Potomac’s Shore,” a poetry anthology from Washington, D.C. poets of the 19th century. She expressed her appreciation of the nationwide reach Lit Youngstown has.
“I have loved working with [Lit Youngstown],” Roberts said. “I had never done anything with them until I was part of the series, but I’ve been really impressed with the programming … I would love to continue having a relationship with them.”
The March book discussion will focus on “We Need New Names” by Noviolet Bulawayo. The upcoming “New Book News” reading will feature the book “Columbus Noir,” a collection of stories by various authors.
Schubert said Fall Literary Fest 2021 will likely occur in person. Sessions and workshops will discuss writing, teaching and publishing. Several authors, including poet and essayist Ross Gay and playwright Mike Geither, will make appearances, with some reading pieces from their works. The event, held at Youngstown State University, will be free for YSU undergraduate students and $10 for graduates.
Schubert said some events will continue to be offered online even after the pandemic subsides, as participants all over the country enjoy the opportunity to participate.
Those interested in learning more about upcoming events and supporting featured authors can visit Lit Youngstown’s website.