Second Annual Literary Arts Festival Comes to YSU

By Emily Isaac

Jambar Contributor

Writers, readers and storytellers from all over the country came together for the second annual Youngstown Literary Arts Festival. The conference was held at Youngstown State University on Sept. 21 and 22.

Lit Youngstown is a literary arts nonprofit. The festival featured workshops, panels, poetry reading and craft talks with writers from all over the eastern United States and a few west of the Mississippi.

Lit Youngstown was founded in 2015 by Karen Schubert and Liz Hill. They held their first conference last year and decided to bring it to YSU this year so they could grow.

Schubert, an author and YSU graduate, hosted the event.

Schubert said the event had roughly 50 students registered to attend and a few walk-ins.

Jordan McNeil, a graduate student at YSU, attended the festival.

“I love the work that Lit Youngstown is doing in the area,” McNeil said.

Lit Youngstown put out a call for proposals and had sessions on editing, writing, publishing and teaching all things related to creative writing.

Judith Vollmer, one of the poets from Pittsburgh, Pa., gave a reading and said it was her first time at Youngstown Literary Arts Festival.

She currently has five books of poetry and is working on a new project.

Vollmer said she tends to write about the same subjects, such as cities — particularly green cities. She also writes about cities that have remade themselves or are trying to, like zero waste cities or cities that preserve waterways.

Vollmer started out as a young journalist who worked for both her high school and university newspapers. It was around then she started writing poems.

She moved on to write for Pitt News and the now closed Pittsburgh Press, which was a metropolitan daily and had five editions a day. Vollmer covered the federal court and agencies.

She said she always loved reading and listening to poetry and it was her professors at the University of Pittsburgh who encouraged her to pursue writing poetry as a career.

Vollmer offered some advice to students and individuals looking to begin a career as a writer or poet.

“Read what you like,” she said. “Read all genres, really. Read outside of what you think you might like. Go to readings. Buy books and talk to other writers.”

The festival featured all different kinds of writers including fiction writer Lesley Nneka Arimah from Minneapolis, Minn.  

Arimah said it was important to attend the festival because of the wide variety of panels covering many interesting aspects of writing.

She was also one of four speakers who attended.

Arimah, has been writing roughly the last 10 years. She had originally planned to attend law school, but was strongly influenced by a professor who had talked about writing as a career.

Her inspiration is “seeking answers to the human question.”

Lit Youngstown offers opportunities to all writers to help them reach their potential, share and publish their work and offer guidance to other writers.