By Matthew Sotlar
Lit Youngstown is kicking off 2024 with a series of new activities open to the public in the Youngstown area.
The non-profit and community-based organization primarily focuses on creative writing and storytelling. Lit Youngstown hosts community events, such as its Readers Series with local writers which took place at Westside Bowl on Jan. 3.
Director of Lit Youngstown, Karen Schubert, said Youngstown State University student attendance is on the rise at Lit Youngstown events, including the Readers Series.
“We loved seeing more students coming to the open mic. It’s great to hear their creative voices,” Schubert said.
In addition to the Readers Series, Lit Youngstown also hosts meetings for the Lexiphiles Unite! Writer’s Guild. The group is centered around creative writers supporting other creative writers, and meetings are held every first and third Saturday of the month.
On Jan. 16, Lit Youngstown will host a virtual fundraiser with a benefit reading from Youngstown-based authors and YSU graduates, Sara Kolat and Christopher Barzak.
Schubert said there is a surprising amount of authors with roots in Youngstown.
“There are so many writers in Youngstown or in the Youngstown diaspora, it’s really exciting. We wanted to have a chance to celebrate their work,” Schubert said.
All proceeds generated by the fundraiser will benefit Lit Youngstown directly.
A poetry reading called Uplifting Palestinian Voices will be held Jan. 24. Four poets and four translators for non-English speaking poets from five countries have submitted material for the reading. Following the reading, there will be a discussion on the translations.
On Feb. 3, Lit Youngstown will sponsor Just Desserts, a literary winter gala fundraiser, at Culturati Studios in Youngstown. Schubert said the gala is a great way to involve the community in creative writing.
“[The gala] will include a literary costume contest. I don’t know what the theme will be this year, but last year it was a book title. It was so much fun seeing the creative embodiment of book titles. There will also be music and readings, just a really fun night,” Schubert said.
Lit Youngstown will work with Mill Creek MetroParks for a poetry hike Feb. 17. Schubert said the organization is grateful to partner with Mill Creek.
“For the first time, we will be collaborating with Mill Creek,” Schubert said. “We really love to collaborate with community partners to bring literary works to many different settings and also to just hold up the great institutions that we have here. So we’re really excited about this partnership.”
The hike will include poetry readings and writing and will conclude with a bonfire.
This year, Lit Youngstown will host a City Youth Poet Contest. Schubert said the organization will highlight one poet from an area high school.
“With support and funding from Mahoning County commissioners, we will be kicking off a City Youth Poet Contest. This will be for current students who are in Youngstown and Warren public high schools. This will be a series of writing workshops that will culminate in a contest, and the winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship,” Schubert said.
Lit Youngstown will also partner with the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County for the contest.