Lit Youngstown began with a conversation among a dozen community members around a table at Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts in January, 2015. Since then, we have engaged thousands of people through our workshops, reading series, conferences, and community events. Our Lit community continues to grow with over 1,400 subscribers to our monthly e-newsletter, 2,000 followers on Facebook, 1,800 followers on Twitter, and 400 followers on Instagram.
Our major programs include a monthly reading series featuring local and regional authors; the annual Fall Literary Festival, bringing highly awarded writers to Youngstown; the Winter Writing Camp, a multi-generational day of writing activities with teaching artists from the region; workshops on many aspects of writing and publishing, taught by experienced writers.
We have a presence at events such as Youngstown State University's Summer Festival of the Arts and have partnered with many community organizations. Most memorably, we partnered with the National Council of Negro Women Youngstown Chapter on an oral history project culminating in the book Phenomenal Women: Twelve Youngstown Stories, featuring Youngstown women between the ages of 64 and 101. In conjunction with literary-visual art project Words Made Visible, we stamped excerpts of poems into sidewalk squares on Walnut St. downtown.
We partnered with the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County on an NEA Big Read grant, and coordinated dozens of events throughout the City relating to the novel Into the Beautiful North, including a visit from author Luis Alberto Urrea.
Our community presence broadened in 2020 through the completion of the first section of the Andrews Ave. Memory Mural. Working with YSU painting professor Dragana Crnjak, students conceptualized and installed impressionist images of memories sent to us by community members. Additionally, Lit Youngstown introduced more programming focused on youth in 2020, including writing with teens at Akron Children’s Hospital and hosting monthly teen writing workshops.
During the Pandemic we adapted much of our programming to an online format, including the 2020 Fall Literary Festival. Additionally, we hosted New Book News readings for authors of books released during the pandemic. The archived readings have thousands of views on our YouTube channel. Most recently, we hired Cassandra Lawton as the Outreach Coordinator, and she will begin an evidence-based writing group for cancer survivors in the fall of 2021.