Inkubator-Title
CREATE DANGEROUSLY • 2024 • 10TH ANNUAL FREE WRITING CONFERENCE •CREATE DANGEROUSLY • 2024 • 10TH ANNUAL FREE WRITING CONFERENCE •CREATE DANGEROUSLY • 2024 • 10TH ANNUAL FREE WRITING CONFERENCE •CREATE DANGEROUSLY • 2024 • 10TH ANNUAL FREE WRITING CONFERENCE •CREATE DANGEROUSLY • 2024 • 10TH ANNUAL FREE WRITING CONFERENCE •

SEPTEMBER 20–21

ABOUT THE CONFERENCE

The Inkubator is Literary Cleveland’s free annual festival for writers and readers. Generate new writing, improve your craft, and advance your career.

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Literary Cleveland's Inkubator Writing Conference is one of the largest free writing conferences in the country, providing workshops, craft talks, panel discussions, readings, and more to empower writers, celebrate literary excellence, and amplify diverse voices. 

The theme of our tenth annual conference is “Create Dangerously” taken from the work of our keynote speaker Edwidge Danticat. In times of national and global conflict when silence can sometimes seem like the safer choice, writers lead with courage by addressing difficult topics or speaking truth to power. In this spirit we will be holding panels on book bans, trans writing, Black masculinity, war, and more. We will also be featuring four writers from City of Asylum in Pittsburgh who have fled their home countries due to conflict or political persecution. 

“Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously,” Danticat writes. “Somewhere, if not now, than maybe years in the future, a future we may have yet to dream of, someone may risk his or her life to read us.” 

The Inkubator kicks off September 16-18 with three virtual panels featuring Hanif Abdurraqib and Christina Sharpe on attention and accumulation in nonfiction, Stephen Graham Jones with Shane Hawk and Theodore C. Van Alst Jr. on Indigenous dark fiction, and Ruth Awad with Maggie Smith on poetry and possibility.

The main event is our two-day in-person conference at the Cleveland Public Library on September 20-21, featuring writing workshops, craft talks, panel discussions, a book fair with regional literary presses and organizations, breakout meetings by genre, an evening dinner and open mic, and an afterparty reading. Featured presenters include Peter Ho Davies, Cass Donish, Yalie Saweda Kamara, Madeline ffitch, and Loung Ung. 

Plus, we have a series of community projects this year on September 14, 15, and 22 to activate new locations and reach more people across the city, including nature writing for families with Lake Erie Ink, an environmental poetry reading on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, a poetry bike ride through Southeast Cleveland, and a free book and comic giveaway at the West Side Market.

The Inkubator is presented as part of Cleveland Book Week in collaboration with the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards and the Great Lakes African American Writers Conference (GLAAWC).

With 50 events over nine days—all free—the conference is a regional celebration of writing that advances writers’ individual abilities, furthers artistic dialogue, fosters a more connected literary community, and invites more people to tell their stories.

Free registration opens August 1. Interested in volunteering? Sign up here

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SCHEDULE OVERVIEW

• COMMUNITY   • FICTION 
• NONFICTION  • POETRY  
• BUSINESS    • BEYOND  
• DANGEROUS

SAT

SEPT 14

1:00–3:00PM ET

COMMUNITY PROJECT 1

Wild Writing with Lake Erie Ink

5:00–7:00PM ET

COMMUNITY PROJECT 2

Light Enters the Grove: Nature Reading at Hart Crane Park

SUN

SEPT 15

9:00PM–12:00PM ET

COMMUNITY PROJECT 3

Poetry Ride Out

MON

SEPT 16

7:00–8:30PM ET

VIRTUAL NONFICTION PANEL

Beauty Is a Method: Attention and Accumulation in Nonfiction

Hanif Abdurraqib + Christina Sharpe

TUES

SEPT 17

7:00–8:30PM ET

VIRTUAL FICTION PANEL

Never Whistle at Night: Lessons from Indigenous Dark Fiction

Shane Hawk, Theodore C. Van Alst Jr., + Stephen Graham Jones

WED

SEPT 18

7:00–8:30PM ET

VIRTUAL POETRY PANEL

Outside the Joy: Poetry and Possibility

Ruth Awad + Maggie Smith

FRI

SEPT 20

BOOK FAIR
10:00AM–5:00PM ET

COMMUNITY EVENT

Book Fair

SESSION 1
11:00AM–12:30PM ET

FICTION TALK

Crafting Your Literary Universe: Building a Flagship Series

Eryka Parker

NONFICTION WORKSHOP

Putting the C into CNF

Joe Kapitan

POETRY WORKSHOP

National Soul: Notions of National Identity in Poetry

Tiara Dinevska-McGuire

BUSINESS PANEL

A Mollusk Without a Shell: A Panel on Self-Care for Writers

Abayomi Animashaun, Julie Brooks Barbour, Mary Biddinger, + Mixby Dickon

BEYOND WORKSHOP

Listomania: The Power and Pleasure of Lists In/As Poetry and Prose

Elizabeth Chesla

DANGEROUS PANEL

Against Book Bans

Kathy Burnette, Danny Caine, Erica Marks, + Ken Schneck

BREAK
12:30–1:30PM ET

COMMUNITY EVENT

Lunch

SESSION 2
1:30–3:00PM ET

FICTION PANEL

The Things You Learn: Research for Historical Fiction

Katharine Beutner, David Wright Faladé, Bonnie J. Gordon, + Claire McMillan

NONFICTION WORKSHOP

Assembling the Collage: Going from Fragment to Finished

Lara Lillibridge

POETRY PANEL

Marbles on the Floor: Four Poets on Assembling a Book of Poems

Alyse Knorr, Virginia Konchan, Philip Metres, + Heather Treseler

BUSINESS TALK

Negotiation for Writers: How to Ask For And Get What You Deserve

Nora Rahimian

BEYOND PANEL

Birthing Worlds: Comic Creation Experiences

Lynnesha Hammilton, Miguel C. Hernandez, Tony Isabella, Darius James Philips, + Marc Sumerak

DANGEROUS PANEL

Unpacking Black Masculinity

Jason Harris, Quartez Harris, Damien McClendon, + Ephraim Nihemiah

SESSION 3
3:30–5:00PM ET

FICTION WORKSHOP

Raise Your Voice: How An Effective Voice Can Refine Your Story

Nardine Taleb

NONFICTION PANEL

Writing Toward Peace with Loung Ung

Loung Ung + Laura Maylene Walter

POETRY WORKSHOP

At the End of My Suffering there Was a Poem: Writing Trauma Poems that Don’t Traumatize

Conor Bracken

BUSINESS TALK

How To Find, Apply To, and Land Artist Residencies

Prince Shakur

BEYOND PANEL

How to Keep Going when You’re Sick of Your Project

Patricia Brubaker, Libby Chaney, Kristin Gustafson, Jenna Martínez, + Maureen McGuirk

DANGEROUS PANEL

Taking Up Space: Trans Writing

Krys Malcolm Belc, Barbara Marie Minney, Zuggie Tate, + Willow Watson

BREAK
5:00–8:00PM ET

COMMUNITY EVENT

Dinner + Open Mic

SAT

SEPT 21

BOOK FAIR
9:00AM–5:00PM ET

COMMUNITY EVENT

Book Fair

SESSION 1
9:00–10:30AM ET

FICTION WORKSHOP

The First Five Pages: Crafting Gripping Starts to Keep Readers Interested

Jody Gerbig

NONFICTION WORKSHOP

The Art of Research in Creative Nonfiction

Lee Chilcote + Christopher Johnston

BUSINESS WORKSHOP

Editing With an Eye Towards Publication

Abigail Cloud, Walt Hunter, + Alyssa Perry

BEYOND PANEL

Writing Ghosts: In Praise of Hauntings, Ancestry, and the Unknown

Athena Dixon, Annmarie Kelly Harbaugh, Diana Khoi Nguyen, + Sara Read

DANGEROUS PANEL

The Muses Refuse Silence

Naazneen Diwan, Philip Metres, + Robin Beth Schaer

NONFICTION BREAKOUT

Mixer & Open Mic

KEYNOTE
11:00AM–12:30PM ET

KEYNOTE

Create Dangerously

Edwidge Danticat

BREAK
12:30–1:30PM ET

COMMUNITY EVENT

Lunch

SESSION 2
1:30–3:00PM ET

FICTION WORKSHOP

Bound Together: The Politics of Place in Prose

Madeline ffitch

NONFICTION WORKSHOP

Healing Through Life Writing

Uddipana Goswami

POETRY WORKSHOP

Spoken Word Lab: Performing Your Poetry

Siaara Freeman

BUSINESS TALK

Abundant Dreams: A Range of Publishing Options from Independent to Big Five

Cass Donish

BEYOND PANEL

City of Asylum Writers-in-Residence Panel

Jorge Olivera Castillo, Oleksandr Frazé-Frazénko, Rania Mamoun, Anouar Rahmani, + Catherine Skolnicki from City of Asylum

FICTION BREAKOUT

Mixer & Open Mic

SESSION 3
3:30–5:00PM ET

FICTION TALK

The Invisible Art of Revision

Peter Ho Davies

NONFICTION PANEL

Coming Soon

POETRY WORKSHOP

Community + Polyvocality: A Craft Talk and Generative Workshop

Yalie Kamara

BUSINESS PANEL

Landing an Agent: Practical Advice

Tiffany Graham Charkosky, Sonia Feldman, + Kortney Morrow

BEYOND PANEL

The Buffalo-Cleveland Project

Noah Falck, Stephanie Ginese, Joshua Thermidor, Zach Savich, Christina Vega-Westhoff, + Valentino Zullo

POETRY BREAKOUT

Mixer & Open Mic

AFTERPARTY
5:00–9:00PM ET

COMMUNITY EVENT

Afterparty Reading

SUN

SEPT 22

10:00AM–2:00PM ET

COMMUNITY PROJECT 4

Books at the Market

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FULL SCHEDULE

14–19

SEPT

COMMUNITY PROJECTS + VIRTUAL EVENTS

CommunityProject1

SAT SEPT 14 / 1:00–3:00PM ET / COMMUNITY PROJECT 1

Wild Writing with Lake Erie Ink
Join Lake Erie Ink for a day of curiosity, exploration, creativity, and expression! Enjoy wild writing activities on nature, plants, and animals with family and friends. This is an event for youth and adults. Prompts, paper, and pens will be provided. More information to come.
 
CommunityEvent1

SAT SEPT 14 / 5:00–7:00PM ET / COMMUNITY PROJECT 2

Light Enters the Grove: Nature Reading at Hart Crane Park
Join us for a special nature poetry reading outdoors at Hart Crane Park on the banks of the Cuyahoga River featuring editors and contributors to the poetry anthology "Light Enters the Grove: Exploring Cuyahoga Valley National Park through Poetry."

This vital anthology, created by Wick Poetry Center, invited the creative writing community of Northeastern Ohio to engage with the species that compose the biome of our national park. Each writer chose a plant or animal, and, collectively, recreated the ecosystem through literature. More than 80 writers from across the region offered pieces that honor and expand the tradition of nature writing in an homage to our National Park, and a print anthology of the writing will be published August 2024 by Kent State University Press. 

Experience poetry outside of the page and within the setting that inspired it.
CommunityProject3

SUN SEPT 15 / 9:00AM–12:00PM ET / COMMUNITY PROJECT 3

Poetry Ride Out
The Poetry Ride Out is a one-day event led by Balance Point Studio designed to merge the love of poetry and bike riding. Participants will bike to murals by artist Donald Black, Jr. on the southeast side of Cleveland to spend time discussing and writing about Black's murals. This event promotes skills and bike safety, poetry, community building and overall healthy living.
Nonfiction6-Panel

MON SEPT 16 / 7:00–8:30PM ET / VIRTUAL NONFICTION PANEL

Hanif Abdurraqib + Christina Sharpe

Beauty Is a Method: Attention and Accumulation in Nonfiction
How do we assemble a life in art and art in life? How can form and language help us see ourselves and the world in new ways? 2024 Windham-Campbell Prize winners Hanif Abdurraqib (There’s Always This Year) and Christina Sharpe (Ordinary Notes) will discuss their recent genre-breaking memoirs that combine lived experience, history, literary criticism, and cultural critique to reject received forms and create new modes of art, new means of understanding. 

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. He is the author of the poetry collections The Crown Ain't Worth Much (2016) and A Fortune For Your Disaster (2019) and the nonfiction books They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us (2017) and Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest (2019). In 2021, he released the book A Little Devil In America with Random House, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the The PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. His latest book, There's Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension (2024) was a national bestseller. Hanif is a graduate of Beechcroft High School.

Christina Sharpe is the author of In the Wake: On Blackness and Being—named by the Guardian as one of the best books of 2016—and Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects. Her most recent book, Ordinary Notes, was a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction, a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award in Nonfiction, and named Best Book of 2023 by The New York Times, NPR, New York Magazine, Kirkus, and Barnes and Noble. She is currently Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Department of Humanities, at York University, in Toronto.
Fiction2-Virtual

TUES SEPT 17 / 7:00–8:30PM ET / VIRTUAL FICTION PANEL

Shane Hawk, Theodore C. Van Alst Jr., + Stephen Graham Jones

Never Whistle at Night: Lessons from Indigenous Dark Fiction
What insight can be found in darkness? How do ghosts, monstrous creatures, evil spirits, and curses lead us to a different kind of knowledge? Shane Hawk and Theodore C. Van Alst Jr., editors of the Indigenous dark fiction anthology Never Whistle at Night, will be joined by bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones (who wrote the anthology forward) to discuss the unique appeal of horror. Dark fiction not only entertains but unsettles our understanding of the world, expands our ideas of reality, and forces us to confront our deepest fears and shames. What can we learn from Indigenous stories of terror and survival? How can dark fiction help us engage with deeper mysteries beyond the realm of facts? Are stories themselves not a kind of possession, a haunting?  

Shane Hawk (enrolled Cheyenne-Arapaho, Hidatsa and Potawatomi descent) is a history teacher by day and a horror writer by night. Hawk is the author of Anoka: A Collection of Indigenous Horror and other short fiction featured in numerous anthologies. He lives in San Diego with his beautiful wife, Tori. 

Theodore C. Van Alst Jr. (enrolled member, Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians) is the author of Tillie Olsen Award Winning Sacred Smokes (2018, now in its third printing) and Electa Quinney Award Winning Sacred City (2021) as well as the editor of The Faster Redder Road: The Best UnAmerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones (2015), all from the University of New Mexico Press. His work has been published in Southwest Review, The Rumpus, Red Earth Review, The Journal of Working-Class Studies, Chicago Review, Electric Literature, and Indian Country Today, among others.

Stephen Graham Jones is the NYT bestselling author of some thirty novels and collections, and there’s some novellas and comic books in there as well. Most recent are The Angel of Indian Lake and the ongoing Earthdivers. Up before too long are I Was a Teenage Slasher, True Believers, and The Buffalo Hunter Hunter. Stephen lives and teaches in Boulder, Colorado.
Poetry10-Panel

WED SEPT 18 / 7:00–8:30PM ET / VIRTUAL POETRY PANEL

Ruth Awad + Maggie Smith

Outside the Joy: Poetry and Possibility
How can poetry awaken us to new possibilities of being? Ruth Awad (Outside the Joy) and Maggie Smith (You Could Make This Place Beautiful) will discuss finding language for grief and rage, guilt and shame, life and death, peace and liberation. What words keep us moving? How can poetry help us not just survive but find joy?
 
Ruth Awad is a Lebanese-American poet, a 2021 NEA Poetry fellow, and the author of Outside the Joy (Third Man Books, 2024) and Set to Music a Wildfire (Southern Indiana Review Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Michael Waters Poetry Prize and the 2018 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. Alongside Rachel Mennies, she is the co-editor of The Familiar Wild: On Dogs and Poetry (Sundress Publications, 2020). She is the recipient of a 2020 and 2016 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and she won the 2013 and 2012 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize and the 2011 Copper Nickel Poetry Contest. Her work appears in The Atlantic, AGNI, Poetry, Poem-a-Day, The Believer, The New Republic, Pleiades, The Missouri Review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She has an MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and she lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio.
 
Maggie Smith is the author of seven award-winning books: Dear Writer: Pep Talks & Practical Advice for the Creative Life, You Could Make This Place Beautiful, Lamp of the Body, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, and Good Bones, named by the Washington Post as one of the Five Best Poetry Books of 2017, Keep Moving, and Goldenrod. The title poem of Good Bones was called the “Official Poem of 2016” by Public Radio International and has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. Smith’s poems have appeared in the New York Times, Tin House, The Believer, The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Best American Poetry, and on the CBS primetime drama Madam Secretary. A Pushcart Prize winner, Smith has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, the Ohio Arts Council, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation.

FRI

SEPT 20

BOOK FAIR

10:00AM–5:00 PM ET

BookFair

FRI SEP 20 / 10:00AM–5:00PM ET / COMMUNITY EVENT

Book Fair
The book fair will be open from 10:00am-5:00pm on Friday and 9:00am-5:00pm on Saturday at the conference and will feature local independent booksellers, literary journals, publishers and presses, writing groups, and literary organizations.
 
Participants so far include: Appletree Books, Ashland University MFA in Creative Writing, Bottom Dog Press, Brainchild Magazine, Cleveland Review of Books, CSU Poetry Center, Fireside Book Shop, Great Lakes Fiction Writers, Grieveland, Heights Arts, Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center, Lake Erie Ink, Loganberry Books, Mac’s Backs Books, Mid-American Review, Ohio University Press, Purple Palm Press, Rescue Press, Rust Belt Humanities Lab, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), The Cupboard Pamphlet, The Dodge, The Reading Room CLE, Tiffin University, Two Dollar Radio, William N. Skirball Writers' Center at Cuyahoga County Public Library, Writers in Residence, and more to come.

SESSION 1

11:00AM–12:30PM ET

Fiction1-Parker

FRI SEP 20 / 11:00AM ET / FICTION

Eryka Parker

Crafting Your Literary Universe: Building a Flagship Series
Join us for an immersive exploration into the art of creating a flagship fiction series. We’ll cover the essential elements of branding, world-building, character development, and narrative continuity that define a successful series. Seasoned authors seeking to expand their literary universe and aspiring writers embarking on their first series will learn practical techniques for crafting compelling narratives that resonate with diverse audiences.

Eryka Parker is a book coach and developmental editor at Legacy Book Coaching & Consulting whose “occupassion” is diversify the publishing landscape with stories that amplify underrepresented voices. Her multi-platform roles include: Editorial Advisory Committee member for IBPA Independent magazine, Indie Author Magazine contributor, book reviewer for AALB, and multi award-winning contemporary romance author under the pen name Zariah L. Banks.
Nonfiction1-Kapitan

FRI SEP 20 / 11:00AM ET / NONFICTION

Joe Kapitan

Putting the C into CNF
This interactive workshop will explore what creative nonfiction (CNF) is, and just as important, what it's not. Writing exercises will be interspersed with craft discussion and review of published examples. Hear what two popular online CNF journals look for in the submissions queue, from the experience of a first reader / assistant CNF editor at both publications. 

Joe Kapitan writes fiction and creative nonfiction in Cleveland. He is the author of a chapbook, a short story collection, and over eighty individual pieces published online or in print. Most recently, he had an editor's highlighted story appear in Best Small Fictions 2023. Joe is an associate CNF editor at Pithead Chapel and a former associate CNF editor at Atticus Review.
Poetry1-McGuire

FRI SEP 20 / 11:00AM ET / POETRY

Tiara Dinevska-McGuire

National Soul: Notions of National Identity in Poetry
What does it mean to be united by historical struggle under a common name? How do we define our national identities without giving way to toxic nationalism? In this workshop, participants will encounter motifs of building national and ethnic identity as seen in classic and contemporary Macedonian poetry as a gateway to encountering their own lineage. As a nation that has existed in various forms for time immemorial, the idea of what it means to be 'Macedonian' has been challenged and changed for nearly as long. Based on example poems from Macedonian poets, participants will interrogate their identities and reassemble the pieces of themselves into poems.

Tiara Dinevska-McGuire (she/her) is a first-generation Macedonian-American poet and translator from Cleveland, Ohio. She obtained her MFA from Boston University, where she was a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow. She was named runner-up in Boulevard's 2023 Poetry Contest for Emerging Poets and a 2024 Inkubator Literary Conference Fellow. Her poetry can be read in The Common, Poet Lore, Mantis, and elsewhere.
Business1-Panel1

FRI SEP 20 / 11:00AM ET / BUSINESS

Abayomi Animashaun, Julie Brooks Barbour, Mary Biddinger, + Mixby Dickon

A Mollusk Without a Shell: A Panel on Self-Care for Writers
Editors and essayists from the collection A Mollusk Without a Shell: Essays on Self-Care for Writers offer insights on taking care of your artist self, particularly during stressful times. This panel will provide advice for all writers, regardless of genre or career stage, with a friendly and affirming approach. Each panel member will also each share a writing prompt for future inspiration.

Abayomi Animashaun is the author of three poetry collections and editor of three anthologies. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh and a poetry editor at The Comstock Review.
 
Julie Brooks Barbour’s most recent poetry collection is Haunted City (Kelsay Books). She is co-editor, with Mary Biddinger, of A Mollusk Without a Shell: Essays on Self-Care for Writers (The University of Akron Press, 2024). Her work has appeared in Black Lily, South Dakota Review, Whale Road Review, Escape Into Life, Moon City Review, Gone Lawn, and Allium, A Journal of Poetry and Prose.
 
Mary Biddinger is the author of Department of Elegy and co-editor, with Julie Brooks Barbour, of A Mollusk Without a Shell: Essays on Self-Care for Writers. She teaches creative writing at the University of Akron, directs the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts (NEOMFA) program, and serves as poetry editor for the University of Akron Press. Her novella The Girl with the Black Lipstick will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2025.
 
Mixby Dickon (She/they) is a non-binary poet who loves sharing their work with feral animals, looking up vegetarian recipes, and exploring local music scenes. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming in Rubbertop Review, Red Noise Collective, and West Trade Review. They hold an MFA in creative writing from the NEOMFA consortium.
Beyond1-Chesla1

FRI SEP 20 / 11:00AM ET / BEYOND

Elizabeth Chesla

Listomania: The Power and Pleasure of Lists In/As Poetry and Prose
How better to describe this workshop than with a list? (1) It’ll inspire. We’ll read extraordinary examples of lists in/as poetry and prose. (2) It’ll be useful. We’ll explore what makes these pieces so powerful, surveying a wide range of list-lit strategies. (3) It’ll be generative. We’ll put those strategies into practice, experimenting with different list-lit forms to draft several poems and short prose pieces. You’ll also get prompts for future list-lit adventures. (4) It’s for everyone. New to writing fiction or poetry? Never thought of lists as “real” literature? Interested in experimenting with genre and form? You’re welcome here. 

Elizabeth Lukacs Chesla is the award-winning author of You Cannot Forbid the Flower (2023), a hybrid historical fiction novella with lots of lists. She is an assistant fiction editor for Consequence Forum and a developmental editor and book coach. She writes, edits, and teaches from the suburbs of Philadelphia.
Dangerous1-Panel

FRI SEP 20 / 11:00AM ET / DANGEROUS

Kathy Burnette, Danny Caine, Erica Marks, + Ken Schneck

Against Book Bans
In recent years, a highly mobilized group of far-right agitators has launched an all-out assault on the freedom to read in America.Through attacks on libraries and bookstores, and hostile takeovers of school boards, groups like Moms for Liberty are attempting, often successfully, to limit who can read what. More often than not, the victims of these efforts are readers and writers of color, as well as those from LGBTQIA+ communities. In this panel, hear from the people on the front lines of defending the right to read: booksellers, librarians, and the reporters doggedly covering the people resisting book bans.
 
Kathy Burnette founded Brain Lair Books in the summer of 2018 after a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. She is the President of Our Stories, Our Future, Inc., an Indiana literacy-focused nonprofit. Prior to opening the store, Kathy was a school librarian and educator for 16 years. Kathy has served on several book committees, including The 2018 ALA Michael J Printz Committee, The 2014 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults committee, The ILF YHBA for Middle Grades, The ILF Eliot Rosewater Awards and The Kids Indies Introduce Committee. Most recently, Kathy chaired the 2023 Summer/Fall Kids Indies Introduce committee. Kathy has served on the ABA Booksellers Advisory Council, The ABC Children’s Advisory Council, the ABA nominating committee and the board of Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association (GLIBA). She was recently appointed to the board of the American Booksellers Association.

Danny Caine is the author of the poetry collections Continental Breakfast, El Dorado Freddy's, ​Flavortown, and Picture Window, as well as the books How to Protect Bookstores and Why and How to Resist Amazon and Why. His poetry has appeared in The Slowdown, ​LitHub, DIAGRAM, HAD, and Barrelhouse. He's a co-owner of the Raven Book Store, Publishers Weekly's 2022 bookstore of the year.

Erica Marks has dedicated herself to uplifting communities through her various endeavors. As a public librarian at the Cleveland Public Library for twenty-two years, she pioneered unique and unconventional programming for youth, including Books-n-Beats, Girl Power!, Man Up, CLE (Cleveland), and the #CLEReads Young Adult Book Festival. Inspired by her childhood dance group, Erica founded G.W.A. Global Girls with Attitude, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. G.W.A. empowers girls worldwide through literacy, the arts, and movement. Erica's leadership extends to professional associations like the American Library Association. She has served on prestigious committees, including the 2020 Randolph Caldecott Committee, the 2017-2018 Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and the 2023 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards.
 
Dr. Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame, Ohio’s only LGBTQ+ newsroom. For this work, he was honored with Sarah Pettit Award for National LGBTQ+ Journalist of the Year. He is the author of Seriously…What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew, LGBTQ Cleveland, LGBTQ Columbus and LGBTQ Cincinnati. In his spare time, he is a tenured professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

LUNCH

12:30–1:30PM ET

Lunch1

FRI SEP 20 / 12:30PM ET / COMMUNITY EVENT

Lunch
During the lunch break, prepaid box lunches and free ice cream from Mitchell’s will be available in the outdoor reading garden. Poetry Free Cleveland will also be there writing poems on request and will have an opportunity for you to draft your own typewriter poem.

SESSION 2

1:30–3:00PM ET

Fiction8-Panel

FRI SEP 20 / 1:30PM ET / FICTION PANEL

Katharine Beutner, David Wright Faladé, Bonnie J. Gordon, + Claire McMillan

The Things You Learn: Research for Historical Fiction
How do you know what the Wild West smelled like? Or where Tarot cards were sold in 1930s Paris, or why a 19th century Bostonian would adore New York? These are the kinds of research questions historical novelists must answer every day. Reading passages from their work and sharing stories about trips down unexpected rabbit holes, Claire McMillan (ALCHEMY OF A BLACKBIRD), David Wright Faladé (BLACK CLOUD RISING), and Katharine Beutner (KILLINGLY) speak with novelist and historical fiction blogger Bonnie J. Gordon about the research process.

Katharine Beutner’s novel Alcestis, a retelling of the Greek myth, was published by Soho Press in 2010 and was reissued in September 2023. Alcestis won the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award from the Publishing Triangle in 2011 and was also a finalist for a Lesbian Debut Fiction Award from the Lambda Literary Association and the BSFS Compton Crook Award. Her second novel, Killingly, a New England Gothic novel describing the aftermath of a student’s disappearance from Mt. Holyoke College in 1897, was published by Soho Crime in June 2023. Her work has appeared in Tinfish, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Public Books, The Toast, Humanities, and other publications.

A former Fulbright Fellow to Brazil, David Wright Faladé was the 2021-22 Mary Ellen von der Heyden Fellow of the NY Public Library’s Cullman Center for Writers. His work has been recognized by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Texas Institute of Letters. He is the author of the narrative history Fire on the Beach: Recovering the Lost Story of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers, and the novels Away Running and most recently, Black Cloud Rising.

Bonnie J. Gordon is the author of the middle-grades historical novel Escape From Goshen, a retelling of Exodus grounded in 21st century biblical archaeology. She blogs on researching historical fiction set in the biblical era on Medium and Substack and at www.Goshen2Sinai-Research.com.
 
Claire McMillan is a novelist, most recently of Alchemy of a Blackbird, published by Atria/Simon & Schuster in July of 2023. She is also the author of The Necklace, which was published by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster in 2017, as well as Gilded Age, published by Simon & Schuster in 2012. McMillan currently lives on her husband’s family farm outside of Cleveland, Ohio with their two children. 
Nonfiction8-Lillibridge

FRI SEP 20 / 1:30PM ET / NONFICTION WORKSHOP

Lara Lillibridge

Assembling the Collage: Going from Fragment to Finished
In this craft talk we will discuss how to take individual essays, fragments, or scenes and assemble them into a finished writing product—whether that be a single essay or an entire collection. Thematic structure, arc, and tension will be discussed along with various organizational methods. Bring your work in progress and questions.  
 
Lara Lillibridge (she/they) is the author of The Truth About Unringing Phones: Essays on Yearning; Mama, Mama, Only Mama: An Irreverent Guide for the Newly Single Parent; and Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home, and co-edited the anthology, Feminine Rising with Andrea Fekete. Lara holds an MFA from West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Poetry2-Panel

FRI SEP 20 / 1:30PM ET / POETRY PANEL

Alyse Knorr, Virginia Konchan, Philip Metres, + Heather Treseler

Marbles on the Floor: Four Poets on Assembling a Book of Poems
This panel, hosted by Virginia Konchan, coeditor of Marbles on the Floor: How to Assemble a Book of Poems (University of Akron Press, 2023), engages with three poet-contributors to this groundbreaking poetics anthology: Philip Metres, Alyse Knorr, and Heather Treseler. Virginia will conduct a discussion with the contributors about their essays and approaches to assembling poetry books, and they will offer practical advice for putting together one's first or subsequent poetry collections, followed by a Q&A. Poets at any stage, or readers of poetry interested in the aesthetics and vision behind manuscript creation will enjoy this lively discussion of the magic, mystery, and technical considerations of putting a book together for publication, based on individualized approaches as well as deep immersion in craft. 

Philip Metres has written twelve books, including Fugitive/Refuge (2024) and Shrapnel Maps (2020). Winner of three Arab American Book Awards, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim fellowship, he is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University. فلسطين حرة

Alyse Knorr is an associate professor of English at Regis University, co-editor of Switchback Books, and co-producer of the Sweetbitter podcast. She is the author of the poetry collections Ardor (2023), a Lambda Literary Award finalist, as well as Mega-City Redux (2017), Copper Mother (2016), and Annotated Glass (2013). She also authored the video game history books GoldenEye (2022) and Super Mario Bros. 3 (2016) and four poetry chapbooks. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Republic, POETRY Magazine, Alaska Quarterly Review, Denver Quarterly, and The Georgia Review, among others. She received her MFA from George Mason University.

Heather Treseler is the author of Auguries & Divinations, which received the 2023 May Sarton Prize, and Parturition, which won the Munster Literature Centre’s chapbook prize in Ireland. Her poems appear in The American Scholar, Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, The Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, and PN Review. Her essays appear in Boston Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and in eight books about American poetry. Recipient of the W. B. Yeats Prize, Narrative magazine’s annual poetry prize, and the Editors’ Prize at The Missouri Review, she is professor of English at Worcester State University and a resident scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center.

Virginia Konchan is the author of five books of poetry, including Requiem (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2025), and Bel Canto (Carnegie Mellon, 2022), and a short story collection, Anatomical Gift (Noctuary Press, 2017). Coeditor of Marbles on the Floor: How to Assemble a Book of Poems (University of Akron Press, 2023), and recipient of fellowships from the Amy Clampitt Poet Residency Program and the National Endowment for the Humanities, her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Atlantic, The Believer, and the Academy of American Poets.
Business2-Rahimian

FRI SEP 20 / 1:30PM ET / BUSINESS TALK

Nora Rahimian

Negotiation for Writers: How to Ask For And Get What You Deserve
Negotiation can be scary, but it's an inevitable part of being a creative.  This workshop covers ways to work through those anxiety and fears, offers a new framework to approach negotiation as a teambuilding, not combative, activity, and shares strategic tips and best practices to help you ask for and get what you deserve. 

Nora Rahimian is an anticapitalist business coach who has helped creatives around the world achieve success on their own terms, without sacrificing creativity, values, or quality of life. She is also founder and CEO of #CultureFix, a global network of creatives who use their platforms for social change. Her work is based in the belief that our communities have everything they need to succeed, that art & culture can spark the paradigm shifts to make the world a better place, and that the radical change we imagine is both possible and necessary.
Beyond2-Panel

FRI SEP 20 / 1:30PM ET / BEYOND PANEL

Lynnesha Hammilton, Miguel C. Hernandez, Tony Isabella, Darius James Philips, + Marc Sumerak

Birthing Worlds: Comic Creation Experiences
There are many paths into the world of comic creation. Some can join a large comic giant like Marvel or DC and work their way up to writing for an established character. Others work independently from the ground up and work to establish original characters and worlds. But no matter what path you take it can be difficult to know where to begin. Where or how do you start? Who do you talk to? How do you create your story and get it out into the world? In this panel discussion, four accomplished comics writers and artists from all different backgrounds will share how they got started, how they developed their craft, and how they made a career in the comics industry. 

Lynnesha Hammilton, known as Nesha Mars, is co-owner and Chief Operating Officer with 50*Fifty Comix Publishing LLC., and currently the lead author and character development of Marrisa King (MARS) in The Natura Comic Series. She completed her Associate in Applied Science and Business Management. This spring, she will have completed her Digital Marketing Associate Certification. Lynnesha is a Cleveland Heights Native and has served the community and surrounding communities for numerous years.

Miguel C. Hernández is a Cleveland, OH native comic artist and martial artist. Miguel's experiences with comics started at a very young age. Miguel was fascinated by the 90’s comics era, manga and the Mamoru Oshii animation era (Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell ). In which he acquired a great passion for Japanese animation and culture. After becoming a preschool teacher, Miguel slowly found his way back to making comics. He teaches comic workshops and illustration classes to children and teens in the greater Cleveland community. Miguel was selected to participate in the 2022 Milestone Initiative with Milestone Media/DC Comics. 

Tony Isabella is the creator and writer of Black Lightning; creator of Misty Knight and Tigra; writer Captain America, Champions, Daredevil, Dracula, Ghost Rider, Grim Ghost, Hawkman, Iron Fist, the Living Mummy, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Star Trek and many others. As of Halloween, 2024, Isabella has been working in the comics industry for 52 years. He was an editor and writer at Marvel Comics and other publishers. At DC, he created Black Lightning, the company’s first prominent African-American superhero. He co-wrote the prose novels Captain America: Liberty’s Torch and Star Trek: The Case of the Colonist’s Corpse. He’s the author of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read and the odd-but-wondrous July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella. He’s received an Inkpot Award from Comic-Con International in San Diego and a Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award from ECBACC. 

Darius James Phillips is a African-American writer of fiction from Cleveland Ohio. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Hiram College while majoring in Creative Writing. He won second place in the 2023 Vachel Lindsay Poetry Contest for his poem "Mystery Boy. Black Space. Red Hands.". He also won Third place in the 2023 Barbara Thompson Short Fiction Contest for his short story "The Venators". He is currently a 2024 Inkubator Conference Fellow.

Marc Sumerak has spent over two decades crafting story content for some of the most celebrated brands in entertainment, including Marvel, Star Wars, and more. His work has appeared in countless books, comics, and video games. Sumerak frequently lectures on the craft of writing comics, offering up-and-coming creators an inside look at the art of graphic storytelling. He resides in Cleveland, OH.
Dangerous7-Panel

FRI SEP 20 / 1:30PM ET / DANGEROUS PANEL

Jason Harris, Quartez Harris, Damien McClendon, + Ephraim Nihemiah

Unpacking Black Masculinity
In their article, “African American Masculinity,” Waldo Johnson and Jonah Norwitt remind us that “African American masculinity uniquely reflects the complexity of African American lives, the culture their lives animate, and the contours in which they operate,” yet they acknowledge: “White racism and oppression, often in the form of hegemonic or toxic masculinity, paradoxically contributes to African American masculinity’s construction.” We know that one of the major projects of creative writing is unpacking identity and even rewriting social scripts about who we were, who we are, and who we will be. Many Black men writing in the current landscape are using their projects to construct “progressive masculinities,” or male gender roles that are free of sexism, violence, and homophobia. In this panel, writers Jason Harris, Quartez Harris, Damien McClendon, and Ephraim Nehemiah share the ways they unpack masculinity in their work, finding innovative ways to explore and depict what it means to be an ultimate product of the American racial imagination—to be hyper-visible and invisible, fetishized and stigmatized, exploited by one social industry complex and disappeared by another all at the same time.
 
Jason Harris is a Black American who currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Gordon Square Review. His writing has been published in Hobart, Foundry Journal, Barren Magazine, The Shallow Ends, the Cleveland Review of Books, and more. Jason has received fellowships from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, Juniper Summer Writing Institute, and The Watering Hole. In 2021, he served as the Barbara Smith Writer-in-Residence at Twelve Literary Arts. Most recently, he served as a co-editor to the forthcoming nature poetry anthology, Light Enters the Grove: Exploring Cuyahoga Valley National Park Through Poetry (The Kent State University Press).
 
Quartez Harris, renowned author and motivational speaker, is a testament to the transformative power of literature. His inspiring literary works and passionate advocacy for education and personal growth are rooted in his own journey. As a student, Harris grappled with reading and writing, but his perseverance and love for poetry led him to publish his first collection, Nothing but Skin, in 2014. This debut work earned him first place at the 2nd Annual Grand Tournament competition hosted by Writing Knights, marking the beginning of his illustrious career. Harris's second published poetry collection, We Made it to School Alive, was inspired by the experiences of the children he worked with as a teacher. In 2021, Harris was named the Ohio Poetry Association's Poet of the Year and became the first Barbara Smith Writer-in-Resident and Baldwin House Fellowship recipient. His work has also been featured on various media outlets, including the Plain Dealer, Ideastream, and City Club of Cleveland. Lisa Yoskowitz at Little, Brown for Young Readers bought Harris’s first picture book Go Tell It: How James Baldwin Became a Writer, an ode to the American Icon and to the power of story, illustrated by Caldecott and Loretta Scott King Honoree Gordon C. James and slated for publication in spring 2025. His agent Tanya McKinnon at McKinnon Literary sold the text in an 11-editor auction and acquired Harris a three-book publication deal. 
 
Damien McClendon is an award-winning poet from Youngstown, OH. He holds an MFA in creative writing and Literary Translation from Columbia University and his work has been published in Indiana Review and elsewhere. From 2018-2020 He was the Poet Laureate of Cleveland Heights, and he currently lives in the Cleveland area working on a full-length book of poems.

Ephraim Nehemiah a published writer, educator and award winning performance poet. Ephraim is the recipient of grants from PEN America, Gabrielle Bouliane Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, and received fellowships from The Karamu House Performing Arts Theatre, Baldwin House Urban Writing Residency, and The Watering Hole Winter Retreat. Ephraim’s poems appear in various journals and publications such as Anxy Magazine, Flypaper, Lake Effect Anthology, UHURU Magazine, and Knights Library Magazine, where the poem "Jesus Christ Tries Talking to His Father Again" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. They are the 2020 Baltimore Grand Slam Champion, 2021 National Poetry Slam Champion, 2022 Southern Fried Poetry Champion and the 2023 recipient of the Peale Foundation Grit Fund for their work exploring Black Queer Artistry in Maryland. Ephraim is currently based out of Baltimore where they serve as a Teaching Artist. Their first full-length poetry book The Autobiography of Absence was published in 2021 with Twelve Arts Press.

SESSION 3

3:30–5:00PM ET

Fiction4-Taleb

FRI SEP 20 / 3:30PM ET / FICTION WORKSHOP

Nardine Taleb

Raise Your Voice: How An Effective Voice Can Refine Your Story
Toni Morrison wrote in Beloved: “Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.” Morrison's voice is so classic that readers can pinpoint her writing even without an author name tied to it. In this workshop, we're going to explore contemporary short stories with the strongest voices, and stories lacking them. How can we craft a voice in our own stories that leaves readers hooked? Attendees will leave with knowledge of the current literature and writing exercises to inspire their own work. Sometimes we forget how important voice can be, and what our stories are truly for and about: people.   

Nardine Taleb is an Egyptian-American writer and speech therapist. Her poetry chapbook, warda, was published by Passengers Press in 2023. Her writing has appeared in Rattle, The Commuter, Hobart, Mizna, The Offing, and elsewhere.
Nonfiction3-Panel

FRI SEP 20 / 3:30PM ET / NONFICTION PANEL

Loung Ung + Laura Maylene Walter

Writing Toward Peace with Loung Ung
Attend a special podcast recording featuring activist and bestselling author Loung Ung, whose memoirs detailing her experiences under the Khmer Rouge regime have moved readers worldwide. In a conversation hosted by author Laura Maylene Walter, Ung will discuss the genesis of her literary aspirations, writing and publishing in English as a nonnative English speaker, relaying sensory details in creative nonfiction, what it was like to see First They Killed My Father adapted for the screen by Angelina Jolie, and writing as a vehicle for activism, historical documentation, and promoting peace. This conversation will later air as an episode of Page Count, a literary podcast presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library.

Loung Ung is an author, lecturer, and activist who has devoted her life to advancing human rights and equality in Cambodia and around the world. She is the author of the memoir First They Killed My Father: a Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (HarperCollins 2000), which tells the story of her survival under the Khmer Rouge regime. Additionally, Loung has also written two other books, Lucky Child and Lulu in the Sky, both published by HarperCollins, and is currently working on a novel. In 2013, Loung expanded her activism as a writer for Girl Rising, a documentary film about girls’ education around the world. First They Killed My Father was adapted into a Netflix movie in 2017 by director by Angelina Jolie from a screenplay co-written by Angelina Jolie and Loung.

Laura Maylene Walter is the author of the novel Body of Stars. Her writing has appeared in Poets & Writers, Kenyon Review, Slate, The Sun, Ninth Letter, The Masters Review, the Horse Girls anthology, and many other publications. She has received grants, awards, or fellowships from Yaddo, Sewanee, Ohio Arts Council, Tin House, Ohioana Library Association, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, the Chautauqua Institution, and Art Omi. Laura is the Ohio Center for the Book Fellow at Cleveland Public Library, where she hosts Page Count, a literary podcast.
Poetry3-Bracken

FRI SEP 20 / 3:30PM ET / POETRY WORKSHOP

Conor Bracken

At the End of My Suffering there Was a Poem: Writing Trauma Poems that Don’t Traumatize
Though I disagree with Marina Abramović that no good art has been made out of happiness, it doesn’t take someone with a lit PhD to notice that many good poems have been written out of deep injuries. Whatever our larger feelings about this in a neoliberalized poetry-industrial publishing complex, this workshop will examine poems that process traumatic experiences, by poets like Paul Tran, Yusuf Komunyakaa, Natalie Shapero, and Mosab Abu Toha, in order to think of and practice different tactics which will allow us to write out of and around our own experiences without retraumatizing the writer or the reader.

Conor Bracken is the author of The Enemy of My Enemy is Me (Diode Editions, 2021), as well as the translator of Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine's Scorpionic Sun (CSU Poetry Center, 2019) and Jean D'Amérique's No Way in the Skin Without This Bloody Embrace (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2022). He teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
Business3-Shakur

FRI SEP 20 / 3:30PM ET / BUSINESS TALK

Prince Shakur 

How To Find, Apply To, and Land Artist Residencies
This craft talk will be centered on the ins and outs of researching, applying to, and attending artist residencies from Prince Shakur, a writer who has attended six artist residencies. As a resource that can help writers finish their work while having time away from their normal life, artist residencies can be a very enlightening experience. This session will give writers resources: how to find artist residencies, considerations for when they are applying, the different parts of a compelling application, choosing the best art sample, and tips on attending them.

Prince Shakur is a queer, Jamaican-American author, journalist, videomaker, and recognized by NY Times. He has written op-eds in Teen Vogue, features on the impacts of policing, and cultural essays exploring black icons like Bob Marley and Huey Newton. In 2017, his video series "Two Woke Minds" won the Rising Star Grant from GLAAD. As an organizer, he brought Black Lives Matter to his university campus, supported the migrant caravan, and served as a lead organizer with the Black Queer and Intersectional Collective in Columbus, OH. Prince also co-wrote, produced, and acted in an upcoming short film about two childhood friends facing their past before a significant event. His work, whether literary, visual, or grassroots, is stepped in his commitment to black liberation, prison abolition, and queer resilience.
Beyond3-Panel

FRI SEP 20 / 3:30PM ET / BEYOND PANEL

Patricia Brubaker, Libby Chaney, Kristin Gustafson, Jenna Martínez, + Maureen McGuirk

How to Keep Going when You’re Sick of Your Project
Nobody has ever written a book without, at some point, getting sick of it. It takes years to write a book, and such a long-term project can easily leave its writer feeling doubtful, burned out, or even just annoyed. How do you keep going? What are some strategies to keep the flame of inspiration from flickering out in the breeze of self-doubt? In this all-genre panel, the 2024 cohort of the Literary Cleveland Breakthrough Writing Residency Program share their strategies to push through burnout and get that much closer to completing a project.  

Patricia Brubaker has been writing in some form most of her life. She grew up in a single parent household and worked to save enough money to attend Cleveland State University and receive degrees in English Literature. While getting her degrees, she became the mother of three children but continued to find ways to write. Over twenty years ago she received an Ohio Arts Council Grant, published stories in literary journals, and seemed on her way to a writing career, but life got in her way when she became the guardian of her brother's three children in addition to her own. She began teaching English, earned a counseling degree, and worked as both a school counselor and mental health counselor for the next twenty-some years. Retiring in 2019 has allowed her to return her focus to her first love, writing.  She is currently working on a novel about three high school friends, now in their sixties, whose lives are altered when they learn that the bodies of two of their friends who disappeared in 1970 have been found.

Libby Chaney has always been an artist and writer. She was born, raised and educated in Ohio, but she  wandered off to California in her 20’s. There she inadvertently stayed for 47 years. She taught, traveled a bit, married and had 2 children. After her son suddenly died, she was drawn back to her Ohio and the edge of Lake Erie—Cleveland, exactly—where she lives in a studio made from a converted mid-century medical center. She changed its large parking lot into a huge garden. During COVID Libby had a surprise triple bypass heart surgery and might not have survived without the care and love of her third and final husband, Paul Waszink. Neither would the garden. She is at work on a memoir in stories about everything from her high school days when girls were not allowed to take Mechanical Drawing to the 60's in Los Angeles to the loss of her son.

Kristin Gustafson is a poet and editor from Cleveland Heights, Ohio. She received her bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from Otterbein University in 2019, and her poetry has been published in over a dozen literary magazines. She currently lives in Cuyahoga Falls with her partner and small dog. Her work infuses her love of internet culture with her struggles with mental illness.
Jenna Martínez (she/her) is a queer Mexican-American femme writer and printmaker from San Antonio, Texas. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Homology Lit, and One Page Poetry. Jenna is a recipient of a Unidos Por El Arte Grant from the Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center and scholarships from the Community of Writers Workshop and the Macondo Writers Workshop. She is at work on a collection of poems exploring how the places she has lived alchemize her intersecting identities including her queerness, Mexican heritage, Texas roots, and Midwestern home.

‍Maureen McGuirk earned her bachelor of fine arts degree in writing for film and television from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Her short story “Miss Fortunate” was published in quiet Shorts, a Seattle-based arts journal. Her one-act play “A Private Conversation” earned an honorable mention in the New Works of Merit Playwriting Contest in 2016, and was published in Two Sisters Writing & Publishing Second Annual Anthology in 2019. In December 2021, her short story “Rule 49” was included in B-Cubed Press’s anthology Alternative Deathiness. In 2023, her short story "Last of My Kind" was included in the Ohio Writers Association's anthology House of Secrets: Every Room Holds a Story. She is at work on a novel about Jason and Morgan, a newly engaged couple in a world where married couples share not only their lives but a single body.
Dangerous6-Panel

FRI SEP 20 / 3:30PM ET / DANGEROUS PANEL

Krys Malcolm Belc, Barbara Marie Minney, Zuggie Tate, + Willow Watson

Taking Up Space: Trans Writing
According to writer Zoë Bossiere, trans (transgender, gender-nonconforming, and/or gender-expansive) writing is multifaceted exploration of “becoming and belonging, coming out and pushing through.” By taking up space with their stories in a world that so often seeks to silence or censor them, trans writers underline the limitations of binary thinking, illuminate the freedoms of in-betweenness, and illustrate ways of writing that reckon ingeniously and powerfully with themes of identity, creation, transformation, and survival. In this panel, trans writers Krys Belc, Barbara Marie Minney, Zuggie Tate, and Willow Watson share how they create writing that takes up space by boldly and beautifully expressing “who [they] are and where [they’ve] been.” 
 
Krys Malcolm Belc is the author of The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood (Counterpoint) and the flash nonfiction chapbook In Transit (The Cupboard Pamphlet). His essays have been featured in Granta, The Rumpus, Harper's Bazaar, and elsewhere. Krys is the memoir editor of Split Lip Magazine. He is currently the Edelstein-Keller Writer-in-Residence at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and lives in Saint Paul with his partner and their four young children.
 
Barbara Marie Minney is a transgender woman, award winning poet, writer, speaker, teaching artist, guest reader/editor, and quiet activist. Her poetry and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Politico, The Buckeye Flame, The Gasconade Review, Gargoyle Magazine, The Pine Cone Review, Women Speak: Women of Appalachia Project, Woman Scream: The International Poetry Anthology of Female Voices, The New Wasteland, new words (issue one and issue two): a trans and gender-expansive journal, and I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing, Ohio’s Appalachian Voices. Barbara’s poetry has also been translated into Spanish. She is the author of four poetry collections: If There’s No Heaven, the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award and an Akron Beacon Journal Best Northeast Ohio Book in 2020; The Poetic Memoir Chapbook Challenge (2021); Dance Naked With God (2023); and A Woman in Progress (2024). Barbara is a retired attorney and a seventh generation Appalachian and lives in Tallmadge, Ohio, with her wife of over 43 years and a menagerie of stuffed animals.

Zuggie Tate (she/they) is a Black, larger-bodied, trans feminine individual who lives with HIV. She has lived in Cleveland her whole life and attended Case Western Reserve University. She considers herself to be an artist in many genres, but her favorite outlet is definitely poetry. To date, she has been published in the Black Midwest Anthology and was a recipient of the Baldwin House Writing Fellowship with Twelve Literary Arts. She also has a strong background in poetry performance and spoken word.

Willow (she/her, they/them) is a Black transfemme writer and creative. They recently completed a qualitative analysis of BIPOC trans, queer, and gender nonconforming survivors living in Cleveland in partnership with the Democracy Collective fellowship of Cleveland Votes. Their creative work is an exploration of transness, spiritism, community activation, grief, and speculation, and has been published in Lambda Literary's Emerge anthology. In life otherwise, Willow enjoys spending time with her siblings; decadent, sovereign* green spaces; and delicious, diverse cultural foods. Her favorite place in Cleveland is the Lakefront Nature Preserve.
 
*isolated from city traffic and pollution

DINNER

5:00–8:00PM ET

Dinner

FRI SEP 20 / 5:00–8:00PM ET / COMMUNITY EVENT

Dinner + Open Mic
Join us at the downtown Cleveland Public Library outdoor reading garden for a special $25 dinner mixer and open mic after the Friday conference sessions. Enjoy the buffet dinner and share some of your writing. Open mic starts at 6pm.  Limit 1 piece or excerpt per reader (500 words max).

SAT

SEPT 21

BOOK FAIR

9:00AM–5:00PM ET

BookFair

SAT SEP 21 / 9:00AM–5:00PM ET / COMMUNITY EVENT

Book Fair
The book fair will be open from 10:00am-5:00pm on Friday and 9:00am-5:00pm on Saturday at the conference and will feature local independent booksellers, literary journals, publishers and presses, writing groups, and literary organizations.
 
Participants so far include: Appletree Books, Ashland University MFA in Creative Writing, Bottom Dog Press, Brainchild Magazine, Cleveland Review of Books, CSU Poetry Center, Fireside Book Shop, Great Lakes Fiction Writers, Grieveland, Heights Arts, Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center, Lake Erie Ink, Loganberry Books, Mac’s Backs Books, Mid-American Review, Ohio University Press, Purple Palm Press, Rescue Press, Rust Belt Humanities Lab, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), The Cupboard Pamphlet, The Dodge, The Reading Room CLE, Tiffin University, Two Dollar Radio, William N. Skirball Writers' Center at Cuyahoga County Public Library, Writers in Residence, and more to come.

SESSION 1

9:00–10:30AM ET

Fiction5-Gerbig

SAT SEP 21 / 9:00AM ET / FICTION WORKSHOP

Jody Gerbig

The First Five Pages: Crafting Gripping Starts to Keep Readers Interested
The first five pages—starting with the first sentence—of any story determines whether a reader, agent, or editor, will read on. Using published works as examples, we will discuss how to make a strong first impression and pull readers in, using tension, tone, structure, and style. You will also have time to draft and the option to share your own gripping first sentences, going home with the beginning of a reader-ready story. 

After receiving her BA from Tulane University and MA from American University, Jody Gerbig taught college writing and high-school English in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. Currently, she serves as a senior editor at Typehouse Magazine, recommends books for The Big Thrill, and freelances as an editor. Her work appears in Litro, Columbus Monthly, Brevity, Ruminate, and many others, and has been nominated for both a Pushcart and Best of the Net. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three children.
Nonfiction7-Panel

SAT SEP 21 / 9:00AM ET / NONFICTION WORKSHOP

Lee Chilcote + Christopher Johnston

The Art of Research in Creative Nonfiction
Research is a fundamental part of writing. Knowing where to find the info and how to access it (whether through research or interviews) is a key skill for writers across genres. Background information, facts, anecdotes, and different perspectives all make a story richer and more authoritative. Drawing from journalism, interviews and oral histories, this class provides tools for writers working on creative nonfiction, essays, and memoirs. We'll learn about different kinds of research, create a roadmap for getting started, and discuss how to prepare and conduct interviews with relatives or strangers to collect information professionally, responsibly, and ethically.

Lee Chilcote is an award-winning writer and author whose work has been published in The Washington Post, Associated Press, Vanity Fair, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Magazine and many others. His poetry chapbooks are The Shape of Home and How to Live in Ruins. He is a founder and past executive director of Literary Cleveland, and founder and past editor of The Land. He lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of Cleveland with his family.

Christopher Johnston has published more than 3,500 articles in publications including American TheatreChristian Science MonitorHistory Magazine, and Scientific American. His book, Shattering Silences: Strategies to Prevent Sexual Assault, Heal Survivors, and Bring Assailants to Justice (Skyhorse) was published in 2018. Johnston wrote The Way I Saw It, the memoirs of the late Marc Wyse, co-founder of Wyse Advertising, which was published in 2013. He teaches playwriting and creative nonfiction workshop courses at Cleveland State University and writing workshops for Literary Cleveland and the William N. Skirball Writers Center at the Cuyahoga County Public Library South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch. He was recently named to the Board of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
Business4-Panel

SAT SEP 21 / 9:00AM ET / BUSINESS WORKSHOP

Abigail Cloud, Walt Hunter, + Alyssa Perry

Editing With an Eye Towards Publication
What's the best way to impress a litmag editor? What's the best way to put together a submission packet? Are there instant dealbreakers that make editors quick to click "reject?" What do editors see too much of? What don't editors see enough of? And what’s the deal with solicitations? Submitting to literary magazines can inspire a lot of questions in the aspiring writer, some of which don't have obvious or easy answers. Fear not: this panel conversation gathers experienced editors from The Atlantic, Cleveland Review of Books, and Mid-American Review to share their perspective on what writers can do to impress litmags.   

Abigail Cloud is editor-in-chief of international literary journal Mid-American Review and advisor of Bowling Green State University's national undergrad journal, Prairie Margins. She teaches poetry, editing, and publishing at BGSU, from which she holds an MFA in poetry. Her collection, Sylph, was a Lena-Miles Wever Todd prizewinner and published by Pleiades Press in 2014. Recent work has appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Dunes Review, and Zone 3.

Walt Hunter is a professor of 20th- and 21st- century literature and chair of the department of English at Case Western Reserve University. Hunter is fiction and poetry editor for The Atlantic. Hunter’s teaching and research explore the ways that poets and prose writers bring fresh perspectives to political and social issues by remaking their style and forms of expression. Previous books have been about housing and poetry, and about globalization and poetry. He is currently editing an anthology of poetry published in The Atlantic since 1857, beginning with “Paul Revere’s Ride.” Hunter is the author of two previous books of literary criticism: Forms of a World: Contemporary Poetry and the Making of Globalization (Fordham UP, 2019) and The American House Poem, 1945-2021 (Oxford UP, 2023). His essays have appeared in Modern Philology and New Literary History, among other publications, and he writes frequently about novels and poems for public audiences. Hunter is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Robert B. Silvers Foundation, the South Carolina Arts Commission, the Teagle Foundation/National Endowment for the Humanities, and the James Merrill House, where he was writer-in-residence in September 2020. Hunter is also the author of a collection of poetry, Some Flowers (MadHat, 2022). Poems have appeared in The Atlantic, the Boston Review, the Hopkins Review, Literary Imagination, and the New York Review of Books. His interest in modern literature extends to French, and he is the translator of Frédéric Neyrat’s Atopias: Manifesto for a Radical Existentialism (with Lindsay Turner; Fordham UP, 2017). Hunter frequently teaches classes in American literature, global anglophone poetry, lyric poetry, the contemporary novel, and modern poetry from T.S. Eliot to Tracy K. Smith.

Alyssa Perry is a writer, editor, and teacher. Her writing appears with Annulet, The Canary, Denver Quarterly, Fence, Mercury Firs, River Styx, and other venues. A book of poems, Oily Doily, will be published by Bench Editions in fall 2024.
Beyond6-Panel

SAT SEP 21 / 9:00AM ET / BEYOND PANEL

Athena Dixon, Annmarie Kelly Harbaugh, Diana Khoi Nguyen, + Sara Read

Writing Ghosts: In Praise of Hauntings, Ancestry, and the Unknown
There’s that adage: “Write what you know.” But what if you don’t? What if you come to a project with more questions than answers, with more that needs knowing than is known? How do you decide when you’re biting off more than you can chew? Three celebrated authors will discuss their forays into ancestry, mathematics, true crime, and ghosts, and share how they took what they knew and learned what they didn’t to create hauntingly beautiful and transformative prose.

Athena Dixon is the author of The Incredible Shrinking Woman and The Loneliness Files and her work appears in publications such as Harper's Bazaar, Shenandoah, Grub Street, Narratively, and Lit Hub among others. She is a Consulting Editor for Fourth Genre and the Nonfiction/Hybrid Editor for Split/Lip Press.

Annmarie Kelly is the author of Here Be Dragons, a memoir about the wonderful misery of raising children with someone you love. She hosts Wild Precious Life, a literary podcast. And she lives in Cleveland, Ohio, where she’s querying a novel about all the truth in the lies we tell.

Poet and multimedia artist, Diana Khoi Nguyen is the author of Root Fractures and Ghost Of, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. A winner of an NEA fellowship and the 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest, she teaches in the Randolph College Low-Residency MFA and the University of Pittsburgh.

Sara Read is the author of Johanna Porter Is Not Sorry and Principles Of (E)Motion. She’s been featured in The Missouri Review, Beloit Fiction, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Sara co-hosts the #MomsWritersClub YouTube show and lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her family, a terrier, and three snarky cats.
Dangerous5-Panel

SAT SEP 21 / 9:00AM ET / DANGEROUS PANEL

Naazneen Diwan, Philip Metres, + Robin Beth Schaer

The Muses Refuse Silence
In a recent essay in Poets & Writers, Cleveland poet Philip Metres grapples with the role of the poet in the time of senseless war and violence. He writes, “It’s hard to be human right now, knowing what humans can do. And it’s hard to be a poet, knowing what words cannot do.” Despite this difficulty, “writers offer a prophetic witness of the depredation of war and oppression as well as a vision of a shared future, something that U.S. politicians and corporate media have failed to do.“ In this panel, Metres leads local poets and peace activists in tackling the question of how to write (and live) ethically in the face of the ongoing tragedies in Gaza and greater Israel/Palestine. 

Naazneen Diwan is an educator, writer, community organizer and curriculum designer. With a PhD in Gender Studies from UCLA, she has taught courses in Arabic, Interracial Solidarity, Gender and Knowledge, Disability Studies and Gender and Race in the U.S. at Ohio State University, UCLA and CSULA for over 12 years. She's a transnational Activist-Scholar who builds dynamic, vibrant community wherever she goes: from working as a translator at an underground human rights publication in Damascus, Syria to co-founding a transnational feminist, 10-day convening in Berlin, Germany. You can read her poetry and prose in The Yale Review, Southern Humanities Review, Story South, Entropy Mag, Sky Island Journal, Cathexis Press, Serendipity Magazine, fly paper magazine, Kohl, Project As[I]Am, SAMAR, MOONROOT and others.

Philip Metres has written twelve books, including Fugitive/Refuge (2024) and Shrapnel Maps (2020). Winner of three Arab American Book Awards, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim fellowship, he is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University. فلسطين حرة

Robin Beth Schaer is the author of the poetry collection Shipbreaking (Anhinga 2015). Her poems and essays have appeared in Tin House, Paris Review, and Guernica, among others. Her recent awards include an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award and fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, and Vermont Studio. She has taught writing in New York, New Jersey, and Ohio, and she worked as a deckhand aboard the Tall Ship Bounty, a 180-foot ship lost in Hurricane Sandy.
Breakouts1

SAT SEP 21 / 9:00AM ET / NONFICTION

Nonfiction Breakout: Mixer & Open Mic
New this year! Looking to meet fellow writers? Want to share your work? Join our Nonfiction Breakout and have an opportunity to read a short excerpt of your work. This is a great way to find like minded writers, build connections and beta readers, and to share some of your writing. Limit 1 excerpt per reader (500 words max).

KEYNOTE

11:00AM–12:30PM ET

Keynote

SAT SEP 21 / 11:00AM ET / KEYNOTE

Edwidge Danticat

Create Dangerously
Keynote speaker is a 2009 MacArthur fellow and Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winner whose books include Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection, Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist, The Farming of Bones, The Dew Breaker, Brother, I’m Dying, Create Dangerously, Claire of the Sea Light, The Art of Death, and Everything Inside, a Reese’s Book Club selection, and National Book Critics Circle Awards winner. Her memoir, Brother, I'm Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award, and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. Her latest book, We’re Alone, explores environmental catastrophe, the traumas of colonialism, motherhood, and the complexities of resilience. In this keynote talk, Edwidge Danticat will read from her new book, speak to creating dangerously, and answer audience questions. This event is presented by the Cleveland Public Library.

Edwidge Danticat is the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor of the Humanities in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University. She received her B.A. in French Literature from Barnard College and her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Brown University. She is the author of seventeen books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection, Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist, The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner; the novels-in-stories, The Dew Breaker, Claire of the Sea Light, and The Art of Death, a National Book Critics Circle finalist for Criticism. She has written seven books for children and young adults, a travel narrative, After the Dance, and a collection of essays, Create Dangerously. Her memoir, Brother, I'm Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. She is the editor of The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, The Beacon Best of 2000, Haiti Noir, Haiti Noir 2, and Best American Essays 2011. She is a 2009 MacArthur Fellow, a 2018 Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow, a 2018 winner of the Neustadt Prize, a 2019 winner of the Saint Louis Literary Award, a 2020 United States Artist Fellow, a 2020 winner of the Vilceck Prize, and a 2023 winner of the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Her story collection, Everything Inside, was a 2020 winner of the Bocas Fiction Prize, The Story Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Prize. Her essay collection We’re Alone is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in September 2024.

BREAK

12:30–1:30PM ET

Lunch2

SAT SEP 21 / 12:30PM ET / COMMUNITY EVENT

Lunch
During the lunch break, prepaid box lunches and free ice cream from Michell’s will be available in the outdoor reading garden. Poetry Free Cleveland will also be there writing poems on request and will have an opportunity for you to draft your own typewriter poem. 

SESSION 2

1:30–3:00PM ET

Fiction7-ffitch

SAT SEP 21 / 1:30PM ET / FICTION WORKSHOP

Madeline ffitch

Bound Together: The Politics of Place in Prose
Setting is more than a compelling backdrop in fiction—it is dynamic, active, and politically charged. Places change and adapt, they resist definition, they shape us and are shaped by us, and they are the site where abstract political conflicts come crashing down on individual people. Using examples from contemporary fiction as well as her own writing, Madeline ffitch will give practical tips for moving beyond cliche, resisting the dominant cultural narratives of a place, and activating setting as a primary player in your story. Discussions will include the differences between writing for urban/rural or insider/outside audiences as well as the connections between politics, place, and art that can be seen in climate activism and Appalachian anti-fascism. 

Madeline ffitch writes and organizes in Appalachian Ohio. She was a founding member of the punk theater company, The Missoula Oblongata, and is the author of the story collection, Valparaiso, Round the Horn. Madeline has been awarded residencies at Yaddo and at the MacDowell Colony. She is the author of Stay and Fight from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Nonfiction9-Goswami

SAT SEP 21 / 1:30PM ET / NONFICTION WORKSHOP

Uddipana Goswami

Healing Through Life Writing
Writing—like healing from conflict and trauma—follows an organic trajectory that begins with the individual acknowledging their pain before moving forward toward articulating, and finally, resolving them. This requires critical distancing. The workshop will familiarize you with this process of distancing and confronting, one step at a time, to take you closer toward healing by writing about your pain. It will allow you space to confront and name your vulnerabilities while formulating a clear topic around which to build your memoir/personal essay. I will also provide you with writing, healing, and publishing resources to use in your journey ahead.

Uddipana Goswami teaches Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University. Her latest book The Women Who Would Not Die (Speaking Tiger 2024) is about conflict, womanhood, and violence. A former Fulbright Fellow, she’s taught Writing and Liberal Arts at the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University, and Curtis Institute of Music.

Poetry5-Freeman

SAT SEP 21 / 1:30PM ET / POETRY WORKSHOP

Siaara Freeman

Spoken Word Lab: Performing Your Poetry
The art of spoken word is dynamic and diverse in form, and every poet can figure out an affecting and entertaining way to share their work on the mic. In this practical workshop, learn the fundamentals of performing poetry and ways to bring your own work to life with Siaara Freeman: published poet, 2023 Room in the House fellow with Karamu Theater, and 2022 Catapult fellow with Cleveland Public Theater.

Siaara Freeman is from Cleveland, Ohio, where she is the current Poet Laureate for Cleveland Heights and University Heights, she is also the unofficial Lake Erie Siren. She is a 2023 Room in the House fellow with Karamu Theater and 2022 Catapult fellow with Cleveland Public Theater, as well as a 2021 Premier Playwright fellow recipient with CPT. Her work has appeared in The Journal, Josephine Quarterly, Cleveland Magazine, and elsewhere. Siaara’s first full-length poetry collection Urbanshee is available from Button Poetry, which won a 2023 Silver Award for the Benjamin Franklin IPBA Award for Poetry and qualified as a 2023 finalist for the Audre Lorde Award with The Publishing Triangle. When Siaara is not working, she is likely by a lake, thinking of Toni Morrison & talking to ghosts. She is growing her Afro so tall, God uses it as a microphone and speaks through her.
Business5-Donish

SAT SEP 21 / 1:30PM ET / BUSINESS TALK

Cass Donish

Abundant Dreams: A Range of Publishing Options from Independent to Big Five
Once you’ve written a manuscript, what comes next? Trying to get a book into the world can be a confusing but ultimately rewarding process. Based on the author’s experience, this talk will discuss working with different kinds of publishers: independent and university presses, as well as agented manuscripts going to the big publishing houses. Your vision for your book might consider what specific communities would best serve and be served by your work, what values and aesthetics are at play in your writing, and what kinds of relationships you want to have with your editors and readership. There’s an exciting array of possibilities.

Queer poet and writer Cass Donish was born and raised in the Greater Los Angeles Area. They are the author of the poetry collections Your Dazzling Death (Knopf, 2024); The Year of the Femme (University of Iowa Press, 2019), winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize; and Beautyberry (Slope Editions, 2018). Their nonfiction chapbook, On the Mezzanine (2019), was chosen by Maggie Nelson as winner of the Gold Line Press Chapbook Competition. Their writing has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Denver Quarterly, The Gettysburg Review, Guernica, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, Poem-a-Day, VICE, and elsewhere. Donish received an MA in cultural geography from the University of Oregon, an MFA in poetry from Washington University in St. Louis, and a PhD in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri. They live in Columbia, Missouri.
Beyond4-Panel

SAT SEP 21 / 1:30PM ET / BEYOND PANEL

Jorge Olivera Castillo, Oleksandr Frazé-Frazénko, Rania Mamoun, Anouar Rahmani, + Catherine Skolnicki

City of Asylum Writers-in-Residence Panel
In this panel discussion, three of City of Asylum's current writers-in-residence, Rania Mamoun of Sudan, Jorge Olivera Castillo of Cuba, Oleksandr Frazé-Frazénko of Ukraine, and Anouar Rahmani of Algeria will discuss their literary works, recent publications, and explore their experiences as writers and activists in their respective home countries. The conversation will be moderated by Catherine Skolnicki, City of Asylum's Residency Manager. 

Jorge Olivera Castillo is a Cuban poet, writer, television editor, journalist, and songwriter. He is a well-known dissident, and his work has been banned in Cuba. Jorge has published six books of poetry and two short story collections in Spanish. His works have been translated into several languages, including Czech, English, Italian, and Polish. He is married to Nancy Alfaya Hernandez, a Cuban human and women’s rights activist. He and Nancy have been in residence at City of Asylum since November 2021.

Oleksandr Frazé-Frazénko is a filmmaker, writer, and musician. His oeuvre includes several hundred films, music videos, and commercials, as well as a discography of over 50 albums. He has authored a dozen books of poetry; in Ukrainian, they are collected in a volume entitled “Decadence” (2017), and in English, “Happy Lovers” (2021). Oleksandr was the first to translate Jim Morrison’s poetry into Ukrainian, which was published in 2013, and has also translated English poetry of the Restoration Period, including the works of John Rochester. During the first year of the war in Ukraine, Oleksandr stayed in country and became involved in a volunteer movement working with foreign journalists as a producer, filmmaker, and writer to spread the truth about the situation and the historical context. He has been in residence as part of City of Asylum's Fellowship for Ukrainian Writers, with his wife Mariya Trush, a singer, since March 2023.

Rania Mamoun is a Sudanese activist and bestselling writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. She recently published Something Evergreen Called Life, a poetry manuscript written during COVID-19 quarantine and translated into English by Yasmine Seale (Action Books, March 2023). Rania has published two novels to great international acclaim, Green Flash and Son of the Sun, and Thirteen Months of Sunrise, a short story collection which was shortlisted for the 2020 Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. Rania recently completed a short story collection in Arabic entitled A Lonely Woman under the Neem Tree, forthcoming for publication. Rania continues to organize for democracy in Sudan. Her writing has appeared in English, Korean, French, and Spanish translation. She is a writer-in-residence at City of Asylum since 2019.

Anouar Rahmani is a writer and human rights defender from Algeria. He is the author of four novels in Arabic, including Hallucinations of Jibril and What God is Hiding from Us. Through his creative writing, journalism, and activism, Anouar advocates for individual freedoms, environmental rights, and the rights of minorities, women, and the LGBT+ community. In 2015, he was the first person to demand same-sex marriage in Algeria publicly. Anouar holds a License in Public Law and a Master’s in State and Institutional Law from the University of Morsli Abdallah. During the 2019 Algerian Revolution, he composed a new model for the Algerian constitution. Anouar has received support from PEN International during instances of judicial harassment he faced in Algeria due to his activism, novels, and journalism. In 2021, he was shortlisted for the Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards and selected by the German Bundestag’s Protection Program “Parliamentarians for Parliamentarians.” Anouar Rahmani is an Artist Protection Fund Fellow in residence at Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Modern Languages and City of Asylum.

Photo credit for authors: Nancy Andrews
Breakouts2

SAT SEP 21 / 1:30PM ET / FICTION

Fiction Breakout: Mixer & Open Mic
New this year! Looking to meet fellow writers? Want to share your work? Join our Fiction Breakout and have an opportunity to read a short excerpt of your work. This is a great way to find like minded writers, build connections and beta readers, and to share some of your writing. Limit 1 excerpt per reader (500 words max).

SESSION 3

3:30–5:00PM ET

Fiction6-Davies

SAT SEP 21 / 3:30PM ET / FICTION TALK

Peter Ho Davies

The Invisible Art of Revision
Writers from Ernest Hemingway (“The only kind of writing is rewriting”) to Khaled Hosseini (“Writing for me is largely about rewriting”) to Joyce Carol Oates (“Most of my time writing is really re-writing”) have stressed the importance of revision. And yet, since all we usually have access to is the final draft of a published book or story, revision is something of an invisible art. In this session we’ll try to draw it into the light, with examples from life, literature and even pop culture, and offer some strategies for how to re-see re-vision.

Peter Ho Davies’s most recent books are the novel A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself, long-listed for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and The Art of Revision: The Last Word, his first work of non-fiction. His previous novel, The Fortunes, a New York Times Notable Book, won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Chautauqua Prize, and was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His first novel, The Welsh Girl, a London Times Best Seller, was long-listed for the Booker Prize. He has also published two short story collections, The Ugliest House in the World (winner of the John Llewelyn Rhys Prize, and the Oregon Book Award) and Equal Love (finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a New York Times Notable Book).
ComingSoon-1

SAT SEP 21 / 3:30PM ET / NONFICTION PANEL

Coming Soon

Coming Soon
Poetry6-Kamara

SAT SEP 21 / 3:30PM ET / POETRY WORKSHOP

Yalie Kamara

Community + Polyvocality: A Craft Talk and Generative Workshop
In this hybrid craft talk and generative workshop, Yalie Saweda Kamara, Cincinnati and Mercantile Library Poet Laureate, will present multimedia poetry projects that center community and polyvocality and explore the necessity of collaboration, tension, vulnerability, dialogue, and the indispensable value of failure in the artistic process. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in the creation of a polyvocal poem which will honor the multiple voices, gifts, and perspectives inherent in the gathering space.

Yalie Saweda Kamara, Ph.D. is a Sierra Leonean-American writer, educator, and researcher from Oakland, California and the 2022-2023 Cincinnati and Mercantile Library Poet Laureate (2-year term). Winner of the 2022-2023 Jake Adam York Prize, Kamara’s debut full-length poetry collection, Besaydoo, was published by Milkweed Editions in 2024. She is also the editor of the anthology What You Need to Know About Me: Young Writers on Their Experience of Immigration (The Hawkins Project, 2022) and the author of A Brief Biography of My Name (Akashic Books/African Poetry Book Fund, 2018), which is a part of the New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Tano) series and When The Living Sing (Ledge Mule Press, 2017).
Business7-Panel

SAT SEP 21 / 3:30PM ET / BUSINESS PANEL

Tiffany Graham Charkosky, Sonia Feldman, + Kortney Morrow

Landing an Agent: Practical Advice
When and how to sign with an agent are two of the most important questions a writer can face at the beginning of their career. To make the stakes even higher, the process of connecting with the right agent can be confusing, difficult, and drawn-out. In this interactive panel, local writers who have recently signed with high-profile agents help to demystify the process. These promising writers at the beginning of great careers will give practical advice and solidarity to writers navigating the troubled waters of the agent-landing process. 

Tiffany Graham Charkosky’s essays and fiction explore love, human dynamics, and relationships. They have been published or are forthcoming in Gordon Square Review, Mutha Magazine, Avalon Literary Review, and South Dakota Review. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her family and has worked in the arts for over twenty years. 

Sonia Feldman is a writer from Cleveland, Ohio. She runs Sonia’s Poem of the Week, an email newsletter sharing one good poem a week plus commentary. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in literary journals like The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, and Beloit Poetry Journal. She is currently at work on her debut novel.
 

Kortney Morrow is a poet creating from her studio in Cleveland, Ohio. Her work has received support from 68to05, The Academy of American Poets, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Prairie Schooner, Tin House, and Transition Magazine. She has her MFA in Poetry from The Ohio State University. In 2023, she was awarded the Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant Award from the Ohioana Library Association for her essay “The Care & Keeping of You.” When she’s not writing, she’s co-running Studio Reciprocity–a consulting collective that helps organizations and individuals heal, re-imagine, and transform.
Beyond5-Panel

SAT SEP 21 / 3:30PM ET / BEYOND PANEL

Noah Falck, Stephanie Ginese, Joshua Thermidor, Zach Savich, Christina Vega-Westhoff, + Valentino Zullo

The Buffalo-Cleveland Project
In this panel, a group of writers, educators, artists, and organizers from Buffalo and Cleveland will discuss the connections they’ve recently explored between our two cities. Guiding questions include: How can writing help us to form connections across the greater region? How can focusing on literary community in two specific cities help us to think about place, writing, the contemporary moment, and more? In discussion with the audience, we’ll consider literary arts projects that could connect our cities further—and that could engage with perspectives and possibilities in the wider region.

Noah Falck is the author of Exclusions (finalist for the 2020 Believer Book Award) and the co-authored collection Prerecorded Weather (winner of the 2022 James Tate Poetry Prize). He curates the Silo City Reading Series, a multimedia poetry event series in an abandoned grain silo in Buffalo, New York.

Stephanie Ginese is an author, instructor, and stand-up comedian from South Lorain, Ohio. Her work has been featured in journals including Las Palabritas, The Pinch, and Wax Nine. Her debut collection of poetry, Unto Dogs, was released in July of 2022 on Grieveland. She is the inaugural writer-in-residence at ATNSC: Center for Healing and Creative Leadership and a 2023 Cleveland Arts Prize recipient. Currently, she lives in Cleveland with her two children. She can be found at www.sginese.com or on Sundays at Dunlap’s Corner Bar where she co-hosts the Con Tú Variety Show with her collaborator, TJ Maclin.

Joshua Thermidor is a writer and photographer of the Haitian diaspora. He believes in the dissolution of empire and the total liberation of all oppressed people. His photos have appeared in TIME, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, NBC News, and elsewhere. His writing has appeared in River Styx, the Seventh Wave, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, and elsewhere. He is an MFA Candidate in Poetry at The Iowa Writers Workshop. 

Zach Savich is the author of the poetry collection Momently (Black Ocean, 2024), among other books of poetry and nonfiction. He teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Christina Vega-Westhoff is a poet, translator, aerialist, choreographer, and educator. She is the author of Suelo Tide Cement (Nightboat), winner of the 2017 Nightboat Prize for Poetry. Her poems, translations, and performance writing have appeared in Best American Experimental Writing, Words Without Borders, Emergency INDEX, and elsewhere. Nina has taught writing in both English and Spanish through Centro de Estudios y Acción Social Panameño, University of Arizona, University of Arizona Poetry Center, Tucson Pima Arts Council, Arts for Learning Western New York, Geneseo Migrant Center, and Just Buffalo. As an aerialist and choreographer, she has been involved in performances across Western New York and teaches aerial dance at The Bird’s Nest Circus Arts.

Valentino Zullo is Assistant Professor of English, Anisfield-Wolf Fellow, and co-director of the Rust Belt Humanities Lab at Ursuline College. He co-leads the Get Graphic program at Cleveland Public Library where he was the Ohio Center for the Book Scholar-in-Residence. He is American editor of the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics and co-editor-in-chief of Rust Belt Studies. He is a licensed independent social worker in psychoanalytic training at the Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center.
Breakouts3

SAT SEP 21 / 3:30PM ET / POETRY

Poetry Breakout: Mixer & Open Mic
New this year! Looking to meet fellow writers? Want to share your work? Join our Poetry Breakout and have an opportunity to read a short excerpt of your work. This is a great way to find like minded writers, build connections and beta readers, and to share some of your writing. Limit 1 poem per reader (500 words max).

AFTERPARTY

Afterparty

5:00–9:00PM ET

SAT SEP 21 / 5:00PM ET / COMMUNITY EVENT

Afterparty Reading
Mingle with fellow writers and hear readings from Inkubator presenters at the official Inkubator Afterparty Reading, from 5-9pm (location TBA). Enjoy free appetizers and a cash bar from 5:00-6:30 then hear a stellar lineup of readers including Ruth Awad, Peter Ho Davies, Cass Donish, Madeline ffitch, Yalie Kamara, and more. Registration is required as space is limited. Select the Afterparty Reading Ticket on eventbrite to join us.

SUN

SEPT 22

COMMUNITY PROJECT

10:00AM–2:30PM ET

BooksattheMarket

SUN SEP 22 / 10:00AM ET / COMMUNITY PROJECT 4

Books at the Market
Join us the Sunday after the conference for a free book giveaway at the West Side Market in partnership with the Cleveland Public Library! CPL will give away books at a fruit and vegetable stand in the arcade, Comics at the Corner and Carol and John’s Comic Shop will have free comics, and Rust Belt Humanities Lab will be on hand for a free talk on documentary comics. Great for the whole family! Hope to see you there to close out our 10th annual Inkubator! 

FUNDERS

The Literary Cleveland Inkubator Writing Conference is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Cleveland Foundation, the Cyrus Eaton Foundation, and the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.

SPONSORS

The Literary Cleveland Inkubator Writing Conference is sponsored by The Cleveland Public Library. Our Gold Sponsor is Mac’s Backs Books. Silver Sponsors include Appletree Books, Ashland University, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Northeast Ohio MFA (NEOMFA), OverDrive, and Bronze Sponsors include Alma College, Fireside Book Shop, Hathaway Brown, and Margaret W. Wong and Associates.

Help keep the Inkubator free and support the literary community by becoming a conference sponsor. Email info@litcleveland.org for more information. 

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