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A bookish yet social engagement

The Baltimore Sun

Gregg Wilhelm wants literary arts to step out of the shadows of its more sociable cousins.

He's the helmsman of CityLit Festival V, a daylong celebration of the written word, which takes over the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Central Library on Saturday.

"Literary arts are just as important and creative and enlightening as going to the BMA or Center Stage," said Wilhelm. "But they have this weird dilemma of often being created and consumed in solitude."

The festival, which includes panel discussions, workshops, readings and appearances by several local authors, aims to show the public that literary arts can function as a more community-based activity.

"Reading is a passive action. Let's get it to be more active, more balanced and more interesting to kids and adults," said Wilhelm.

Children can attend a reading by award-winning children's author Carole Boston Weatherford. And adults can attend a bevy of events, such as the Poet's Ink Workshop, where they can get their works critiqued, and poetry readings.

Former Sun reporters Dan Fesperman and Laura Lippman, as well as Manil Suri - University of Maryland, Baltimore County mathematician by day, novelist by night - will read from and comment on their latest novels during a conversation hosted by Tom Hall, culture editor for WYPR-FM's Maryland Morning.

"It's a demonstration of not can you only write in Baltimore, but you can also be a critically acclaimed author," said Wilhelm of the panel discussion. "It's important to showcase local talent where it reaches national and international fame."

Suri, whose latest novel, The Age of Shiva, came out this year, says the event gives people a chance to deepen their relationship with literacy. "It encourages people to get into reading more," he said. "In today's world, with all the media outlets that people have, reading is something that is very important to preserve."

Other speakers include prominent neurosurgeon/writer Dr. Ben Carson, Baltimore-born poet Afaa Michael Weaver, best-selling authors S. James Guitard and Victoria Christopher Murray, and former Sun reporter and author of My Guy Barbaro John Eisenberg, who will discuss his new book with WBAL sports reporter Keith Mills.

Diane Scharper will conduct a workshop on writing personal essays using her new edited collection of works, Reading Lips, And Other Ways to Overcome a Disability, as a source of inspiration. In one segment, emerging literary artists who take part in "Write Here, Write Now" workshops will read their work.

In "Poetry by Place," spoken-word artists from the local scene recite their pieces.

The Literary Marketplace will bustle with poets, self-published writers, authors, writing organizations and others peddling literary arts-related items, such as magazines and journals. And 24 students from grades four through 12 will receive recognition for their participation in Letters About Literature, a contest in which students send letters to their favorite authors explaining why they liked their works.

Wilhelm hopes the festival opens a lot of minds. "You're broadening people's horizons when they think of literary arts," he said. "I hope they leave with the idea that literary arts are just as diverse and engaging as any other artistic endeavors that are happening in Baltimore."

The festival runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at Enoch Pratt Free Library's Central Library, 400 Cathedral St. Free and open to the public. Call 410-274-5691or go to

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