Literary scene comes together for CityLit Festival

The Baltimore Sun

Last spring, as I was getting ready to launch the Read Street blog, I stopped by the Enoch Pratt central library on a warm Saturday for the annual CityLit Festival. The lobby was filled with local writers and poets, as well as representatives of journals, publishing houses and literary organizations.

There was an amazing energy in the room. Amazing because on most days, the Baltimore area's literary community is split into bits and pieces: lectures, books clubs, poetry readings and author appearances. But the CityLit Festival, like the fall Baltimore Book Festival, brings lots of those pieces together to create a critical literary mass. It was an inspiring sight and seemed to be a good omen for the blog.

You don't have to wait long for the 2009 festival - it will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Pratt, and features Junot Diaz, who won a Pulitzer Prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Other writers include Mark Doty, whose poetry won a 2008 National Book Award; Liza Mundy, author of a Michelle Obama biography; Jennifer Baszile, author of The Black Girl Next Door; and poets Michael Collier and Elizabeth Spires.

There also is a full slate of panels, on topics ranging from publishing to cooking to youth sports. At 1:30 p.m., I'll lead a discussion of book reviews, blogging and other issues related to "What's Becoming of Our Book Culture?" Also at 1:30 p.m., Read Street partner Nancy Johnston will moderate a panel of new authors, including Jessica Anya Blau and Elissa Brent Weissman.

So drop by the festival, and, if you can, say hello to Nancy and me at the discussions.

Also this coming weekend:

The Bethesda Literary festival runs from Friday to Sunday, and featured authors include Mary Higgins Clark, Daniel Schorr, Gwen Ifill and Kimberly Dozier. Information: 301-215-6660 or

The West Virginia Book Faire is Friday and Saturday in Martinsburg. Among the featured authors are mystery writers Harlan Coben and Lisa Scottoline. Information: 304-264-8801 or wvbooks. org.

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