Dear Friend of CityLit,
Yesterday our Board and Leadership Council concluded it was time to officially announce the postponement of our annual CityLit Festival, scheduled for March 21, 2020, until further notice, due to the coronavirus pandemic. This came with angst and rigorous conversations since we know fully what this means to our vast literary community. (See note below about registrations.)
The undertaking of the CityLit Festival, in partnership with Enoch Pratt Free Library, suggests close encounters with authors and attendees, removing barriers for challenging conversations. Social distancing is more than a notion when stories resonate in your heart and reach the humanity in each of us. CityLit is noted for engaging a larger community in those difficult stories. Our presenting authors were ready to bring it.
For you, we were poised to talk openly about bipolar disorder, the challenges and trauma of an immigration system, writing through recovery, through loss, grief, and addiction. We wanted to introduce The Slam! by Raw Poetry Productions, in a preview of their upcoming play. We had engaged 14 experts in three 90-minute intensives on craft, the how to’s of writing short stories, creative nonfiction and publishing trends. We wanted to publicly celebrate the 2019 Harriss Poetry Prize winner Burgi Zenhaeusern and her work Behind Normalcy. More than anything, we wanted you there, excited to join us, to be with us – one to one in our stand for diverse voices, storytelling, poetry and song to enjoy these featured authors. We wanted you there – safe and unharmed – to be an important part of the conversation. For this, we remain committed to rescheduling our time to bring such light to this engaged community of literary enthusiasts.
We couldn’t, in good conscience, hold a festival of this size with public health recommendations suggesting, now mandating, no large public gatherings. Our return to the Pratt, reaffirming our partnership, meant more of you would fill the room for the robust programming we had to offer.
If CityLit is anything, it is resilient. When we had the Freddie Gray uprising, we were there, ready to soften the blow of tragedy in our home. And now COVID—19 has taken root. While we’re uncertain about what’s next, you can be sure of CityLit returning on a future date with more zest than ever to bring back these artists: Nikky Finney, Susan Straight, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Casey Cep, Marwa Helal. We hope then not to have to seat you every other seat to protect you, but right in the fold of our festival of words, where authors connect with readers, where writers engage in meaningful craft talks.
For me – as the leader of this small, mission-driven organization bringing you programs that mean something to your real lives, that call on authors to open up to being vulnerable to the magic happening in a room; For us, to speak to those who are ‘on the ground’ learning and revisioning the ‘state’ of Baltimore, what it is and what it could be – we remain Here for it! Baltimore, get ready.
Until we figure this thing out, let’s not practice social distancing online. Stay in touch with us via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Write to us with ideas for panel sessions at firstname.lastname@example.org. By all means, stay tuned to what’s next with CityLit, including the launch of our new website. Stay safe, lit peeps.
You matter in a big way!
Carla Du Pree