CityLit Project nurtures the culture of literature in Baltimore and throughout Maryland.
We create enthusiasm for the literary arts, connect a community of avid readers and writers, and design opportunities for diverse audiences to embrace the literary arts. While this mission remains a steadfast charge, how we create enthusiasm and connect communities evolves to reflect the spirit of the times.
CityLit is ever committed to creating a vibrant, diverse literary community of emerging and established writers and securing ways readers can interact with their favorite authors, while being introduced to writers they have not yet discovered.
Public and private funding allows CityLit to expand its growing network of artists by offering an array of creative programming on relevant topics. We deliver informative and compelling events that are accessible and largely free at unique venues around Baltimore, welcoming newcomers and returning participants alike.
CityLit invests in audiences who grow to trust our choices in ‘discovering’ writers. Our events are an experience.
And yes, we go deep.
There’s something about seeing promise in a writer, inviting them onto a platform and watching them grow into their art. It’s equally remarkable to invite an author to speak their truth and watch them excite and inform a community who didn’t know their name.
Carla Du Pree, CityLit Project Executive Director
CityLit Project was born out of a need to bring literature to the forefront of the arts community. In 2004, we started out a group of four lit lovers, determined to bring the best writers to a small city, big enough to hold a book festival. We found fellowship with poets and writers who were eager to create enthusiasm for the joy of a good book and the thrill of a live reading.
Over the years we leaned into hard times, but always and in all ways – in the spirit of literature – we kept it moving. In 2007 we hit our stride, bringing great authors to Baltimore – big names like Paul Rusesabagina, George Saunders, Edward P. Jones, Mark Doty, James McBride and later Claudia Rankine, Elizabeth Acevedo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Philip Gourevitch.
Our momentum continues. More recently we’ve celebrated authors Cynthia Bond, Dani Shapiro, Roxane Gay, Nikky Finney, Susan Straight, along with poets Patricia Smith, Dominique Christina, Kondwani Fidel and musicians Christen B, Jahiti and Joy Ike.
We’re writers who know what writers need, offering accessible instruction through Master Classes, one-on-one critique sessions, writer to writer connections, exposure to funding sources and publishers, and 90-minute craft intensives that inspire writers to bring their best selves to the page.
Our Festival and Stage have grown to offer full days of countless well-curated panels that educate readers and writers alike. In a 2019 panel of five Arab American women writers, one, who’s held her place on the NYT bestseller list, declared openly that it was a first – in her tour across the country – to be showcased with her people. In response to another dynamic panel in 2018, the audience valued the session both because of the content and the fact that more than one Asian American writer was on the platform. Attendees often tell us they have no words for what they’ve experienced, just that they want more.
In this way, we not only value literature but provide a space for meaningful discussions about the power of ‘story’ and what it means for our lives and the world today. We welcome writers who challenge our way of thinking about incarceration, the transgender community, mental illness and how we approach “other” — writers who force us to wake up to real talk, real issues, real stories, your stories.
We know how literature makes a difference — how radical it can be to place books into the hands of our youth, to honor the work of our elders, and to identify the many cultural forces at work in the city. When a black woman in an audience on a wintry day says in no uncertain terms the conversation made her feel “seen”, when people share the first time they recognized themselves in literature and how it resonated, and when a new writer risks standing up to read a draft among strangers, and finds community, we know we are doing the work.
We bridge voices and experiences on a single platform where we sit in a room and learn what it is to be human, what it’s like to care about someone who looks nothing like us yet every bit like us. And we grow, united as ever in the written word, in the joy of discovering ‘new’ writers, and in the unstoppable pleasure of realizing that community is formed when sharing poetry, spoken word, scholarly and literary work, and music, in a room big enough to hold us all.
BETWEEN DC AND NEW YORK, THERE IS CITYLIT
CityLit serves a vast and growing literary community in Baltimore, across Maryland, and throughout the mid-Atlantic region. We’re thankful for the vision of founder Gregg Wilhelm and for the wherewithal of founding board members who were key in helping sustain CityLit in the way only stewards of a great ship can do. Bunky Markert, Chic Dambach, and Kwame Alexander saw even then what a small town like Baltimore could do for an arts community that made room for a little knot of lit lovers, saw before it came to be a thing that literature belonged to the world, not a select few; who envisioned a practice where writers would grow in their craft and find the support they needed in unexpected places. We’re also grateful to our loyal donors who’ve long understood our mission, and the undeniable importance of this work.