On being a literary citizen

The theme of being a “literary citizen” set the tone for a recent panel discussion at Wright State University on Feb. 19.

I attended for a variety of reasons: my alma mater is Wright State, I know most of the panelists, but most importantly I like being a literary citizen. Yes, I spend all of my working hours on literary efforts of some sort — writing fiction, writing this column or serving as executive director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop — and yet the best way to keep my creativity and energy fresh is to be part of the greater literary community in our area.

The panelists included Nathan Floom and Jason Teal, founding editors of Heavy Feather Review; Hannah Stephenson, organizer of the reading series Paging Columbus! in Columbus; Fred Kirchner, poet organizer of Gem City Poetry Stage — poetry readings held usually the third Sunday of each month at Ghostlight Coffee in Dayton; and Dennis Loranger, editor of the soon-to-be-launch literary online journal Mad River Review at Wright State. The event was organized by Erin Flanagan, a creative writing professor at Wright State and well-published short story author (her newest collection is “It’s Not Going to Kill You”) and by Chris DeWeese, also a Wright State creative writing professor and a poet with many poems published in literary journals and in collections, including Black Forest. Chris also moderated the panel.

The discussion, attended by about 80 people, focused on tips about how to start and run literary publications and literary readings, as well as other aspects of living a literary life.

Highlights of advice for literary citizens of all stripes:

Nathan: “Read widely and inform yourself about what other writers like you are doing. Most literary magazines fold in the first three years; keeping one going is a labor of love and requires a lot of care and dedication.”

Jason: “Make whatever you’re creating — your own writing, a publication — something that is enjoyable for you to work on, something you want to put your heart into.”

Hannah: “It can be scary at first to plunge into a writing community, but it’s worth the effort to overcome that fear, and go to a reading or other event, and start meeting fellow writers.”

Dennis: “If a piece of writing bothers you, as a writer, editor or reader, it’s important to ask yourself why, to confront your own biases about types of writing, or think about why a piece didn’t work for you. That’s a great way to learn about yourself. Also, being a writer requires a community, finding other writers to connect with. It’s important to be flexible and open about letting that community develop.”

Fred: “Checking out events at libraries and coffee shops is a great way to find smaller groups that might be easier to ease into. I love organizing Gem City Poetry Stage because putting on poetry readings is really about making a space — literal and otherwise — for poets and readers to connect.”

And speaking of places for writers, readers and supporters of the literary arts to connect, consider attending some of these events. You’ll be sure to walk away with a new or refreshed outlook, and perhaps some new reading material, or even new connections with other literary lovers:

Upcoming Literary Events

• Thursday, March 6, 6:30 p.m., Antioch University Midwest (900 Dayton St., Yellow Springs) — Author Eileen Cronin will discuss and sign her just-released memoir, “Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience.” An Oprah recommended read, Mermaid tells Eileen’s story that is both traumatic and wildly funny about her journey of self-discovery as a person born without legs. The event is free and open to the public.

• Sunday, March 9, 2-3:30 p.m., Books & Co. at The Greene—Representatives from Antioch Writers’ Workshop (www.antiochwritersworkshop.com) will share information about the organization’s upcoming “Paths To Publishing” March 22 one-day seminar and its 29th Annual Summer Workshop, July 12-18, sharing details about faculty, schedules, programming, opportunities and scholarships.

• Sunday, March 9, 2 p.m., Wright Memorial Public Library (1776 Far Hills Ave., Oakwood)—Local artist, author and poet Pete Mitas will read from his new book Spirited Nonsense, inspired by the stories of O. Henry, the poems of Shel Silverstein, Mad Magazine and The Onion. He will be available for a signing afterwards. The program is free and no advance registration is required.

• Upcoming Author Events at Books & Co. at The Greene

• Friday, March 7, 7 p.m.—Kathy and Brendan Reichs will introduce their newest book, Exposure, the fourth book in their popular Virals Series for young readers.

• Monday, March 10, 7 p.m.— Susan Crandall will introduce the softcover edition of Whistling Past the Graveyard, a coming-of-age story narrated by 9-year-old Starla Claudelle.

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