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THE GIVING SEASON: CityLit's Mission Marches On Through the Changes


In any good story, characters confront change, respond to tension, and grow into new, hopefully better, versions of themselves. That's just as true for CityLit Project, in these times, as new leadership is set to write the next chapters for this popular nonprofit literary arts organization.

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Since 2004, CityLit has worked to build and connect a community of avid readers and writers across Maryland through a wide range of programs, creating opportunities for youth and diverse audiences to embrace the written word.

CityLit presents acclaimed authors such as Pulitzer Prize winners Junot Diaz, Edward P. Jones, and Steve Coll; National Book Award winners Jaimy Gordon and Mark Doty; MacArthur "Genius" Fellows Ta-Nehisi Coates, George Saunders, Claudia Rankine and, at the 2017 CityLit Festival, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; scholars on important issues such as Jabari Asim (The N Word),
Firmin DeBrabander (Do Guns Make Us Free?), Lester Spence (Knocking the Hustle), and Lawrence Jackson (My Father's Name); award-winning writers from the region such as American Book Award Winner Susan Muaddi Darraj, Edgar and Nero Award Winner Laura Lippman, and National Book Award finalist Madison Smartt Bell; and rising talent such as Salon columnist D. Watkins and Middle-Grade author Laura Shovan.

These are writers who have helped create a dynamic, vibrant, inclusive literary arts community in Baltimore for the benefit of everyone.

Never has our mission been more important!

The cultural community possesses the creativity to help further the conversations about race, equity, and access that must continue. As USA Today reported from the CityLit Festival just days after the April 2015 Uprising in Baltimore, "we at CityLit believe that poets will lead those conversations."

CityLit welcomes your support, especially in these challenging times.

Please make a contribution today to help us continue the dialogue, provide outreach to young writers, build relationships and partnerships with emerging writers and organizations, and offer support and opportunities for writers to hone their skills and raise their voices.

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
Toni Morrison


A New Chapter…

CityLit now partners with the Maryland State Arts Council to produce the state-wide Poetry Out Loud Recitation Contest—a national poetry recitation competition for high school students co-created and cosponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation. POL teaches students about their literary heritage and builds confidence and public speaking skills. CityLit will expand upon this program, which had the fifth highest participation in the country in 2015, and currently reaches 16 of Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore City. The Maryland Poetry Out Loud Champion has reached the National Finals (nine students out of a field of 300,000-375,000), four times, placing third in the country in 2010 and second in 2013.

A New Director …

In July 2016, CityLit hired Carla Du Pree as its new Executive Director. A writer and literary arts ambassador, Carla served as Executive Director of the Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo), and as former Vice Chair of the Maryland State Arts Council.  She has worked with prominent authors such as Donald Hall, Isabel Wilkerson, Nikki Giovanni, Lucille Clifton, and Martin Espada, among others. Carla, center, is pictured at CityLit's Next Chapter fundraiser in October 2016 with new Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and CityLit founder emeritus Gregg Wilhelm.

A Diverse and Newly Invigorated Board …

(L-R): Bunky Market (immediate past chair and treasurer), Clarence Orsi (secretary),
Chelsea Lemon-Fetzer, Bobbi Nicotera (vice chair), Brian Davis Lyles (chair), Carla Du Pree (executive director), Gregg Wilhelm (founder emeritus), Holly Morse-Ellington, Dana Harris-Trovato, Peggy Hoffman, and Steven Levya Not pictured: Chic Dambach (founding chair) and Lalita Noronha.

Core Programs

CityLit Festival.  Every year at this popular, free festival, readers and writers from all over Maryland attend readings, participate in workshops, buy and sell books, and interact with nationally renowned authors, like Junot Diaz, George Saunders, Mark Doty, Ed Hirsch, and MacArthur Award winning poet Claudia Rankine. Headliners have included Poets Laureate, and winners of both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. The festival attracts 2,500-3,500 diverse attendees from across the region. Baltimore Magazine called it "a can't-miss event on the city's cultural scene,” and awarded it “Best of Baltimore” in 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2014. In 2014, City Paper also named it “Baltimore’s Best Book Festival.”

In 2016, CityLit brought MacArthur Fellow Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric, to headline the Festival with special programs at the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Pennsylvania branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library at the intersection of Pennsylvania and North Avenues, the epicenter of the protests in 2015.The program bridged social and economic divides to create meaningful experiences for attendees, giving the community a shared experience, common language, and a chance to take stock—through poetry, conversation, and writing—of Baltimore’s efforts to achieve mutual understanding among races through thoughtful reflection.  


Headline speaker for CityLit Festival in April 2017 will be award-winning Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of a short story collection and three novels, including the most recent Americanah, which won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Fiction award. Chimamanda is celebrated for her TED Talk: The Danger of a Single Story and is the winner of the 2015 ‘Best of the Best’ of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction) for Half of a Yellow Sun.

Literature and Writing Workshops for Youth and Adults. CityLit has a strong track record of presenting workshops throughout the community, including in-school and after-school opportunities for youth, professional development sessions for writers, and memoir writing classes for senior citizens. These programs have directly served 600 people and have generated a total audience of 15,000. CityLit Teens has created community among hundreds of city and suburban youth who collaborate on exploring, writing, compiling, designing, and producing their own professionally published book. But the real reward is friendship between teens who, as one young writer stated, want to meet "other weird kids like me who like to write!" (That "kid," by the way, is a junior Creative Writing major at UNC-Wilmington, one of the best undergraduate writing programs in the country.)

CityLit Press. Since 2010, CityLit Press's mission has been to provide a venue for writers who might otherwise be overlooked by larger publishers due to the literary nature or regional focus of their projects. It also holds the Harriss Poetry Prize chapbook contest, founded by Michael Salcman in honor of Clarindsa Harris. The prize has been judged by poets such as Tom Lux, Marie Howe, and Dick Allen.  CityLit Press has published work by more than 60 established and emerging writers, including youth. The most heralded book of CityLit Press is Jason Tinney’s Ripple Meets the Deep, named Best Book of 2015 by Baltimore magazine.

CityLit Stage at Baltimore Book Festival. Since its inception, CityLit has been an anchor organization and programming partner with The Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts to deliver free programming at this 3-day festival. It has presented 150 programs for this festival, which attracted over 100,000 attendees in 2015. This year alone, CityLit managed over 60 poets and authors on its CityLit Stage, and continues to be a major platform for poets and writers engaged in a diverse rendering of reading series throughout the region.

CityLit Studio. October 2016, as part of Free Fall Baltimore, CityLit presented CityLit Studio: Writers on Craft, Creativity & Community. The hour-and-a-half long session included Sheri Booker and Jen Grow, authors from two different genres, who read from their books then held intensive craft discussions for emerging and established writers. The session created an environment of engaged and interactive learning at no cost to the attendees. CityLit partnered with Eubie Blake National Jazz & Cultural Center to increase its literary footprint, City Paper to act as its media specialist, and the Ivy Bookshop to sell the presenting authors’ books. The event proved so successful that future CityLit Studios are planned for 2017.

Other achievements. Partnering with diverse organizations and artists across disciplines, CityLit has created one-off events like Lit’s Not Dead; Across Words; and Geo-Poe: A Literary Geo-Caching Adventure. Literary Arts Week, a week-long series of arts events as part of Free Fall Baltimore in partnership with 10-14 organizations, as well as production partners the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, Maryland State Arts Council, Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, and the Maryland Humanities Council.

Phew! With a line-up like that, you might expect CityLit to have a staff of dozens and a budget of $500,000.  But it doesn't.  Through expert curation, strategic partnerships, and dedicated volunteers, the nonprofit can produce experiences far beyond expectation. Many of you reading this message have been witness to that fact.

That's why every donation, no matter what the amount, is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to CityLit sustaining this level of quality, engaging programming.

Thank you for making a tax-deductible donation today.

Thank you, and please SHARE this message with those who support our work through the written and spoken word to cultivate equality in the new year.

Carla, Brian, and Gregg on behalf of CityLit's entire Board of Directors

CityLit Project is a 501© (3) Nonprofit Organization
(Federal Tax Identification Number 20-0639118)
Carla Du Pree

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