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Happy New Year!

July marks a turn of the fiscal calendar for most nonprofits.  And just like January 1, this time of year beckons memories of FY2009 and looks forward to diaper-swaddled baby FY10.

Last year marked significant programmatic and organizational growth for CityLit.  During the summer we concluded an eight-month process of reviewing CityLit’s goals and objectives toward adopting a new strategic plan, which you can download here (scroll to the bottom of page). The planning process was facilitated by Heather Iliff from Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations so that CityLit continues to develop in accordance to MANO’s Standards of Excellence.

September is Baltimore Book Festival time and last year CityLit hosted a second stage, School of Lit.  The stage featured faculty and student writers from area colleges in an effort to get the great literary art being created on campuses out into the community.  The stage was a huge success, as was the regular CityLit Stage, despite some of the hardest rain ever seen (and heard).  Partners Urbanite and Baltimore Chop (now relocated and better known as Cyclops) again made for an energetic presence on the Washington Monument circle. One of the more memorable moments: board member Bunky Markert leading the LitCity Band with singer Mindy Riesenberg, marketing director at the Walters Art Museum.

In October, as part of Free Fall Baltimore, CityLit presented a screening of the documentary “Helvetica” at The Charles.  The free feature explored the way the world’s most ubiquitous typeface, Helvetica, influences our lives daily.  A panel discussion afterward with Jed Dietz, director of the Maryland Film Festival; Ed Gold, director of the MFA in Integrated Design at the University of Baltimore; and CityLit’s Gregg Wilhelm discussed the crossroads of film, graphic design, and literature.

Also in October, CityLit commenced a new variation of its youth program CityLit Teens.  Over the course of twelve weeks, writing workshops were taught to youth at the Pennsylvania Avenue and Southeast Anchor locations of Pratt Library.  Teens learned to write various types of poetry and experimented with longer prose forms.  They then took photographs and decided on a title for what became an actual book of their very own literary art.  The result, Open Mic / Open Minds, was presented to participants at CityLit Festival in the spring.  The thrill of seeing their work in print gets young people excited about reading and writing.  Support from the Quality of Life Giving Circle made the program possible, but new sources of consistent support will be required to develop and implement CityLit Teens on a broader scale.

The final part of a busy October involved CityLit’s first-ever Annual Appeal campaign.  This collaborative effort of CityLit’s board of directors reached out to all those we served in the last five years during a time when all organizations like CityLit needed help the most.  Thank you for being part of an effort that generated an incredible 10% response rate.  Your response further validated that our programs are wanted, well attended, and important parts of Baltimore’s arts community.

November brought the annual Baltimore Writers’ Conference with partners Towson University and Johns Hopkins University.  Held at terrific facilities on Towson University’s campus, the day offers sessions in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and business issues plus “quick critiques” for writers working in several genres.  Keynoter Larry Doyle, former writer for “The Simpsons” and author of I Love You, Beth Cooper, got the day off to a humorous start.  Conduct this high-quality conference in New York City and expect to pay three times as much; however, BWC presenters want to keep the conference as affordable as possible.  If you are a writer in the area, don’t miss BWC!

CityLit exhibited at the Baltimore Museum of Art’s “60 Objects / Countless Stories” launch in January.  BMA’s dynamic new Acoustiguide audio tour of some of the most beloved works in the Museum’s collection includes art-inspired stories and poems by Baltimore writers, including CityLit’s own board member Michael Salcman.  In February, executive director Gregg Wilhelm trekked to the Eastern Shore for an annual presentation at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference in Wye.  BTO continues to grow every year and is officially part of the Eastern Shore Writers’ Association.  Most of the rest of the winter was taken up with development of the new web site, which received a sneak peek in March and a soft launch in April.

CityLit’s staff, board, partners, and friends gathered for a wonderful party celebrating the organization’s fifth anniversary in March.  “Manuscripts and Martinis” at The Walters Art Museum featured a free tour of the new “Saint John’s Bible” exhibit and readings by Tim Wendell, Jen Michalski, and Jason Tinney.  Andrew Grimm, of the appropriately lit-named June Star, provided music for the evening.  Lots of fun, but hard to believe.  Five years!?!?!

CityLit Festival in April drew a record 3168 to the annual day-long celebration of literature at Enoch Pratt Free Library, which co-presents the program.  While Pulitzer winner Junot Diaz and National Book Award winner Mark Doty were smash hits, the entire day buzzed with activity.  The bustling Literary Marketplace hosted more than 60 exhibitors, while poetry readings and panels on topics from the new First Lady to the state of our book culture took place throughout the grand library.  In the midst of recession, we were still able to offer our trademark slate of quality, diverse programs to the public for free.

Also at CityLit Festival, several winners of the first Maryland Young Writers' Contest were recognized. Ten of the eighteen winners read their literary art to a packed Central Hall at Pratt Library.  A collaboration between CityLit and Baltimore's Child, the Maryland Young Writers' Contest attracted a whopping 400 submissions from around the state in both prose and poetry categories.  Entries were judged in high school, middle school, and elementary school age groups.

Later that month, CityLit closed out the series of “Cruellest Month” poetry readings hosted by the Towson Arts Collective and Furniture Press.  Held at French Press Cafe in Towson, poets Ned Balbo, Jane Satterfield, and Kathy Cottle read with student poets from Loyola College and Goucher College.  T.S. Eliot may have called April the cruelest month, but the series in celebration of National Poetry Month was anything but cruel.

In May, we conducted "Anatomy of a Book Contract," a workshop on legal issues for writers co-presented with Maryland Lawyers for the Arts.  The workshop was held at the Howard County Arts Council, a new partner as we extend CityLit’s reach through the metro area.  Later that month, CityLit executive director Gregg Wilhelm presented a session at the Maryland Writers’ Association’s annual conference, one of the literary arts scene’s highlights of the year.

Also in May, the new CityLit web site started really getting up to speed thanks to the work of Goucher College intern Emily Mullin.  Created by Mission Media and funded by generous support from the Baltimore Community Foundation, the web site extended CityLit’s mission to writers and readers, while complementing the organization’s other efforts to bring readers and writers together.

In June, CityLit and the Maryland State Arts Council hosted the first-ever Baltimore Metro Literary Arts Summit (more here).  As the scene expands, we want to ensure that the community’s needs are met while sustaining a spirit of collaboration that has been vital to the scene’s resurgence.  One attendee even reported that his networks in other cities are taking note of what’s happening in Baltimore and hoping that something similar could happen in their towns.  Sure, there’s a lot we need to continue to do in Baltimore, but there’s no denying that we are all nurturing the culture of literature here. 

Also in June, CityLit officially joined Twitter to further its Internet presence along with its new web site and Facebook page.  Emily has been leading those initiatives, too.

Meanwhile, during this buzz of activity, the “Write Here, Write Now” workshops for adults took place throughout the year at Creative Alliance in the city and locations around the metropolitan area. The purpose of the workshops is to create and sustain a community of writers in Baltimore, and give each member a place to develop their voice and vision in a non-academic setting. Productive, supportive feedback and encouragement are offered to writers, who can take workshops in a variety of genres that explore technique, craft, and professional development.  Last year, four such workshops were conducted and this year the plan is to offer six workshops.

Which leads to some of this year’s programs:

July 6 and 7 – Mini-Workshop for Youth at St. Francis Neighborhood Center

July 16 – Start of new “Write Here, Write Now” series of workshops with 10-Minute Mania and playwright Mark Scharf

September 25-27 – Baltimore Book Festival

October – CityLit Teens (Details TBA)

October 24 – Lit at the Lantern Parade

November 14 – Baltimore Writers’ Conference

January 1 – Join the literary community for First Day Poetry at Creative Alliance

April 17 – CityLit Festival

Spring 2010 – Launch of first titles from CityLit Press

So, mark your calendars, send a tweet, tell a friend.  Stay up-to-date with all of CityLit’s programs at

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