About Us

Literary Cleveland is a nonprofit organization and creative writing center that empowers people to explore other voices and discover their own. Through an expanding roster of multi-level classes, workshops and events, Literary Cleveland assists writers and readers at all stages of development, promotes new and existing literature of the highest quality, and advances Northeast Ohio as a vital center of diverse voices and visions.

The Past

Literary Cleveland didn’t just spring up on its own, it has a rich history that goes back decades. In 1974, the Poets League of Greater Cleveland started as a volunteer nonprofit organization serving the needs of the literary community in greater Cleveland. In 1991, the Poets League merged with the Cleveland Writers' Center to form the Poets & Writers League of Greater Cleveland. Eventually, the group was rechristened The Lit, housed in a townhouse on Fairhill Road in Cleveland and later in a loft on Superior Avenue.

When The Lit unfortunately dissolved in 2011, there remained a need for affordable writing classes and support in the region. Exactly four years later, in August of 2015, Literary Cleveland was formed with a commitment to elevate and serve the Northeast Ohio community of writers and readers. That fall, Literary Cleveland partnered with the Cleveland Public Library to hold the first Cleveland Inkubator, a free, day-long conference of writing workshops, author readings, book sales and general community engagement for professional and aspiring writers and the public. Today, the conference has expanded to become one of the largest free writing festivals in the country.

Since becoming a nonprofit in 2016, the organization has continued to expand the range of writing workshops, networking events, and author readings it offers annually. ​In 2017, Lit Cleveland introduced a Cleveland Stories, a neighborhood-based writing program; a staged reading series with Cleveland Humanities Festival; and Gordon Square Review, an online literary journal. In 2019, a new website was designed, and reader series courses were added to the curriculum. In 2020, Lit Cleveland developed the Neighborhood Voices writing project in collaboration with the Cleveland Public Library.

The Present

Today, Lit Cleveland is an active and thriving organization. We have over 700 members and a wide range of collaborations and major funders. We now run over 100 programs a year and serve more than 3,000 individuals annually throughout Northeast Ohio. Working out of our small office on the east side of greater Cleveland, we offer classes and workshops at venues throughout the city to writers of all backgrounds, genres, aesthetics, and experience levels.

Our annual programs include the Cleveland Inkubator conference, the Cleveland Stories place-based neighborhood writing program, a staged reading at the Cleveland Humanities Festival, and our A Lit Summer Night fundraiser. Lit Cleveland also supports the Gordon Square Review literary journal to provide publishing opportunities for local writers.

Literary Cleveland is graciously supported by the George Gund Foundation, Ohio Humanities Council, Ohio Arts Council, Cleveland Public Library, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture and other partners and supporters.

The Future

Our plans include:

  • Enhancing classes for writers
  • Expanding new classes for readers
  • Amplifying the voices and stories of historically marginalized groups  
  • Developing fellowship and scholarship programs to make our programs more accessible
  • Partnering with more literary organizations locally and nationally

Become an instructor for Lit Cle

Literary Cleveland seeks proposals on a quarterly basis for a) workshops/classes aimed at helping writers develop their writing skills in all genres, b) classes for readers based upon a certain author’s work or a topic of interest, and c) craft talks about the business of marketing and publishing.

Lit Cleveland encourages proposals from those with teaching experience who represent diverse backgrounds, points of view, pursuits, and affiliations. We offer programming at venues on Cleveland’s east and west sides as well as remotely online via Zoom.

Proposal submissions will be reviewed on a quarterly basis. Payment is provided for classes. To learn more about submitting a proposal, please email Matt Weinkam at mweinkam@litcleveland.org.

Meet Our Team

Ryan Kearns

Development Associate

Ryan Kearns worked in fundraising roles with The Fine Arts Association, Rainey Institute, and the Rochester Philharmonic. He performs as a violinist in the Canton and Mansfield Symphonies. In addition, Ryan also teaches the violin and advocates for the composers and musicians affected by the World Wars. Ryan's favorite authors include David Fanning, Daniel Elphick, Rainer Maria Rilke, Billy Collins, and C. S. Lewis.

Michelle R. Smith

Programming Associate

Michelle R. Smith is a writer, educator, cultural facilitator, and native Clevelander. She is the author of the poetry collections Ariel in Black (2015) and The Vagina Analogues (2020), and the creator of BLAX MUSEUM, an annual performance showcase dedicated to honoring notable black figures in American history and culture. Michelle’s favorite writers include Toni Morrison, Ntozake Shange, Sylvia Plath, Terrance Hayes, and Saeed Jones.

Matt Weinkam

Executive Director

Matt Weinkam is a writer, editor, instructor and the executive director of Literary Cleveland. His work has been published in Denver Quarterly, Sonora Review, New South, DIAGRAM, and Electric Literature. He holds an MA in creative writing from Miami University, an MFA in fiction from Northern Michigan University, and he has taught creative writing as far away as Sun Yat-sen University in Zhuhai, China. Contact Matt at mweinkam@litcleveland.org.