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. In 2021, Lit Cleveland developed Voices from the Edge, an anthology of writing by Northeast Ohio essential workers. In 2022, Lit Cleveland launched a new yearlong Breakthrough Writing Residency, introduced scholarships for classes, and moved the Inkubator conference to Cleveland Book Week.
Today, Lit Cleveland is an active and thriving organization. We have over 900 members, run over 200 programs a year, and serve more than 5,000 individuals annually throughout Northeast Ohio. Our goal is to advance the skills and careers of local writers and transform our community through storytelling.
Toni Morrison, Celeste Ng, Anthony Doerr, Susan Orlean, Rita Dove and more all got their start here in Northeast Ohio. We offer writing workshops, reading classes, internships, fellowships, and publishing opportunities to help develop the next generation of world-class writers. Key programs include multi-level workshops, six-month intensives, and annual genre festivals in Flash Fiction, Poetry, and Flash Nonfiction. Gordon Square Review literary journal provides editing and publishing opportunities for local writers. And our Breakthrough Writing Residency builds the careers of six emerging writers in Northeast Ohio through free yearlong mentorship as they work on debut book-length manuscripts.
How many vital stories haven’t been told due to a lack of access to writing and publishing opportunities? Literary Cleveland removes barriers to entry and offers free and low-cost programs outside the academy. Low and limited-income Northeast Ohio writers can apply for Word for Word Scholarships to attend our paid classes for free. Our Amplify Projects series provides funding and support to members of historically underrepresented groups in the writing and publishing industry so they can create programs for their communities. Our 2021 program Voices from the Edge paid essential workers to write about their experiences on the front lines of the pandemic. And free programs for immigrants, Veterans, and Black women, and more elevate their stories in an effort to help achieve social justice.
Reading and writing can build bridges, break down barriers, and transform ourselves, our city, and our world. Literary Cleveland works to build community through city-wide literary arts programs and partnerships. Our annual Inkubator Writing Conference is one of the largest free writing conferences in the country, presented during Cleveland Book Week in collaboration with Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards and the Great Lakes African American Writers Conference. Our Cleveland Stories place-based neighborhood writing program provides free workshops to neighborhood residents, giving them the opportunity to write and past, present, and futureof their community. We also regularly partner with Cleveland Public Library, Cuyahoga County Public Library, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center, the LGBT Community Center, One Mic Open, local bookstores and many more to create a more vibrant literary arts community in Greater Cleveland.
Literary Cleveland is graciously supported by the Cleveland Foundation, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, The Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Neighbor Up, Ohio Arts Council, Ohio Humanities Council, and other partners and supporters.
Our 2024-2026 strategic plan priorities include:
If people with power and privilege are the only ones who shape our individual and cultural narratives, things won’t change. That is why we work to remove barriers to access, engage in equitable systems of power, and amplify the voices of those who have been oppressed. Our goals are to 1) Invest in equity at all levels within the organization, and 2) Provide accessible, equitable, & inclusive programming.
Everyone deserves access to excellent literary arts programs. That is why Literary Cleveland works to create the highest quality writing workshops, events, conferences, fellowships, residencies, and festivals for those in Northeast Ohio and beyond. Our goals are to 1) Improve the quality of all programs and 2) Develop advanced opportunities for writers.
The talent of Cleveland writers and the vibrancy of our literary community deserves national attention. At the same time, elevating the profile of our authors and our city will require national resources. That is why we work to connect the local literary community with the national literary ecosystem to bring greater talent, support, and opportunities to Cleveland. Our goals are to 1) Bridge local and national writing communities, and 2) Advance national positioning to serve writers at all levels.
Expanding our impact cannot happen without investing in the people who make it possible. That is why we work to equip the organization with the financial resources necessary to attract and retain high quality board members, staff members, and teaching artists to ensure the long-term sustainability of Literary Cleveland. Our goals are to 1) Build capacity for the board to serve the organization, 2) Invest in staff, and 3) Build a strong financial future for Literary Cleveland.
Literary Cleveland seeks proposals on a 4-month semester 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 three times a year: February (for classes May-August), June (for classes September-December), and October (for classes January-April). Payment is provided for classes. To learn more about submitting a proposal, please email Matt Weinkam at email@example.com. To submit a class proposal for May-August 2024, complete this form by January 29.
Caira, a writer originally from Baltimore, dedicated 6 years in Ghana, West Africa, to helping women-led businesses launch their social media presences. She is the author of the book Slaying With No Dents in My Afro, and her TEDx Talk has been featured by The Huffington Post and For Harriet. She’s represented Cleveland at Brave New Voices poetry festival & National Poetry Slam and was Ohio’s state champion for NEA Poetry Out Loud competition.
Danny Caine is the author of the poetry collections Continental Breakfast, El Dorado Freddy's, Flavortown, and Picture Window, as well as the books How to Protect Bookstores and Why and How to Resist Amazon and Why. His poetry has appeared in The Slowdown, LitHub, DIAGRAM, HAD, and Barrelhouse. He's a co-owner of the Raven Book Store, Publishers Weekly's 2022 bookstore of the year.
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 is a writer, poet, 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.