A New View on Literature in Youngstown
By Amanda Lehnerd
Lit Youngstown is a nonprofit literary arts organization that was founded by Karen Shubert in 2015. The main focus of the organization is the traditional literary arts influence in Youngstown.
Shubert is the one of the founding co-directors and the creator of Lit Youngstown. She wanted to create a place for people in our community to be able to share their literary art and connect with accredited writers.
“Even though there is so much incredible writing going on at a university, most people don’t get to stay there,” Shubert said. “Many people miss the connection they have with the literary community, and they want the feedback and want to hear some really great visiting writers, and they want to have the chance to tell everyone they had a story or book published or just to be encouraged.”
Kris Harrington, a Lit Youngstown founding co-director and a Youngstown State University English professor, has been involved with the organization since its conception.
“We have been an organization for a little over a year, and we just received our nonprofit status in November,” Harrington said. “There are three co-directors of the organization: Karen Shubert, Liz Hill and myself.”
The three founding co-directors all have individual passion projects that stem from the organization.
“Shubert is involved in readings at the Jewish community center once a month,” Harrington said. “Hill is running a storytelling project with The National Council of Negro Women. The African-American women who have lived in Youngstown can submit their stories to be put in a book.”
Harrington is project coordinator for the “Strand Project” that takes place at Selah Dessert Theatre in Struthers. Auditions are being held March 1 at 7 p.m., where anyone over the age of 17 can audition.
“We have collected individual dramatic monologues from writers all over the country,” Harrington said. “We have received more than 100 entries, and we had to cut it down to 19 to be able to create a full-length theatrical production.”
Along with personal projects, Lit Youngstown provides a prose and poetry reading at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts the first Wednesday of every month.
“Typically, we have a featured reader, then we have an hour of open microphone; where YSU Students can sign up and share their work, and the emcee is always someone in the community with an interest in what the theme is,” Harrington said.
Each spring, summer and fall the organization offers workshop classes taught by skilled writers and scholars for writers and readers of all ages and experience levels.
“This year all of the teachers are professors from YSU. This offers professors the chance to teach their dream class at an affordable price with less of a time commitment,” Shubert said.
Christopher Barzak, novelist and YSU professor, will be teaching a one-day workshop “The Business of Writing” in May.
“The workshop deals not with writing itself, but what a writer must know in order to get their writing published,” Barzak said. “I’ll be talking about query letters to agents, how to submit to magazines and journals and what to expect from a relationship with an acquiring editor at a publishing house.”
The organization is starting a new project called “Word Made Visible” and is in the process of writing an Ohio arts council grant.
“We are going to pair writers with artists, and they are going to collaborate a creative work of art that is inspired by a piece of writing,” said Shubert. “We will solicit writing that has a very strong visual component to create a new form of visual art.”