George Saunders Is Coming to Town…and Other CityLit Fest Highlights

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Book lovers rejoice: your own local Lollapalooza is upon us — minus drugs and dancing. The 10th annual CityLit Festival happens tomorrow at the Enoch Pratt Central branch on Cathedral St. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Each year Gregg Wilhelm — dogged CityLit Project founder — and crew present an ultra-impressive array of authors from Baltimore and well beyond, including panel discussions, readings, and writer Q&As. If you’ve never attended before, don’t miss the mind-blowing + free literary blowout that books an important author or two for everyone’s diverse interests.

Because the long day’s list can prove overwhelming, we’ll highlight a handful of our favorites, but the whole scene sounds really engaging – and you can grab the full list of events and room assignments here, courtesy of CityLit.

By 11 a.m. you should feel fully caffeinated and ready for remarkable memoirist Leigh Newman, whose acclaimed Still Points North chronicles her wildly adventurous youth spent at posh Baltimore schools while living with her mother and vacations hunting and fishing and flying in Alaska with her dad. Newman and JHU writer-in-residence Tim Wendel will discuss the importance of place in writing.

Midday is a coin-toss of opulent options. At 12:45, The Kids Are Alright YA-writing panel features experts in the extremely popular genre: Elisabeth Dahl, whose fab first novel, Genie Wishes, depicts Baltimore private school life through a fresh, clean lens; poet/fiction writer Laurel Snyder, the author of three cool novels for children; writer and “amateur [local] historian” Neil Didriksen; and Jonathon Scott Fuqua, whose latest book, Calvert the Raven in the Battle of Baltimore, sounds pretty charming.

At 1 p.m., beloved Baltimore writer Jen Michalski and Guggenheim-winning poet/novelist Terese Svoboda discuss their works that each braid two stories for the price of one: In Michalski’s case a set of two novellas titled You Could Be with Her Now, in Svoboda’s a novel called Tin God that interweaves two rich narratives. WAIT, also recommended: from 11:30-12:30 Michalski and co-host Michael Kimball offer up fiction writers extraordinaire as part of their excellent/ongoing 510 Reading series.

From 2-3, the marvelous New Mercury nonfiction series, co-hosted by Deborah Rudacille and John Barry, serves up readings by David Sterritt, chair of the National Society of Film Critics and chief book critic of Film Quarterly; Karen Houppert, whose third book, Chasing Gideon: The Elusive Quest for Poor People’s Justice, “investigates the national crisis in indigent defense”; and hilarious Baltimore-based comic and commentator Jim Meyer. (We can’t wait to know more about Sterritt’s well-reviewed book on Spike Lee!)

Last but not least, and definitely not least famous…don’t miss “writer’s writer” and official fest headliner George Saunders at 3 p.m., especially if you yourself are an aspiring fiction writer. MacArthur-winning Saunders, whose fourth celebrated collection of short fiction Tenth of December’s heart-incinerating title story earned a spot in the Best American anthology, has carved his name not only as a reviver of the short form but, in interviews, as a spiritual guru of sorts to creatives hungry to understand their hero’s mind and motivations (as well as their own).

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