Okay, this is sad. The literary news site LitHub has been counting down the “Fifty Biggest Literary Stories of the Year.” They have made it from 50 to 31, and Baltimore has not been mentioned even once. It may not have been the biggest and most exciting year in local literary history, but there are a few things to report.
1. Pulitzer-nominated local journalist Justin Fenton’s book, We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption, is on its way to HBO as a six-episode miniseries under the esteemed auspices of David Simon and George Pelecanos. Fenton’s story of the notorious Gun Trace Task Force has been filming on location in Baltimore, adapted by a group of writers that includes author D. Watkins.
2. Speaking of Watkins, elsewhere on HBO, The Slow Hustle, an original documentary directed by former Wire actress Sonja Sohn about the unsolved murder of Sean Suiter, contains scenes tracking Watkins as he researches his Huffington Post article about convicted GTTF officer Danny Hersl, who was connected to the Suiter case, and with whom the author has had a long and unpleasant connection.
3. Film rights to Mary Jane, Jessica Anya Blau’s novel about a Roland Park babysitter, set in 1975, sold to the 3000 Pictures division of Sony. Can’t wait to see who will play the addict rock star, the sultry actress, the Jewish shrink, the uptight Roland Park churchgoers, and the precocious 14-year-old herself.
4. Bookstores news abounded in 2021. The Ivy Bookshop moved a quarter-mile down the street to lovely wooded grounds at 5928 Falls Road. The Children’s Bookstore at 4717 Harford Road closed, then re-opened as Snug Books. Red Emma’s won grants from five different local foundations to purchase and renovate a location at 32nd and Greenmount in Waverly — the fourth and hopefully last move for the 17-year-old worker cooperative. A Baltimore location of Busboys and Poets opened at 3224 St. Paul in Charles Village, and Ukazoo closed its Loch Raven store for good.
5. Local author and former Goucher prof Kathy Flann made the New York Times Wirecutter’s holiday gift list with her humor title, “How to Survive a Human Attack,” a satirical self-help manual for zombies, werewolves, cyborgs, mutants, and mummies. According to the Times, “From an anatomical diagram of a human (the stomach is labeled “bacon”) to species-specific advice (like internet-usage tips for a centuries-old vampire), each page of the book drips with whimsy.”
6. In October, the University of Baltimore MFA program in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts threw itself a Sweet Sixteen birthday party in the big backyard at Racer’s Cafe in Parkville. International spoken word artist Lady Brion hosted a performance by published alumni, including Judith Krummeck, Timmy Reed, Nikki Richard, Tracy Gold, Anthony Moll, Christine Lincoln, Steven Leyva, D Watkins, and new Coppin State professor Kondwani Fidel.
7. New York Times bestselling local author and activist Wes Moore (The Other Wes Moore, 2010; The Work, 2014) announced a Democratic bid for Maryland governor.
8. While Baltimore Book Festival stayed on Covid hiatus, the CityLit Project, run by the inexhaustible Carla du Pree, mounted a month-long, virtual and live CityLit Festival Reimagined II with numerous partnerships throughout March, and online literary content-driven events throughout the year.
Happy New Year, and happy reading in 2022!