Baltimore’s CityLit Festival has returned this year with a month-long series of events to inspire, teach, and connect the city’s literary community.
During the live and virtual festival, renowned authors will explore the theme “How We Break Free: Confronting Hard Truths” through workshops, discussions, and readings.
The festival’s first 90-minute craft intensive — a virtual event featuring Matt Bell, Melissa Febos, Dean Smith, and Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai — will be held on Tuesday, March 8, at 7 p.m. The event, titled “Writing, Revising, & Editing Your Story,” will be moderated by CityLit Project’s Aditya Desai.
The festival’s March 12 keynote event, “The 1619 Project: Confronting Hard Truths,” features Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and creator of The 1619 Project, an ongoing multimedia project in The New York Times Magazine to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery.
Hannah-Jones will be in conversation with historian and Johns Hopkins University professor Martha S. Jones at Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Central Branch on Cathedral Street at 2 p.m.
“We’re beyond thrilled to feature Nikole Hannah-Jones’ groundbreaking work that revisits, reframes, and confronts this nation’s past and its legacy of slavery,” Carla Du Pree, CityLit Project’s executive director, said in a press release.
“We’re also ecstatic by the burgeoning enthusiasm surrounding this work, how it has fostered a wider, more cohesive creative community that exists in Baltimore,” Du Pree said.
The keynote address is part of a full day of programming at the Pratt on March 12.
At 10 a.m. that day, author and curator Saima Adil Sitwat will present “Becoming American,” a series of short videos and vignettes of ten immigrant women who live in Maryland, in the Pratt’s Wheeler Auditorium.
At the same time, CityLit will host virtual one-on-one editorial critique sessions, in which writers can have five pages of poetry or prose critiqued. One-on-one critiques cost $10 and registration is required.
At noon, writers can join a live 90-minute craft intensive, “The ‘Real’ Business of Writing Creative Nonfiction,” in the Pratt’s Creative Arts Center. Four essayists and journalists — Ron Cassie, senior editor at Baltimore magazine; Rebekah Kirkman, managing editor of BmoreArt; Kristina R. Gaddy, author of “Flowers in the Gutter”; and Angela Carroll, artist-archivist, writer, and curator — will explore the craft of writing creative nonfiction.
Also at noon, a live and virtual panel will discuss Black girlhood and the panelists’ new works of poetry, films, and stories. The panel — titled “Black Girls: Bone Black & Breathing” in tribute to feminist bell hooks — features Nia June, Glory Edim, Dr. DaMaris B. Hill, and Jamesha Caldwell.
This year’s CityLit Master Class will be hosted by Kiese Laymon, award-winning novelist and author of the bestselling memoir, “Heavy: An American Memoir,” on March 15. The workshop will “explore the necessity of investigating virtue and villainy in our writings about home” through discussions about craft, Q&A, writing exercises, and handouts.
On March 29, there will be a live “finale,” “How We Get Free,” at The Motor House Theater on North Avenue. The event, “designed to leave attendees perched on the wings of hope and possibility,” features authors Kristoffer Carter, Christine Platt, and Chloe Dulce Louvouezo. The finale will begin with a 30-minute coaching session by Carter, a Fortune 100 executive coach and meditation expert.
The festival’s final event, “Killing Rage,” a nod to bell hooks, will celebrate the start of National Poetry Month on April 1 at Busboys and Poets. “Killing Rage” will open with musical guest Live Water, followed by guest poets Jasmine Mans, Burgi Zenhaeusern, Marjan Naderi, Arao Ameny, Dora Malech, Bobbi Rush, and Truth Thomas.
CityLit Festival’s events are free, with the exception of one-on-one critiques and Laymon’s Master Class, which each cost $10.