5 years of lessons in Dayton literature

I’ve now passed the five year mark of writing Literary Life, so I thought it might be appropriate to share what I’ve discovered in five years of writing about the writers and poets, literary events and history of the greater Dayton area.

First, a confession: when I was first asked if I’d like to write this column, I said “yes” with a bit of skepticism.

Fifty-two columns a year? Focused solely on writers from or residing in the Dayton area, who are traditionally published, or who are self-published with an exceptional platform? Focused on writing workshops, literary events, and occasionally on our area’s literary history?

How, I wondered, would I ever come up with this much material?

In my defense, I’m not alone in this skepticism. Others ask me the same thing: how can there possibly be this much to write about the literary life of Dayton, Ohio and environs?

I’m skeptical no longer. I’ve missed a few weeks due to personal situations, but in five years, I’ve produced more than 255 Literary Life columns. And I have yet to find myself sitting at my desk, panicked about what to write. In fact, I currently have a list of ideas through mid-July. And I’m confident that by the time I hit mid-July, I’ll have ideas through September.

I’d love to take credit and say this plethora of ideas is due to my own amazing imagination and/or investigative prowess, but truthfully, it’s because of where I’m blessed to live.

The greater Dayton area has, after all, several active and engaging library systems — Dayton Metro, Greene County, Washington-Centerville, and Wright Library, to name a few. An excellent offering of bookstores: Barnes & Noble locations, Books & Co., Jay and Mary’s Book Center, Bonnett’s Book Store, New & Olde Pages, Blue Jacket Books, and three independent bookstores in Yellow Springs: Same & Eddies, Dark Star Books, and Epic Book Shop.

And let us not forget the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the world-renowned prize and event that celebrates the best of literary work exemplifying the theme of peace and which brings stellar writers to our area to share deep and moving insights into their work.

For aspiring writers, the opportunities to learn outside of traditional classrooms are plentiful. I always recommend that writers go to author’s book signings and listen to their readings and to the Q&A part of the event. It’s one of the best ways to learn about the writing life. Plus, writers can attend workshops or join writing groups at the library systems, take classes through Word’s Worth Writing Center, attend Antioch Writers’ Workshop at University of Dayton, the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, the Dayton Book Expo or the creative writing workshop at Sinclair Community College.

What’s more, locally-based publications are open to creative work: Slippery Elm Literary Journal, Mock Turtle Zine, Heavy Feather Review, Flights (published by Sinclair Community College) and Mad River Review (published by Wright State University.)

As for the working, published writers who either hail from or live in Dayton… well, that is a long list.

I can name more than 40 traditionally published writers currently living and working in our area. And I have every faith that that number will continue to grow. I’m constantly learning about new writing groups in our area.

So… consider this five-year anniversary of Literary Life column a love letter to our literary community and to our greater community. It is because of your love of literature that the literary arts stand proudly and strongly alongside the performing and visual arts in our community.

Thank you.

Upcoming Literary Events

Monday, May 15, 6:30 p.m., Books & Co. at The Greene — Dan Yaccarino introduces his new children’s book, “Morris Mole.”

Tuesday, May 16, 6:30 p.m., Books & Co. at The Greene — Carrie Jones, author of the kids’ middle grade novel “Time Stoppers,” introduces its sequel, “Quest for the Golden Arrow.”

Tuesday, May 16, 7 p.m., Wright Memorial Public Library, 1776 Far Hills Avenue, Oakwood — Wright Library Poets meet in the library’s conference room to share work and hone craft; beginners are welcome. For more information contact Elizabeth Schmidt, schmidt@wrightlibrary.org, or call 294-7171.

Wednesdays, May 17, 24, 31, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Oakwood Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton — Word’s Worth Writing Center (www.wordsworthdayton.com) offers “Dialogue In-Depth” with author and creative writing instructor Katrina Kittle. This class will focus on the “make or break” fiction element of writing dialogue. See the website to register.

Friday, May 19 is the deadline to apply for scholarships co-sponsored by Mock Turtle Zine to the summer program of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop at University of Dayton. Learn more and apply at https://mockturtlezine.com/submissions/

Sunday, May 21, 2:30 p.m., Wright Memorial Public Library, 1776 Far Hills Avenue, Oakwood — Writers’ Café, a casual hang out for writers ages 18 and up and of all experience levels, meets the first Friday (7 p.m.) and third Sunday (at 2:30 p.m.) of each month.

Sunday, May 21, 2-3:30 p.m., Books & Co. at The Greene — Antioch Writers’ Workshop at University of Dayton presents a free mini-seminar on setting and characters. The program will be led by novelist Rob Boley, author of a series of dark fantasy novels for teens and adults. Learn more about Rob at http://www.robboley.com/ and about the workshop’s programs at www.antiochwritersworkshop.com.

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