MY DAD'S DOGTAG and DYERSBURG

73 YEARS LATER, DAD GETS HIS DOG TAG

 

 

Russ Kendig, opening the mail

THE CALL

It's Sunday night, the phone rings at 190 Perry Drive in Canton, Ohio which has the same phone number it's had since 1949 when my dad built the house. Some woman leaves a message: she's looking for Russ Kendig--does she have the right number? Her voice is so hesitant and sweet, she can't be a telemarketer, and I phone her right back and say, well sort of. I am his oldest daughter: how can I help her?

Diane Seat is calling from Halls, Tennessee to tell me her family has found my dad's WWII dog tag in a soybean field near what used to be the Dyersburg Army Air Corps base. Rather, after much sleuthing, she thinks it is my dad's. She asks,
Diane Seat
"Was his mother's name Bessie? Did they live on Tenth Street?" Yes and yes. We talk a fairly long time, for two strangers. I tell her about all the trouble Dad's crew got into at Dyersburg before shipping out for Europe, and she tells me about going on Ancestry and there, finding Grandpa and Grandma Kendig and their thirteen children, among them Russ, whom she figured would be 91 and probably not alive. She has tracked down two other dog tag owners and found one had died in the war and one had died in his early 80s. She'd be glad to mail the tag to us-- she knows if someone found her dad's tag, she'd love to get it. We trade addresses and phone numbers and emails and friend each other on Facebook, and then I wait.

Telling Dad

I drove over to Dad's senior residency to tell him. I have to drive over because he is never in his room, so reaching him by phone is impossible, and he never checks messages. He is sitting out front, and laughs at the news. He had another tag when he returned from the war; it's in our files, and it doesn't have Grandma's name and address on it. He has no memory of that first dog tag. My dad does have some dementia, but many of his WWII memories are crystal clear (he can still recite a lot of accurate numbers and co-ordinates for firing from a B-17), but only one really from Dyersburg.

My cousins say that they have two tags of their dad who is my Uncle Les and Dad's deceased big brother: one tag with Grandma's name and address and one without. Maybe stateside tags were one way, and then soldiers got new tags when they shipped overseas? I've asked a few vets. None recall, which is no surprise because there was much much much more to recall once you arrived "over there." Uncle Les survived the Battle of the Bulge and came out with purple hearts and bronze stars, and Dad survived many missions and earned several medals that are now in the files with the dog tag. Who remembered the stateside base? Well, actually, my dad does remember one story and The Canton Repository files hold the story too.

Backstory: Dyersburg to Canton and Back in the Dark of the Night

Russ Kendig in 1943, 18 y/o
This story has nothing to do with the dog tag, but it does have to do with the Dyersburg Army Air Base, where the tag was found, and it is such a good one, I am sneaking it in here.

My dad had started in training to be a pilot at a base in Lincoln, Nebraska, but as the war heated up, the army didn't really need any more pilots and sent him and many pilots in training to gunnery school from whence he ended up at the Dyersburg base, assigned to the crew of pilot Robert Ellis. That was the setup for one of those lifelong friendships the war cemented for some lucky men. Uncharacteristically for the makeup of a crew, both men were from Canton, Ohio. Bob was the only child of a sometimes single mother (when she wasn't married, which she was, five times) who was a flamboyant character. Dad was one of thirteen children of two loving and fairly strict, religious parents. Bob, an officer, was son of a fairly famous army officer who did not approve of his son's friendship with an enlisted man. Bob didn't care. My dad, who had six older brothers, really adopted Bob as another big brother in his life. Bob went on to live in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Columbia, and the United Arab Emirates, but whenever he got back to the U.S., he visited Dad, who never wanted to live anywhere but Canton, and they'd stay up late talking and talking.
Ellis Crew at Dyersburg

While they were stationed in Dyersburg, the crew was assigned to fly a night mission for practice on a Sunday evening. I don't know where exactly they were supposed to fly to, but I know where they were not supposed to fly to, which was Canton, Ohio and where Bob decided they would fly, to see the hometown once more before they left for who knew what, but it wouldn't be easy. What anybody else on the crew thought, I have no idea, but they did fly to Canton, and then they flew low over it. My dad says that his family, yes, living on 10th Street, near the Fairgrounds, came out on the front lawn, and that Grandma knew exactly who was in that plane and waved as they dipped the plane and flew up.  They then headed up Tuscarawas in Reedurban, where Mrs. Ellis lived and dipped again.

Canton Repository story from that night
Keep in mind they were flying a BOMBER and this was WWII. Three police cruisers were sent out to shine spotlights to help the plane land because the pilot had flashed his landing lights (in helloes to the moms out there, but the police thought he was looking for a place to land). It was all in the Canton Repository  the next day, noting it would go down in the police records as "The Mystery of the Low-Flying Bomber," and ends, "The pilot gunned the engines, all four roared and he climbed into the darkness and sped on his way."

Only, as Dad tells it, they did not have enough gas to get back to the base, had to stop to refuel and were busted. He says they were court-martialed, and the morning of sentencing, he received a letter from Grandma Kendig, with a copy of the clipping from The Canton Repository, which Dad says he burned immediately. The army was more anxious to get the crew to Europe than to punish them for a few gallons of gas, and they were shipped out shortly after.

The Tag Wends Its Way Home 

Yesterday, my mailman came up to my back porch and yelled at me as I worked in my garden,
Dad with the new tag and the old and Dyersburg reading
"Diane, I have certified mail for you!" Diane Sheets wasn't taking any chances on the tag getting lost. I signed and drove over to take the package to Dad.

He opened the small envelope with the tag and we studied it. The thing I love most, after seeing my grandma's name and address, is that a tiny bit of Tennessee dirt is still clinging in the metal fold around the edge of the tag. Dad immediately took his current tag and chain out of his pocket, took his nail clipper tool out and cracked the chain open, added the new tag and draped it around his neck.

Then we looked at the rest of the material in the envelope. Diane Seat had sent us the brochure from the yearly air show at the base, a pamphlet on the base, which is now a veterans museum, and a history of the base 1942-45. She and her family are the heroes of this portion of the story.

I have a trip planned to Louisiana in the fall, and I am hoping to visit the museum along the way.

What did Dad have to say about this latest episode? He's a storyteller, but not much of an emoter or chatterer. (That was my mom.) When asked what he thinks, he just chuckles, shakes his head. He has no idea how the tag got in the field, no idea when he last took it off. Like much of the rest of his 91- year- old life, this provides another interesting tale, a small mystery with a happy ending, or as he does say, smiling, "I get a kick out of it!"


Favorite Northeast Ohio Libraries for Writers

As National Library Week is in April, when I am all about National Poetry Month, I am
Halfway into my walk
celebrating libraries this week by writing about a few of my favorites.  Actually, I celebrate libraries every week, every day if you count that my 3-mile morning walk usually takes me past my local Stark County District Library branch library, Perry Sippo. 

I wrote in this blog a while ago with excitement about a big research archive I visited in Atlanta, and with my academic husband, I have gotten to work in the grand libraries of UC-Santa Cruz, UC- Berkeley, Princeton, and the Library of Congress. Loved all those places and many others, near (Massillon, Ohio  Library's video collection) and far (Trinity Library in Dublin, and oh, dear heart, the British Library in London). 

This week, though, I am going to focus on five Northeast Ohio libraries which are particularly strong in resources for writers.

First, I will celebrate the new and exciting Cuyahoga County Public Library's South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch with its William Skirball Writers Center. (Read it Here.)

Then, I'll go a few miles away to the Literature Department of the  Cleveland Public Library (Here )

Third, I'll write about the Performance Center and activities at the East Cleveland Public Library. (Here)

and a terrific Teen Writers Workshop at the Canal Fulton Public Library. (Here.)


And finally, I am going to come back to my own county, Stark, to show you around the writer activity at the Stark District Library (Here.)

I'm a big fan of all the digital resources that libraries are making available, but in this series, while I will be including two digital resources for writers, I am more interested in spaces, hard copy collections, and other in-person stuff. This series is about working writers and writers working in communities, assisted by our libraries and their great librarians, working with us. 

NE OHIO LIBRARIES FOR WRITERS, Part 5

STARK COUNTY DISTRICT LIBRARY

Website and Writers Series

 

Backstory: My Childhood and Youth in the Library 

Living as I do between Massillon and Canton, I have the great fortune to live nearly equidistant between two very good local libraries, the Massillon Public Library and the Stark District Library, with the added advantage of being just one-half mile from the branch library that I walk to most days, the Perry Sippo Branch.

When I was in third grade, I did well on the verbal part of the Iowa Tests, and my mother began her lifelong campaign to take my siblings and me to the Massillon Library every two weeks. There was no Sippo branch then, and the Massillon Library had the best children's librarians (we LOVED Mrs. Binns). This past week, the writer Francine Prose in the New York Times has said, "The age at which I fell most pasionately in love with reading, at around 9 or 10, roughly coincided with the time when I somehow sensed that the reality-fantasy border was about to tighten." Like Prose, I loved the Edgar Eager books that I found at the library, a series on four siblings who always managed to find a coin or charm that transported them to magic places. Being the oldest of four, I held hope that the Kendig Kids would stumble on similar adventures. I read all the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Cherry Ames books twice and all the Louisa May Alcott three times. I owe nearly all my rich life in childhood reading to my parents and to the Massillon Library, which today I mine for its movie collection.

Still by the time I got to college, the Stark District Library had more of the primary materials that I needed when I was home studying, and I spent a lot of weekends there in the old library with the glass floors that put me so in awe as a child. I still miss that space. But I love the new space, with its airiness and openness and bright colors. Upfront is one of the 10 best library gift shops in the world. (I rank the NYPL and the London Library among those ten, too.) The Friends of the Library Gift Shop has Lady MacBeth Soap and literary socks and cards with writers quotes, used books and snacks. It is separate from the library itself, which is "The Smart Store, Where Everything Is Free." (The library's current branding.) 

And I love the Sippo branch, with its reading room facing the little lake I was raised on and have returned to and the nature center that shares the space and has a naturey gift shop.

But my theme today is the main library of the Stark County District Library and two of its special connections to local writers.

Local Authors: A website and a reading series

Fifteen years ago, I had been teaching two courses on literature and the internet and my students were teaching me how much they appreciated literature on the web. I had both traditional students (18--22 on campus) in face to face classes and non-trad students (adults, mostly in business and hazardous waste engineering) in online classes. They especially liked how they could find photos, videos, sounds files, bio, and other information on the living writers we studied that made the writers and by extension, their writing, more immediate. Once I left teaching, I was looking for a way to use that conection, and the Cuyahoga County Public Library enabled me to curate a 30-day site on local poets which was very popular.

Marianna DiGiacomo
Looking to bring it home two years ago, I met with librarian Marianna DiGiacomo, to pitch an idea. I asked her if the library would try a 7-day blog on its website for National Library week that would feature local writers. For the library's benefit, I would ask local writers if they would be willing to write a passage on what libraries had meant to them. For the writer's benefit, we would publish that passage, along with a passage of their work, a bio, and a photo, on the library's site. The library offered to provide the online link to check out the authors'  books from its collection, too. I began looking for passages related to libraries, reading, or books, and found seven local writers who had such passages: Vance Voyles, Robert Miltner, Bonnie Jacobson, Richard McElroy, Charita Goshay, John Estes, and Tom Barlow. Among them were fiction writers, poets, a local newspaper columnist, and a college historian. When contacted, all of them responded quickly, graciously, and generously with permission to reprint their passage and with their beautiful new passages on the importance of libraries. Clearly, most writers had found the library as important to their childhoods as it was to mine. The project was quite a success, and you can find it still up here.

This year, Marianna came to me and asked if we could tweak it in a slightly different direction. The library wanted to pull several events together, including a new event, a writer's series, to create a "Local Authors Week," and they wondered if we could curate a weekly blog around local authors for that week. The week would end with an event at Canton's gorgeous, historic Palace Theater with first-time novelist Lisa Beazley, who has Canton ties. We chose the theme of "Place," and I went reading for passages by local authors that dealt with places, real and imagined, in poetry and prose. Beazley's novel Keep Me Posted had plenty of setting to choose from, as did Audrey Lavin's detective series. I also found apt passages in the poetry of Theresa Gottl Brightman, Molly Fuller and David McCoy, and local color in an essay by  local journalist Gary Brown's. This time the writers didn't have to write anything new, and as before, they all responded quickly and generously with permission to publish. The library's very new web designer got with the program immediately, and the whole online publication went smoothly and helped to produce an audience for the live event. The six author passages are still up for reading here.

Probably because of my own early positive experience with libraries, which provided me with the only connection to living writers I had until I got to college and met some writers in person, I really enjoy making connections between libraries and living writers, in person and on the web. It is a service libraries and writers can provide to their communities, and the service comes back to them in traffic to their sites. I'd like to see more libraries and writers using the world wide web to bring local authors closer to their neighbors and readers. 

NE OHIO LIBRARIES FOR WRITERS, Part 4

CANAL FULTON PUBLIC LIBRARY:

Best Teen Writing Group Around

Preliminaries 

A few months back, I got a call from my branch librarian wondering if I knew anything about writing groups for teens. A father was searching one for his daughter, who had a deep interest in creative writing and could find nothing available for her, except adult writing groups, which he didn't think would work. At the time, I couldn't find anything either, and then Shelly Rayborn contacted me to speak to the Teen Writing Club at Canal Fulton Public Library. I arrived in Canal Fulton (population 5,749...or so) and had lunch in the Dragonfly Tea Room down the street, which might seem off the subject except for in my mind, writing and food are pretty well inseparable, so there I was. It is a wonderful tea room and gift shop, and if you are going over to Canal Fulton with your teen, or if you are a teen going over to Canal Fulton, I highly recommend it. Doesn't matter if you are a guy. The two most important guys in my life (my dad and my husband) love tea rooms and have joined me in tea rooms in London and Thorpe Abbotts, England; in Dublin, Ireland; and Findlay, OH. We love tea rooms. The Dragonfly is in keeping with the best, both its dining room and its gift shop.

After the tea room, I headed over to the library, a lemon-yellow place as small town lovely as any, and there, I just fell in love with the Teen Writers group and with their librarian.

Teen Writing Contests

As many of my readers know, I am really down on writing contests for children and teens. I have written about this at length in my blog, "For the Kids Who Want to Create, Not Compete."  I have not yet written this: I believe that much of the impetus to hold writing contests comes out of the competition model of sports. And yet, in most incarnations of the sports model for young people, leading up to the competition is practice, modeling, and guidance. For the vast majroity  of the creative writing competitions I have seen for youth, there is no practice, no modeling, and no guidance: the entries are primarily from children who have scribbled down the first thing off the top of their little heads. For another sorry minority, these works have been improved upon by their parents before being sent in.

To be fair and to give teachers their due, the best entries tend to be from young people who had a teacher leading a class of them through writing and revising. But to be honest, most teachers I  know are so beleaguered by testing mandates which never ever value creative writing, that with sinking hearts, they don't get around to much story and poem writing for class. Here's a salute to the teachers that do, including the Stark County teachers who submit their work to the library's annual contest and a shout-out to Dawn Neeley Randall of the Elyria schools who is a teacher of all middle school language arts beyond envy.

Shelly Rayborn and the Teen Writers of the Canal Fulton Public Library

 

Shelly's group is active, ongoing, and long-standing.  When I went around the group asking them to
Shelly Rayborn, Canal Fulton Librarian
introduce themselves, each teen was able to articulate what s/he wrote and why, what writing meant to them, individually and as a group. And when a person was shy, their group mates spoke up and added to their list of talents. They were all unabashed about naming their weaknesses and what they needed to work on too-- a sign of writers and not dilettantes. Writing can be the most lonely of the arts, and one meaningful purpose of a good writing group is to offset that loneliness.

Another is to learn. I had told Shelly that I wanted my presentation to involve what they felt they wanted to learn, and they had sent me these topics:


1. How to develop a good world
See Spine Poems here
2. What makes a good main character
3.  How to be consistent throughout your story
4.  How to be original (and not rip off other people's ideas)
5.  Any Publishing advice            
6.  Tips for writing poetry

Clearly the group had already been at work, clearly they had some specific things they wanted to learn. In the course of the workshop, I learned a lot about what they had tackled under the guidance of Shelly, who is up to the minute with what teens are reading and writing and what's out there to try. When I mentioned the Spine Poems, which I had just tried this spring during National Poetry Month, I found the kids were all ahead of me on that one. In July, they are creating memes and turning them into buttons to wear. Teen writers can get as entrenched as any of us in writing their same thing over and over, and I love to see them being nudged to try the new while staying at work on their grand opus.  And each teen seems to be working on an opus, in addition to Shelly's prompts.

And that's what makes this group a model one to me. I see other teen librarians doing a great job with a writing exercise here and there, innovative and interesting ones that I'd like to try. The Canal Fulton Teen Writers Group does that but also has a regular meeting schedule and a connection among themselves and their adult leader that is clearly productive.

The last thing Shelly reminded them was to get their entries in for the library's writing contest. And you know what? These teens were ready for one. I have no objections whatsoever.

If you know of other teen writing groups in Northeast Ohio, do tell here in the comments. I suspect there are young writers who'd like to find them.

Canal Fulton Teen Writers Meeting Space

NE OHIO LIBRARIES FOR WRITERS: Part 3

EAST CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY:

The Greg L Reese Performing Arts Center and More

 

My original plan for this post was to focus on the value of the Greg L Reese Performing Arts Center as a space for writers, and I will be getting around to that. But my plan expanded as I talked to Librarian Sheba Marcus-Bey. My plans always expand whenever I talk to Sheba who is, as I have often said, a force to be reckoned with in the very best sense of the word.

 

Happy 100th birthday, ECPL!

When we began our conversation on the Reese, she took me back first to the building itself, which is celebrating its "100 Years of Service." Marcus-Bey told me that the library opened in May 1916, having been built with one of those great Carnegie Library grants for $35,000 on land donated by John D. Rockefeller from his summer estate. That's right. Rockefeller summered in East Cleveland. "This was Forest City," she reminded me. "We are right on a watershed."

Greg Reese Performing Arts Center

Sixteen years ago, the library renovated and added a learning center and the performing arts center. The latter was the dream of the library's director Greg Reese, who was a big supporter of jazz with a  dream to have a stage on which to present live music. Architect Robert Fleishman took special care with the room's acoustical design and with the sound system to create a 240-seat space that shared an  intimacy between the stage and its audience.

That feel of intimacy, combined with the size, also makes the space a perfect venue for large reading events. In October of 2014, a group of writers (including me) held a celebration of the life and work of Russell Atkins there, which I wrote about here. What I did not write about at the time is what a privilege it was to have this space to perform in. The audience seating is very comfortable, with clear lines of vision everywhere. The lighting, sound, and other effects are exceptional. For our event, there was both a video to show and a recording of a piano sonata by Atkins to play, and the visuals and sound for both were excellent, as were the microphones for all the poets and presenters.

If that doesn't seem like a big deal to you, perhaps you have not sat through as many large poetry readings as I have where the sound solution was for poets to shout and then not be understood, or to not shout and not be heard. I keep raising the issue of sound for writing events. Sound can be a real difficult or technical issue for writers themselves to deal with, and it often doesn't get addressed until it is too late. Good sound has become a fact of performance in all the arts today. Even my high school now mics all the leads in the annual musical, and while I don't feel writers have to be mic'ed like rock stars with that snazzy wire across their mouth, I do think that getting the gist of a piece of writing is not enough for listeners. The sound of each word is crucial. Writers spend too long working on each word to throw them to the wind in readings.

The Greg L Reese space is free for programs relating to East Cleveland, and with a fee for outside groups. Writing groups looking for a large but intimate venue should really consider checking into this center.

Sheba Marcus-Bey, Director

More

There may be more opportunities for writers at the East Cleveland Public Library in the coming  year as Marcus-Bey is working to do more with the Ohio Arts Council and Cleveland Public Library to promote literacy  through The Literary Cleveland. She hopes to interface with aspiring authors, using the talents of local writers. The library's monthly creative writing workshop is off right now, but she plans to have it back up and running by November.

While not specifically for writers, I want to briefly mention the library's Ichabod Flewellen Collection. Clevelander Ichabod Flewellen began a collection of Afro-American Culture and History in his home, and in 1996, donated the collection to the East Cleveland Library. The collection currently includes West African Art which is on loan, as well  as Civil War memorabilia, which documents the rise of Jim Crow, and many other effects of the Afro-American esperience. So while the collection is not specifically for writers, I highly recommend a visit there for any writer looking for a new topic, a unique piece of research, a jolt to your creative process so to speak.

All libraries of course do all that for writers, but this one, like the other four I am featuring, have even more for writers than most. "I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library," Jane Austen once wrote. Here in Northeast Ohio, these libraries are our paradise.  

NE OH LIBRARIES FOR WRITERS, Part 2

CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY:

The Literature Collection: 

Contemporary Poetry & Ohio Center for the Book

Decades ago, when I was an even more penniless poet than I am now, a dollarless poet, John Stickney clued me in to the contemporary poetry collection at The Cleveland Public Library. "They have everybody," he said. And so they did. It filled me with amazement, and if it doesn't fill you with amazement, then you haven't tried to find contemporary poetry in most libraries today. It simply isn't on the agenda of many libraries. What is on the agenda these days is Maker Studios with 3-D copiers and Recording studios and E-Books and Digital Books and Hoopla video-- most of which I love and have used at my local libraries.

However books... they are not considered quite such hot commodities. And contemporary poetry books? "No one wants them. No one checks them out. We

have to throw out many books of poetry because we don't have room to store what no one wants,"  librarians tell me. No, no, no. For all these no's, there is one Northeast Ohio public library which has said yes to contemporary poetry, Cleveland Public Library. This collection is an incredible benefit to Northeast Ohio writers.

First, those of you writers who have published a book of poetry, if you haven't already, you might want to look your name up in the catalogues of any number of libraries. Your chances of being collected (and kept) by the Cleveland Public Library are better than anywhere else unless you have guilted your local librarian into ordering it. (And even then, how long will it be kept?) I about fell over when I put my name in and found they had my 1986 book of Nicaraguan translations "And a Pencil to Writer Your Name," with photos by Cleveland photographer Steve Cagan, in addtion to my latest book, The Places We Find Ourselves.  (You may note the cover is a Steve Cagan photo too. I love his stuff.)

Amy Dawson, Lit Dept. Librarian
Next, look up your friends who are poets, the famous in the neighborhood, as Daniel Thompson used to say, and the famed beyond. Look up Nobel prize poets and Pulitzer Prize poets and the Cleveland Heights Poets Laureates and Cleveland anthologies. It's amazing how few are at other libraries, how  many are at the CPL. So the CPL Contemporary Poetry
section is a terrific resource, for finding poets to read-- other than yourself. The past two years, I have gone to the reading room for a day to read up on local poets whose names had been mentioned to me. It is where I found the work of Cleveland poets Miles Budimir, Terry Provost, Lady Smith. and Jack McGuane, who had only been names to me before. It was where I found books by Bruce Wiegl, Mary Biddinger, Caryl Pagel, and Phil Brady. I sat and read for hours and checked books out. Along the way, I received wonderful assistance from all the librarians and pages in the area, including the department head, Amy Dawson. A few of the anthologies were ferreted off in special places that had to be fetched by a librarian, and they were worth asking for.  

One fact the staff helped me realize is that many times, the copy of the book, or a second copy of a book was in their section related to "Ohio Center for the Book," which is Ohio's affiliate of the national "Center for the Book" in the Library of Congress. According to its website, "Starting in 1984, the Center for the Book in the Library began to establish affiliate centers in the 50 states. Today, there is a State Center for the Book in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These Center for the Book affiliates carry out the national Center's mission in their local areas, sponsor programs that highlight their area's literary heritage and call attention to the importance of books, reading, literacy and libraries."

In addition to the many books shelved in the he CPL's "Ohio Center for the Book" section, the Center also has a very active presence on Facebook which you might check out, if you are on that site. It lists events coming up, including "Literary Friday Frolics" and graphic novels on Shakespeare. And in August, for a second year, the library is hosting the free, one-day writers unconference known as the Cleveland INKubator, a day jam-packed with lectures and workshops for FREE. FREE. With wonderful presenters. Look it up and register here.

So for you prose writers and dramatists who have felt left out so far in this post, I say yes. Yes, the CPL has a lotta your stuff too in hard copy, too. So for all of us contemporary readers and writers who despite our e-readers and MP3s loaded with audiobooks and our online links, still love and read and check out...hardbound texts, we say:

            WE


Cleveland Public Library!

 


NE OH LIBRARIES FOR WRITERS, Part 1

THE SKIRBALL WRITERS CENTER

at the Cuyahoga County Public Library
Welcome to the CCPL Writers Center

What do writers want? A room of their own? A room with some writer friends? Books? Magazines? Readers! Listeners! An expert on hand to narrow the choices on google? Speaking of google, how about an internet presence for their work and for inspiration? All, all of this has been created for writers at the newest building in the CCPL system, the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch, home of the Skirball Writers Center.

Inside these doors are several rooms for writers, beginning with a big open lounge space, filled with comfortable couches and chairs fitted with wooden tops for coffee cups or notepads or IPads. (Back in back is a cranny that could serve as a room of one's own, with light streaming in from the windows.) To the right are two walls of periodicals and reference books on writing, in general and on genre, for marketing and for ideas.



Lounge space (See cranny way in back)
Periodicals & Books on Writing










Laurie Kincer
To the left is a Librarian, and most days, that is the Center's Co-ordinator Laurie Kincer, a writer's Dream Librarian. She writes, she knows Cleveland, she knows writers. And she has as much knowledge about writing as most writers I know, and infinitely more patience, by the sounds of a recent reference call I heard her take. She oversees this space and much of the activity related to it in real time and virtually.

The rest of the space includes a reading/lecture room that can be divided into three spaces for small group meetings or opened up to seat 200  people. And a kitchen, where coffee and tea are usually at hand.

If I learned one thing from my college History of Architecture class (other than I have no visual sense whatsoever), it was to pay attention to how space is created and used, and in my four visits to this center, I found such a great feeling of both solitude to work (an afternoon perusing the books and periodicals) and socializing with writers and their readers. The homecoming reading on April 2nd for Cleveland's Amit Majmudar, the new Poet Laureate of Ohio, was a fest of family, friendship, and fans, such a warm afternoon. If you'd like to know more about the variety of readings, workshops, and other events for writers that go on here, go to the CCPL Events Page, click down to "South Euclid-Lyndhurst" and you'll get the many things happening. I counted about 20 for the month of June, including the monthly poetry workshop founded by Cy Dostal in 1974, which moved here when the former Poets and Writers League of Greater Cleveland shut down. Now led by Robert E. McDonough, one of the original members, this workshop is, as far as I have been able to ascertain by research, one of the two oldest public poetry workshops in the U.S., along with the U.S. 1 Workshop in New Jersey, which began the very same month in 1974. Beginning with the group's 40th anniversary in 2014, current members have been holding a fall reading, from which the library has produced broadsides and three online anthologies.
Broadside, "Six for Cy" in memory of Dostal



As libraries go, the William Skirball Writers Center has the best multi-purpose space for writers in  Northeast Ohio, in my book, and one of the tops for writer events, which also include the "William Skirball Writers Series," which the CCPL Foundation sponsors in other spaces, along with Case Western Reserve University. In the past, they have hosted Rita Dove and Robert Pinsky (among many others) at Playhouse Square, and next year's lineup of writers, which you can find here will be at the Maltz Performing Arts Center.

In addition, there is much going on virtually for writers at the William Skirball Center, as a click on its home address demonstrates:
http://www.cuyahogalibrary.org/Services/William-N-Skirball-Writers-Center.aspx

The library has held hugely-attended workshops on e-publishing, which offers writers the possiblity of publishing their e-book on Ohio's SELF-e shelf and another online page, Stories Connect US has writing by children and adults, organized around an outdoor mural for a visit from Kate DiMillo.

And finally, near and dear to my heart is the library's "Read + Write 30 Days of Poetry," a daily blog for National Poetry Month each April for the past three years. (Full disclosure: I curate the blog for the library.) Each day, it features a poetry-writing prompt and a poem by a local poet, which includes the poet's bio and links to the poet's social media outlets-- websites, blogs, and tweets. It includes a comments section, too. The first year, over 800 readers signed up to receive a daily email with the blog; the second year, 1200; and this year, over 2200 readers signed on, and as nearly as we can tell, most of them read, wrote, and/or responded. This is a larger readership than most poetry magazines reach. And the library has kept all the pages up, creating three beautiful online anthologies of this experience.

I have often said that one could not continue such a project for three years running and have so many poets to choose from as we have in Northeast Ohio. (And our list of names is overflowing for next year.) But Northeast Ohio is a pretty amazing area for producing writers, especially poets-- and readers, presses, workshops, and programs, historically and currently.

And currently, we are fortunate to have many institutions that have helped us. Despite my lengthy catalogue here of the many resources for writers at the CCPL Skirball Writers Center, I haven't covered them all. I hope in the comments section, you will mention your favorite events, resources, and moments in its rooms and on its internet feed that I have missed.

Meanwhile, I move on to four other Northeast Ohio Libraries who offer exceptional service to local writers.