THE SKIRBALL WRITERS CENTER
at the Cuyahoga County Public Library
|Welcome to the CCPL 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|
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.
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:
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.