Cincinnati's Literary Luminosity

Saturday, October 11, thousands of local book lovers will flock to the Duke Energy Convention Center for the 8th annual Books by the Banks, held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year, the event will host a record 130 authors, including Emily Griffin, Marc Brown, Hampton Sides, John Scalzi, and Philip and Erin Stead, for book signings, meet and greets, and panel discussions. Last year, more than 5,000 people attended the event.
“We’re fortunate to have a loyal base of book lovers, not just in Cincinnati, but across the region, who enjoy the festival year after year,” says Sandy Bolek, Books by the Banks planning and operations team leader. “It’s clear people in this area love to read, so we work really hard to offer something for every age and every reading preference. … Plus, visitors get to experience the excitement of meeting their favorite authors and spending a fun-filled day with fellow book enthusiasts. Families also really love the event because we have an entire area dedicated just to kids with games, crafts, performances and more.”
In addition to the ever-popular Author Pavilion, this year’s event will include the Kids’ Corner, a Teen Area, and the Writing & Getting Published series. “Panel discussions will include information for writers covering topics such as how to pitch a book, how to get published in magazines, how to tap into online markets and much more,” Bolek says.
What many Cincinnatians don’t realize is that this beloved local event is only a small part of our city’s rich literary community. Here we highlight a few well-known local writers, and take a look at just some of what makes the Queen City such a fine place for bibliophiles, writers, poets and playwrights.
Joseph-Beth Booksellers

This independent chain with stores in Rookwood Pavilion and Crestview Hills has long been a favorite of local book buyers. “Ever since our founding, we’ve served as a ‘commons’ where people gather to explore and share their interests,” says David Rippe, Joseph-Beth Booksellers’ vice president of marketing. “Hosting major writers, trendsetters, politicians and celebrities connects Cincinnatians to the thoughts and ideas of visionaries from around the world and from all walks of life. It brings the world closer to us and brings the greatness of Cincinnati to the world. We’ve always been an amazing cultural center with a rich arts and literary community that is far more prominent than other cities of our geographic size. Joseph-Beth is fortunate to be able to bring in top talent from the big six publishers.” These authors include Gloria Steinem, Mary Higgins Clark, Anna Quindlen, Jodi Picoult, Valerie Bertinelli, Temple Grandin, Mitch Albom, Alexander McCall Smith, David Sedaris, Jenny Lawson, Glennon Melton, Khaled Hosseini, John Scalzi, Curtis Sittenfeld, Anne Lamott and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Mercantile Library

Located at 414 Walnut Street, the Mercantile Library came into fruition April 18, 1835, when 45 merchants and clerks formed the Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association. According to its website, the library “maintains and expands its historic collection of books while presenting an expansive schedule of events. Full of visits by authors and writers, book discussions, workshops and forums, there’s something on the schedule for all bibliophiles.” It’s also a great place for writers to write. “The Mercantile Library is just such a perfect working space,” says Grace Dobush, a freelance journalist in Cincinnati. “It’s got fast wi-fi, great ambiance and a liberal food and drink policy. … The Merc is like $55 a year, which is unbeatable in terms of paid co-working spaces. It’s just such a lovely place to spend the day if I want to work downtown and go out for drinks or dinner afterward.”
The Cincinnati Review

Established in 2003, this University of Cincinnati literary journal features writers of all backgrounds. Each issue also features a portfolio of artwork from a local or national artist.
Ian Stansel

Ian Stansel is the author of Everybody’s Irish, a collection of short stories that was shortlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for debut fiction. In August, he had a reading at Joseph-Beth. “It was incredible how supportive the community was to me that night,” Stansel says. Stansel moved to Cincinnati with his wife, Sarah A. Strickley, also a writer and editor who is attending the Ph.D. program in creative writing at the University of Cincinnati. In addition to meeting a welcoming group of fellow fiction writers and poets through Strickley, Stansel says he was fortunate to hook up with the folks at Chase Public, a writing collaborative in Northside. “Also, keep a lookout for a group called Zinzinn, which will begin offering public lectures on a number of literary topics very soon,” Stansel says. He adds that the InkTank Reading Series will soon be returning after a short hiatus. “The best thing about the literary scene is that the once-disparate factions seem to be finding their ways to one another, so we see academic-minded writers hooking up with more ‘underground’ writers, and we see people working collaboratively, often in exciting cross-genre ways.”
The Literary Club

Founded in 1849, The Literary Club has no more than 100 members at any given time, men only. Past members include Rutherford B. Hayes and William Howard Taft. Members present papers at club meetings at 500 E. Fourth Street, and host guests. Past guests have included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Booker T. Washington, Mark Twain and Robert Frost.

According to its website, WordPlay is a “community-driven 501c3 non-profit that provides free tutoring, literacy and creative writing programs for students K-12. It is a place for children to connect with caring volunteers who work in partnership with parents and teachers to realize success in and beyond the classroom.” The organization recently announced a new Writer-in-Residence Program, made possible by a grant from the Andrew Jergens Foundation. This fall, three Writers-in-Residence, Pauletta Hansel, Theresa Kulbaga and Woody Skinner, will work one-on-one with current and new students.
Loren Long

A New York Times bestselling author/illustrator, Loren Long is currently on tour promoting his latest Otis series children’s book, Otis and the Scarecrow.  “I grew up not far down the road in Lexington, so I like this region of the country,” says Long, who now resides with his family in Maderia. “I love how Cincinnati has rich history and culture, but is not a major market and has a very livable, manageable, easy life for a family. … There is a great deal of talent in Cincinnati in terms of fellow artists and illustrators, which I like.”
Writer’s Digest magazine

Since 1920, this renowned resource has helped writers develop their craft and publish their work. Published by F+W Media in offices located in Blue Ash, this magazine includes interviews with bestselling authors, practical technique articles, first-person essays and tips on the business-side of publishing.
Blue Marble Books and Blue Manatee Children’s Bookstore & Decafé

For 35 years, Tina and Peter Moore have run Fort Thomas’s beloved Blue Marble Books, and local children’s book buyers have long known that this is where to go to receive personal and insightful recommendations. The store also features a full-scale replica of “the great green room” from Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon. Located in Oakley Square’s Kid’s Row, Blue Manatee is both children’s bookstore and café, featuring organic, Fair Trade and local food and drink. The playful store also allows event hostings, including story time and a party room. Both Blue Marble and Blue Manatee attract bestselling authors for talks and signings.
Ericka Nicole Malone

Actress, writer, director and producer, Ericka Nicole Malone’s 10th stage play, “In Love With Tyrone,” is set for a national tour this fall. Locally, she has presented a play at the Aronoff Center. “I believe that this community is incredibly supportive and I am thankful I have been able to share my talents with this great area,” Malone says. One thing she’d like to see more of is open-mic nights that encourage new writers and performers to share their poems, stories and literary gifts.
Spitball Magazine

This Cincinnati-based literary baseball magazine was founded in 1981 and is dedicated to short fiction, poetry, prose, art and book reviews about baseball. In 1983, the magazine established the CASEY Award for the best authors and publishers of baseball books each year.
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

One of the oldest and largest libraries in the United States, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County features of collection of more than 9 million items and offers more than 20,000 free programs yearly. On September 24, local author, poet, teacher and columnist Kathy Wilson was named the library’s first Writer-in-Residence. Wilson will serve in the position through November 2015, conducting a writer’s workshop, speaking at community events and participating in library promotions. She will earn a $10,000 stipend, made possible by the support of Naomi Tucker Gerwin. “We’re very excited to have a writer-in-residence and are busy planning the events Kathy will present for us,” says Kimber L. Fender, the Eva Jane Romaine Coombe director of the library.
Porkbelly Press

A feminist, independent chapbook press, Porkbelly prints limited and open handsewn editions, featuring works that range from literary to genre, with a preference for speculative fiction and fabulism.
Greater Cincinnati Writers League

According to its website, in 1930, a group of writers and musicians “gathered by invitation at the home of Mr. and Mrs. William F. C. Tatman to consider forming a club for the purpose of exchanging critiques of poetry, short stories and articles submitted by members. The Greater Cincinnati Writers League was formed and began meeting on the second Friday of each month. More than 80 years later, it still does.” Guests are welcome to attend and observe meetings, which take place in the Hermitage Room of The Regency on Madison Road.
Women Writing for (a) Change

Established in 1991, this organization offers “supportive writing circles to nurture and celebrate the individual voice. Classes encourage self-expression through the art of writing and other creative processes.” Although most classes are for women or young women, occasional classes include men.
Local Writing Groups

Many local writing groups exist, such as Cincinnati Writer’s Project, Gay Literature Group of Greater Cincinnati and Cincinnati Tri State Writers Group. Many other local, active writing groups can be found on Meetup.

Photography by Scott Beseler
Mercantile Library entrance
Mercantile Library
Grace Dobush
Ian Stansel
Loren Long (provided)
Blue Manatee
Ericka Nicole Malone (provided)
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Kara Gebhart Uhl.

Kara Gebhart Uhl is a freelance writer and editor in Fort Thomas, Ky. Through pictures and essays, her Pleiades Bee blog has documented the joys and challenges of parenting since 2008.