It might be too late to meet with Edgar Allen Poe, H.L. Mencken, or Upton Sinclair but you still have a chance to talk with the newest and brightest literary minds in the area.

Imagine holding a signed copy of a fresh new work while you listen to the author read a passage or tell intimate stories about writing it. Imagine learning about the colorful history of Baltimore’s Little Italy through the stories of the granddaughter of four immigrants from Abruzzi and Sardinia.

On Saturday, May 2 from 10 – 5, the City Lit Project will host their annual festival to celebrate the vibrant and trailblazing literary culture of Baltimore. The City Lit Festival will be held at the central branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Mount Vernon.

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One of the themes for this year’s festival is music. Several of the books featured were written by authors who moonlight as musicians or by musicians who moonlight as authors and poets. To create an active discussion around the topic, a panel on the connection between Rock and The Written Word will be hosted at 11 at the Wheeler Auditorium, as well as a book launch immediately afterward for editors Gerry LaFemina, director of Frostburg Center for Creative Writing, and Gregg Wilhelm, director of the CityLit Project, to unveil Clash by Night, an anthology inspired by The Clash’s seminal album London Calling. This is the debut title in CityLit Press’s new Lo-fi Poetry Series where “poets cover your record collection.” The festival will showcase more than 60 exhibitors, with three quarters hailing from or currently living in Baltimore. They represent self-published authors, editorial services, and lit journals. What’s more: this event is completely free.

The City Lit Festival is one of the ways the City Lit Project nurtures the culture of literature in Baltimore, connects a community of readers and writers throughout Maryland, and provides opportunities for the people and organizations of Baltimore to work together toward living up to the moniker ‘The City that Reads.’ In addition to the City Lit Festival, the organization provides a City Lit Stage at the Baltimore Book Festival, partner with Towson University and Johns Hopkins to present the annual Baltimore Writer’s conference, and host and present multiple professional development workshops at the Creative Alliance and other regional venues.

The City Lit project was founded by Gregg Wilhelm in 2004 after the bluster and flooding of hurricane Isabel literally washed out the Baltimore Book Festival. Gregg and other disappointed participants organized the first annual City Lit Festival the following spring and the tradition has been hailed by Baltimore Magazine as a “can’t miss event on the city’s cultural scene.”

It’s easy to catch Wilhelm’s enthusiasm for the City Lit Project when he speaks about the opportunities the project has brought to children and young adults living in Baltimore. To combat a declining interest in reading and writing, the City Lit Project has implemented programs in local schools designed to inspire creative self-expression and culminated in a printed book of students’ work. More than sixty kids participated to generate a love for and motivation to continue reading and writing that will potentially last a lifetime.

The whole project relies on volunteers, student interns, relationships between community organizations and support from its patrons. The City Lit Festival is a great way to spend an afternoon while supporting the arts, the artists and the city of Baltimore. A detailed list of the panel discussions and authors is on their website.

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Author Nancy Murray is a Baltimore-based writer and theater critic. She will be presenting her own publication, the memoir One Child for Another during the New Mercury Reading Panel at 1:30 pm.