During its first two incarnations, CityLit Festival conferred a curious Midas touch: Book a writer as headliner, and, whammo, he or she wins the Pulitzer Prize. Ten days prior to the 2004 inaugural festival, the Pulitzer board announced the event’s main attraction, Edward P. Jones, as its fiction winner; ditto the next year when Steve Coll copped a Pulitzer for nonfiction just before his festival appearance. Subsequent editions have featured luminaries such as poet Mark Doty, fiction writer Junot Díaz, and Baltimore-based mystery writer Laura Lippman.
This year, for its 10th anniversary, CityLit Festival signed up George Saunders, whose short-story collection, Tenth of December, has since bounded onto The New York Times bestseller list. “I’m stoked!” exclaims festival executive director Gregg Wilhelm about Saunders bringing literary superstar cachet to Baltimore.
The daylong readings and panels typically attract 3,000 people to the Pratt Library’s central branch to see, hear, and engage with national and local fiction writers, nonfiction writers, and poets. The event also serves as a boon to Baltimore’s writing community, Wilhelm notes, offering “exhibit space to dozens of self-published authors, literary organizations, journals, and indie presses,” and giving local reading series “an opportunity to showcase their programs and reach new audiences.”
Individual local authors benefit, too. “For established writers, it’s a unique platform to debut a new book,” Wilhelm adds, “and for emerging writers, it’s a chance to be on the same bill as Pulitzer Prize winners, National Book Award winners, renowned poets, and authors with international acclaim.
Enoch Pratt Free Library central branch, 400 Cathedral St., April 13, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: free. Visit citylitproject.org for a full schedule of events.