Literary Detroit: Promoting Reading & Writing in Metro D

By: Scott Davis | September 22, 2014

In what has become somewhat of a series for “In The D,” we are continuing to highlight outstanding organizations in Detroit. Today’s story features Literary Detroit. It is a grassroots community organization dedicated to igniting a literary culture in the city.

Literary Detroit was founded in December 2012 by Anna Clark, and in less than two years, it has already hosted two book swaps, nine author/book events and fundraising lunches, as well as launched the Motor City Signal Reading Series. The aforementioned Motor City Signal Reading Series has featured 24 poets reading his or her works in an interactive and fun manner. Audiences generally range from 25 to 80 people per reading.

In 2012, Clark started inviting friends and acquaintances with a passion for reading to brainstorm ideas on how to get more literary events to Detroit and ways to bring in more people from the literary world.

“I had heard again and again from authors and publishers that they weren’t coming to Detroit, they believed there was no group or venue to host them. They didn’t believe there was an audience of passionate readers here. Well, myself and other passionate readers here begged to differ,” Clark said.

When Clark first started the movement to get on the radar of the national literary circuit, there were maybe 10 people at the initial meeting. Now, the group has grown close to 45 members, with others actively volunteering.

There are several upcoming events taking place to support the the grassroots organization. On Sunday, Oct. 18 at 6 p.m., Literary Detroit hosts novelist Bridgett M. Davis at Signal-Return in Eastern Market. Davis is a Detroit native currently residing in Brooklyn. Her new book, “Into the Go-Slow,” is set in Detroit and Lagos, Nigeria.

“One of our most beloved partners is Signal-Return, where we have our Motor City Reading Series,” Clark said. “Besides being a venue, they are a phenomenal partner—they print gorgeous broadsides for each reading that we are able to give away to attendees for free. And we have a lot of ideas on how we can deepen this partnership in 2015, when the next season of Motor Signals launches.”

In late October comes the next event: a “ghost library.” I was unfamiliar with this term, but I have to say it sounds like a great time! We’ll let the founder explain.

“This is going to be great fun! We stage a theatrically old-fashioned library, with a performer acting like the pursed-lip librarian; with a noisy stamp, and we feature ‘ghost’ authors giving readings of their work—like Mark Twain and James Baldwin,” Clark said. “We’re working on confirming our location right now, but ideally, it would be the site of a closed or torn-down library in the area, bringing another resonance to the ‘ghost library’ idea.”

Clark expects the “ghost library” to be a kid-centric Halloween event. Books and candy can be “checked-out” by the children, but both will be given out to all of those in attendance.

Another great thing that Literary Detroit participates in is Write A House, which has been mentioned several times in “In The D” articles, but to summarize, is a creative “writer’s residency” program leveraging Detroit’s available housing in unique ways and then giving them away to writers who earn it.

The two literary groups co-sponsored a recent event featuring Lauren Beukes, author of “Broken Monsters,” and celebrating the first Write A House winner.

In addition to being the founder of Literary Detroit, Clark is also a founding board member for Write A House.

“While Literary Detroit is cultivating Detroit’s literary community in a reader-centric way, Write A House is cultivating it in a writer-centric way,” said Clark. “We are natural allies.”

In addition to its partnerships with Signal-Return, the organization also has fantastic relationships with Source Booksellers and Pages on Livernois, both of which move around to the different event venues and make sure copies of the authors’ work are available. The Wayne State University Press also often collaborates with Literary Detroit on many feature and spotlight events.

Literary Detroit’s mission is to “cultivate Detroit as a literary city, ignite the imagination of readers and create meaningful on-the-ground connections between readers and writers.” Its goal is to create a well-known book culture in Detroit. Readers now have a way to participate and interact with writers and fellow readers thanks to this great organization.

Once again, this is another group, organization or entity working to better Detroit. Literary happenings in Detroit are something that is perfect for a city so invested in arts, culture and diversity. I am very impressed with not only the amount of effort Literary Detroit puts in, but also the amount of action. Hats off!

If you would like to get involved or help this fantastic grassroots community, please email Anna Clark at literarydetroit@gmail.com, or donate.