2023: The Year in Review

The Ohio Center for the Book had an eventful year, and we’d like to take an opportunity to share some of the highlights.

Great Reads & The National Book Festival

When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike written by Michelle Houts and illustrated by Erica Magnus for younger readers and Stay and Fight by Madeline ffitch were this year’s selections for the Great Reads from Great Places initiative, books chosen to represent Ohio at the National Book Festival and the on-going list of recommended reads posted to the Library of Congress’s website. Ms. Houts, Ms. Magnus, and Ms. ffitch took part in video interviews posted to the National Book Festival website with all the states’ Great Reads authors. In August, Ohio Center for the Book staff members participated in the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, by staffing the Ohio booth at the “Roadmap to Reading” area of the festival along with representatives of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Nearly a thousand festival attendees got their US maps stamped by each state’s Center for the Book, with Ohio using stamps of its state bird (cardinal) and insect (ladybug). Ms. Houts also signed books and talked to National Book Festival attendees at the Ohio table!

Podcast Highlights

Podcast logo

The Ohio Center for the Book continued its podcast, Page Count, in 2023. Hosted by Ohio Center for the Book Fellow Laura Maylene Walter, the podcast posted 29 episodes in 2023 with on-location episodes at the 2023 Ohioana Book Festival and conversations with many stellar guests, including Ohio’s Great Reads authors, Cincinnati-based comics creator Jay Kalagayan, Nancy Drew expert Jennifer Fisher, essayist Elissa Washuta, and Dr. Valentino Zullo talking about Superman’s origins. The episodes have been downloaded over 6,000 times and listenership continues to rise. Exciting episodes are planned for 2024!

Superman’s Cleveland!

During more than two months in fall 2023, the Ohio Center for the Book, in collaboration with the Rust Belt Humanities Lab at Ursuline College, co-hosted 26 events dedicated to Superman’s local origins and the superhero’s 85th birthday. The series, entitled Superman’s Cleveland: Lineage and Legacy, included book discussions, author talks, public events, and more with the help of over 20 sponsors and partners with events taking place across the Greater Cleveland area. A generous grant from Ohio Humanities Council allowed 13 special guests from across the country, including acclaimed comics creators Mark Waid, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Sarah Kuhn, and Sina Grace; authors Brad Ricca and Dennis Dooley; and award-winning journalist Laura Siegel Larson, the daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. A Superman conference was also held with a number of scholars presenting original research about the Man of Steel. Over 2,000 people participated in the series of events which garnered coverage by various local media outlets on television, online, and in print. A recording of Mark Waid’s conversation with Ohio author Brad Ricca is available online and also the conversation we hosted with Mark Waid and Voices from Krypton author Ed Gross!

Poetry Events

National Poetry Month celebrations included an in-person reading from Cardell Belfour, a Cleveland poet formerly with the ID13 Prison Literacy Project. Banners featuring poetry and artwork from past ID13 Project participants were also borrowed from Dr. Christopher Dum of Kent State University for the month to display in the Ohio Center for the Book and the Literature Department at Cleveland Public Library. Poetry Month was capped off with a virtual reading and Q&A with Ohio Poet Laureate Kari Gunter-Seymour.

Another major poetry event co-hosted by the Ohio Center for the Book and Cleveland Public Library branches was the Poem For Cleveland project coordinated by acclaimed local poet and musician Ray McNiece. Funded by a grant from the American Academy of Poets, the project brought together youth and adult poets writing a “poem for Cleveland” at workshops around the city starting in late 2022 and early 2023. The resulting print anthology was unveiled at a gala event in the Cleveland Public Library Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium with readings and performances on June 24.

In July, Native Hawaiian poet and Cleveland resident Joe Balaz presented a performance of his poetry and participated in a Q&A with Ohio Center for the Book Coordinator Don Boozer. The event was recorded and will also be highlighted again in May 2024.

Writing and Reading Events & Resources

This year, the Center was also proud to announce the completion of the “Read Around Ohio” online resource which features a list of forty titles, each accompanied by numerous “side trips” (read-alikes), written by a diverse array of Ohio authors from all regions of the state.

National Novel Writing Month was celebrated again this year, with Public Services Associate Michael Credico hosting two online author talks with Ohio authors Alison Stine and Pete Beatty which were recorded and posted online. “Come Write In” events were also hosted on Saturdays in November as well.

The Ohio Center for the Book also sponsored multiple book discussions including the Get Graphic! graphic novel series, which included a number of Superman-related titles coinciding with the fall’s Superman extravaganza and a “Read Ohio” book discussion focusing on Ohio authors.

A Tribute to Harlan Ellison

A commemoration of the life of legendary Ohio author Harlan Ellison was hosted in May that included a panel of scholars from Cleveland State University along with some of Ellison’s friends and family members. The recording of Ellison’s 2007 appearance at Cleveland Public Library was finally made available online and is now on the Ohio Center for the Book’s playlist on YouTube. The appearance was historic as it was Ellison’s last public event in his hometown and also served as the Midwest premiere of his bio-documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth.

Forward to 2024!

It’s been a whirlwind year, and we’re looking forward to bringing you some exciting programs and initiatives in the new year! We look forward to seeing you online, in-person, or on our social media channels on Facebook and Instagram.