April Will Be ‘Lit’
The 2019 Annual SunLit Festival presents more than 20 events focused on writtten-word fun and inspiration.
BY TIFFANY RAZZANO | April 12, 2019
In 2015, T. Allan Smith and Michael Slicker, part of the team behind the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, which has been held in St. Petersburg for nearly four decades, began thinking of ways to draw more book lovers to the annual event.
They dreamed up a plan for a local literary festival, a series of fun events celebrating St. Petersburg’s literary history and community that would lead up to the April book fair. Then, they brought the plan to the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, which helped bring the SunLit Festival to life.
Five years later, SunLit is not only going strong, it’s grown tremendously since that inaugural festival. The 2019 fest, which kicks off April 11 with an opening night party at the Chihuly Collection and culminates with the 38th annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair at the St. Petersburg Coliseum April 26-28, features more than 20 events on both sides of the bridge, in St. Petersburg and Tampa.
Additionally, more than 35 regional literary, arts and other organizations, as well as dozens of writers and artists, are involved with the event, said Maureen McDole, president of Keep St. Pete Lit, which has served as the umbrella organization for the SunLit Festival the past three years and has been instrumental in its growth.
“There’s a lot of people involved in this who are giving their service and their time because they love literature,” McDole said. While KSPL is behind several of the events scheduled, “most of them are produced by other organizations. This is really a showcase of collaborators and our community, and it shows how varied our literary community is.”
SunLit is “a complement” to other writing and reading festivals in the Tampa Bay area, such as the Tampa Bay Times’ Festival of Reading, Eckerd College’s Writers in Paradise, and, more recently, the Other Words Conference, which moved from St. Augustine to the University of Tampa, she added.
Running at 18 days this year, the goal is for all of SunLit’s events to be diverse and accessible.
“It’s important that our events are accessible. Most are free or have a minimal charge,” McDole said, adding that “everyone can find something [on the schedule] that resonates with them.”
She said, “We want to create an environment where everybody feels welcome and has a venue. That’s the point of literature. It represents all kinds of voices and backgrounds.”
Here are just a few of the events scheduled during the SunLit Festival. Find a complete schedule online here.
Thursday, April 11 – SunLit Festival Kick-off Party
Explore the Chihuly Collection at this SunLit kick-off event that will honor Roy Peter Clark, scholar emeritus at the Poynter Institute and the recipient of this year’s SunLit Award.
Saturday, April 13 – Children’s Poetry Night Hike
This family-friendly evening hike at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve inspires children by encouraging them to read poetry in the woods at night.
Sunday, April 14 – Wordier’s 1K Walk & Write (or Read)
Tour St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront with stops for creative prompts and free writing along the way during this literary 1K.
Tuesday, April 16 – Howl: A Night of Poetry and Music
Hosted by the Friends of the Jack Kerouac House, this evening of live music and literature at Old Key West Bar and Grill celebrates Allen Ginsberg’s iconic Beat generation poem “Howl.”
Wednesday, April 17 – Creative Loafing’s (F’n) Fiction Contest Award Ceremony
Creative Loafing will announce the winner of its annual fiction contest at its CL Space in Ybor City. All finalists are invited to read their work at the awards ceremony.
Saturday, April 20 – Baked in the Florida Sun
This outdoor festival featuring music by Hello Darlin’ Records, literary vendors including PRINT ST. PETE Community Letterpress, Dilly Dally’s, Tombolo Books and Bluebird Book Bus, and readings by local poets, including Florida Poet Laureate Peter Meinke is a fundraiser for Keep St. Pete Lit.
Monday, April 22 – A Celebration of the Erotic
Writers Lisa Birnbaum, Amber DiPietra, Maureen McDole and Enid Shomer will read from their own erotic work at Venus, a co-work space run by the St. Pete Women’s Collective. A panel discussion will follow their readings.
Friday, April 26 – Poets & Lizards: A SunLit Celebration of New Southern Writing
Southern writers Cynthia Arrieu-King, C.H. Hook, Soham Patel and Caleb Michael Sarvis will read from their new books of poetry and fiction at Lector Social Club in Tampa.
Saturday, April 27 – Rob Sanders Stonewall Book Performance and Reading
The Studio@620’s artistic director Bob Devin Jones and an ensemble cast bring the children’s picture book “Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution” by St. Petersburg author Rob Sanders to the stage. This event is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. A Q&A with the author will follow the performance.