Tracy Dimond on Baltimore
Looking for a lit community in Baltimore? Writer Tracy Dimond knows everything about this place. She even found a studio where she can dance on hoops suspended in the air. It’s true. I’ve seen videos. This combined with her passion for the literary scene makes her worthy of your time and trust.
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Writing a Baltimore scene report was incredibly difficult. Do I stick to DIY reading series? Do I feature the university reading series? Do I feature community organizations like Jubilee Arts and Dew More Baltimore? Yes, this is a scene report, but the uprising made it clear that Baltimore is built on many fractured pieces. You can read more thoughts about scenes and gentrification here and here.
If you want to participate in a writing community, you will find something in Baltimore. You’ll encounter genre writers intermingled with poets, YA authors, and cutting edge fiction at the Baltimore Book Festival. If you go to the CityLit Festival at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, you get the same vibe, but with less nature.
Overwhelmed, I decided to run. I learned about Baltimore this way – running east, west, north, and south – when I moved to the city five years ago. Since that move, I’ve found a home in the small press scene. I know the city offers more. Why not run to as many spaces as possible, in an effort to show how accessible writing can be in Baltimore if you take the time to pay attention?
I gave myself one rule for the run: take pictures of spaces that hosts readings right now. The list is a gateway to present happenings, highlights that can lead you to more. Events pop up all the time, organized by individuals that are established or new additions that are excited to do something.
Look, I made a list of spaces to run to that you can’t read because writing on skin is useless:
Spaces move in and out of use, so check back with the city early and often. None of the pictures are glamorous. It’s my view of Baltimore, without the headlines.
1. Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD 21201
Host of book discussions, readings, and events like the late July showcase of Story of My Name Project, Red Emma’s is dedicated to radical voices and social justice. You can also eat delicious vegan food while you plan how to be a better human. I spend a lot of time in Red Emma’s browsing the books and reading flyers.
2. The Crown, 2nd Floor, 1910 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21218
One block from Red Emma’s, The Crown hosts lit events and shows. One of my favorites that I participated in was the book release for Tim Paggi’s Work Ethic – we (Amanda McCormick and I of Ink Press Productions) wrapped up an interview with him and other people read his poems as answers to questions.
3. Charmington’s, 2601 N Howard St, Baltimore, MD 21218
I ran into the owner, Amanda Rothschild, in the heat of the day. Standard events here are Writers & Words, which showcases one fiction writer, one essayist or memoirist, one poet, and a “wild card” each month, and Seltzer Open Mic, which is an anything goes open mic – I have seen songs, skits, slam poetry – event the last Tuesday of every month.
4. Normals Books and Records, 425 E 31st St, Baltimore, MD 21218
Normals just turned 25. I hope it doesn’t drive away in a rental car. Run by Rupert Wondolowski, Normals is a bookstore and performance venue. To understand the charm, watch this recording by Laurie A. of The Mole Suit Choir (Rupert Wondolowski and Liz Downing) perform their seriously playful music in the Red Room. You get everything at Normals. Infinity’s Kitchen editor and Real Pants writer Dyan Kinnett’s book release is August 7th, I can’t wait to see what happens. Writers in Baltimore create in multiple disciplines, many events incorporate talents with a creative twist.
5. Eubie Blake National Jazz and Cultural Center, 847 N Howard St, Baltimore, MD 21201
Major jazz and spoken word events happen here. LOVE the Poet gives powerful performances and has inspirational energy when you speak to her. Another person I look to for events in the spoken word community is Slangston Hughes, founder of SPEAK OUT: Slammageddon. A new gallery just opened, Soulful Emergence, hosting major slam events in the past few months. Click here to find an organized list of spoken word events.
6. Litmore, 3326 Keswick Rd, Baltimore, MD 21211
Current home to Federal Dust Reading Series – Matt Zingg matches local writers with out of town writers. Litmore also hosts panels, workshops, book releases, houses an impressive small press poetry library, and organizes Poetry in Baltimore, an online calendar for anything and everything poetry.
7. Atomic Books, 3620 Falls Rd, Baltimore, MD 21211
This iteration of the bookstore around since 2001. Atomic hosts events for prominent fiction, poetry, and memoir book releases. They support emerging authors to huge names (ever hear of John Waters?) – the space has an eccentric vibe. I started to understand comics as literature here.
What else? Artifact Coffee is home to Jen Michalski’s Starts Here! Reading Series, EMP Collective hosts experimental events from plays to readings, Gallery 788 hosts readings around art showings, and The Ivy Bookshop hosts traditional author readings. The Carriage House hosts intimate readings and performances. You can read next to a piano while feeling transported in time.
There are countless bars that will host an event if you kindly pitch to the owner. Last year, The Windup Space hosted a release for Ancient Party, a selection of text curated by Megan McShea from a writing group that lasted 2000-2010. So many people are doing things – here’s a beautiful essay by Jen Michalski that touches on other people and pieces I didn’t mention.
I go through waves in my work from needing more solitude to craving outside stimulation. A community exists for you in Baltimore if you seek it. This is important to remember: as an artist, what do you need? In addition to what do you need, what can you share with others that will enrich their lives? The different Baltimore scenes have been built around people wanting to communicate. Right now, we really need communication. This includes listening.
There is a line in Philip Roth’s The Human Stain that has stuck with me for years: “All that we don’t know is astonishing. Even more astonishing is what passes for knowing.” Post about other spaces in the comments. I want to listen to you.