Climb to the top of the stairs at the Midwood International and Cultural Center and you’ll smell the coffee first. Turn through the open door and you’ll find a light-filled room with two long tables, two puffy couches, shelves, and a coffee table and armoire lined and topped with books, plus a little refrigerator and kitchen space. Note the wine, the chocolate and the giant carton of Goldfish crackers. Oh, and the WiFi password.
Welcome to the Charlotte Center for Literary Arts.
Better known as Charlotte Lit, this is a space where a growing group of writers, aspiring writers and literary enthusiasts in general are spending their time. It’s cheaper than most co-working spaces, as Paul Reali, Charlotte Lit Co-Founder (and a writer, editor, coach and instructor), pointed out.
Supporting Members pay $250 annually to Charlotte Lit (which was founded Nov. 2015 and is a 501c3 nonprofit) and receive access to Open Studio writing hours, among other benefits. Other membership options are Founding Members (who pay $500 annually) and General Members (who pay $50 annually) with varying levels of benefits.
This is not a traditional coworking space; poet Kathie Collins originally conceived this space as a writer’s co-op, to get writers out of isolation and into a thought-provoking, idea-generating community.
The only one who ended up joining at the time was Reali. “It was useful for me to be with other writers, to be able to trade ideas and stories and to get support and feedback and just to get out of the house,” he said.
Charlotte Lit is a business now, aimed at bringing in writers in their 20s and up, whether they are writing on the side or aspiring to deepen their writing education.
“We looked at the arts community and saw that there was a gap,” Reali said. “There’s performing arts, there’s visual arts, but literary arts didn’t really have a center, a place, literal or metaphorical, where writers could go and work on their craft, where readers could go and experience literature.”
They’re embracing all different forms of writing. Reali said, “This is how we understand ourselves — we understand ourselves and we understand each other and we understand our world through literature.”
And their work isn’t contained in one place. Lisa Zerkle, a local poet and former editor of literary magazine “Kakalak,” curates one Charlotte Lit project called “4X4CLT,” a set of four posters featuring art and contemporary poetry that she feels deserves a wider audience. With the consent of business owners, she plants these posters (which change focus every few months) in local businesses.
“My idea is to have contemporary poetry that’s fresh and interesting and compelling and put it in places where people won’t expect it,” she said. You may have spotted these posters already at places like Yoga One or Earl’s Grocery. September’s wave of posters will feature local artists Nancy Albert and Renee Calder.
As for Charlotte Lit’s main mission, Reali said, “We support and educate writers, we engage readers and we build community through literature-based conversations.”
What they offer now
– A weekly newsletter with more than 400 subscribers receiving Lit events, writing tips, prose and poetry on Wednesdays.
– A community of more than 100 paying members at different levels
– Classes and workshops featuring topics like memoir writing, freelance writing and travel writing
– Book conversations specifically targeted to readers
Social/literary events coming up
– Third Friday Reading Series Aug. 19 from 7-9 p.m. at Charlotte Lit, with featured readers and an open mic. BYOB.
Next up is a Labor Day weekend fall conference (register here for the events below)
– Sept. 2 Community Conversation at Charlotte Lit: Where Do We Go From Here?, 7-9 p.m.
– Sept. 3 Poetry Workshop at Charlotte Lit: Ostranenie: Poetry As Practice of Awareness, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
– Sept. 3 Poetry Workshop at Charlotte Lit: Writing Beyond Yourself: The Art and Craft of Persona Poems, 2:30–4:30 p.m.
– Sept. 3 4x4CLT Poster Release and Poetry Reading Party at Pure Pizza Barn, 5:30– 7p.m., 1911 Central Ave.
You can also submit literary events happening around town to be added to their cultural calendar.
Charlotte Lit: 1817 Central Ave., Suite 302
Photos: Katie Toussaint