Now that's progress: First-ever Cleveland Drafts fest to showcase CLE's thriving literary scene

For many writers, the payoff comes when they see their work in print, performed onstage or screen. But at this Saturday’s inaugural Cleveland Drafts festival, works-in-progress will be the star of the show.

Spearheaded by Brews + Prose, the daylong festival will feature 24 writers of all experience levels across the genres of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and playwriting. The events will take place at a variety of locations around Tremont and are being co-hosted by a litany of local literary organizations, including Literary Cleveland, Twelve Literary Arts, Cleveland State University Poetry Center, Gordon Square Review, NEOMFA Playwrights, and Belt Publishing.

Sarah Minor sits among the crowd at Brews + Prose's Heights Writes event.“Our motto is works in progress, writers in progress, community in progress,” says Sarah Minor, event co-organizer and a Brews + Prose board member. “It’s a Cleveland vibe that we’re channeling through this process of developing a festival and thinking about how Cleveland itself is a literary community in progress.”

The idea for the event has been in the works since 2017, and about 70 submissions were sent in for consideration in four categories: beginner, emerging, professional, and established. According to Minor, the most represented category among the submissions was “emerging,” and the most popular genre was poetry.

It’s not always easy to get a new festival off the ground, but Minor credits the out-of-the-gate interest to Cleveland’s thriving literary scene and the interest around it.

“I’ve only been in Cleveland for two years, but I’ve noticed a literary fervor in all of these different pockets,” says Minor. “However, many of them are siloed or have their own sub-projects or sub-communities. Since the city is becoming a national site [for literary recognition], we wanted to celebrate that and encourage more collaboration of resources across the city.”

The team at Brews + Prose is hopeful that the opportunity to put works-in-progress in the limelight will both empower and encourage local writers. “They’ll have a chance to present before a crowd and give a sense of where [their work] is going,” says Minor, adding that there will be opportunities for discussion and feedback. “It gives the opportunity for something to come to life in a public way and push it to the next step.”

The first 50 people to register online receive a free book from Belt Publishing or Cleveland State University Poetry Center, and there will also be an after-party with a live DJ at Lava Lounge at 7 p.m. (See the full lineup here.) Event organizers will be handing out walking maps on the day of the event, and Minor encourages anyone interested to follow the Twitter account for updates.

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. Along with her work at FreshWater, she is the editor-of-chief of Edible Cleveland and a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes for Creative Groove, Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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