Series bound to encourage local authors

By Natalie Lariccia

YOUNGSTOWN — Literature lovers, fiction fans and poetry pundits are welcome to check out the Y-town Reading Series, a monthly reading series that highlights regional authors and provides an opportunity for local writers and book fans to share their literary works and thoughts.

Organized in fall 2008 by Christopher Barzak, a local author and creative writing instructor at Youngstown State University, the series meets at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at Dorian Books, 802 Elm St., near the YSU campus.

The series is free and open to the public. Each meeting includes a reading by a featured author, and guests are invited to display their literary talents during an open microphone session.

The next session will be April 6 and will feature author Alan DeNiro, who was raised in Erie, Pa.

DeNiro received his bachelor’s degree in English from the College of Wooster and a master’s in creative writing from the University of Virginia.

His short story collection “Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead” was published by Small Beer Press in 2006. His debut novel, “Total Oblivion, More or Less,” is forthcoming from Bantam Books.

After the April meeting, the series will break for the summer and will resume its monthly meetings at Dorian in September. The September series date has not been determined, but Pittsburgh poet Peter Oresick is slated to be the literary guest.

Past series events have included appearances by Nancy Krygowski, a poet and Youngstown native. Krygowski’s debut collection, “Velocity,” won the 2006 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize.

Akron native David Giffels, a former writer for “Beavis and Butt-Head,” who recently published his memoir, “All the Way Home,” also appeared at a fall series.

Barzak said some of the series’ guest authors have resulted from the friendships and networks he has established through his writings. A Kinsman native and now a Youngstown resident, Barzak has published two novels, “One for Sorrow” and “The Love We Share Without Knowing.”

Barzak said he views the series as an opportunity to unite reading fans from both the YSU and the general Mahoning Valley community. He hopes the series will help to provide local writers with inspiration that they can pursue their dreams locally and achieve a successful literary career.

“Professional regional writers are not just people in major metropolitan areas in New York or Los Angeles. I want to show audience members that it’s possible to have a career in the literary arts and be from this place [the Mahoning Valley or regions similar to the Mahoning Valley],” he said.

Barzak is also a co-creator of the Oakland Book Club, a member-driven club that is an extension of the Oakland Center for the Arts in Youngstown. Book selections are chosen by members, and members help lead discussions.

The Oakland Book Club often collaborates with the Y-town Reading Series, giving club members an opportunity to meet some of the authors from the reading selections. For more information about the Oakland club, visit

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