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Inkubator Kickoff

Help us kick off Literary Cleveland's two-week Inkubator Conference with exciting readings and a panel discussion titled “Walking the Talk: Literary Community In 2021” featuring representatives from local literary nonprofits, community programs, libraries and universities.


In the past year writers have reckoned with what it means to be connected through our biology, our books, and our live streams of court proceedings. How will Cleveland’s literary community apply these experiences across our teaching, writing, and organizing in the next few years? This panel will invite community members from regional literary nonprofits, community programs and universities to think collaboratively about the questions: How do each of us act as agents of change within deeply ingrained systems? What will “equity” and “inclusion” mean for our diverse and physically dispersed literary community in the future?


This panel discussion is presented by Cleveland Drafts.



Raja Belle Freeman is a performance poet, visual artist, and flautist. She has worked with Twelve Literary Arts as an intern, a member of the Six of Twelve Youth Performance Poetry Ensemble, and was a two-year member of the One Mic Open Youth Poetry Slam Team. She is a recent graduate of Cleveland State University with a bachelors in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Black Studies. Currently, she is a teaching artist with Twelve Literary Arts and a member of the board of South Euclid’s community development corporation One South Euclid.

Jon Conley is a writer, musician, and educator from Cleveland. He is a poetry candidate in the NEOMFA. His work can be found with Maudlin House, The Hunger, FIVE:2:ONE, Bad Nudes, X-R-A-Y, Hobart, and others.

Cori A. Winrock is a poet and multimedia essayist. Her second collection, Little Envelope of Earth Conditions, was published by Alice James Books (2020). She is the winner of the Boston Review Poetry Prize and her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in West BranchBlack Warrior ReviewBennington ReviewFairy Tale Review and elsewhere. Last fall Winrock joined the Cleveland Institute of Art as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing.


Ali Black
is a writer from Cleveland, Ohio. She is the recipient of the Academy of American Poets University & College Poetry Prize for her poem “Kinsman.” Her work has appeared in DecemberjubilatLitHubThe Offing and elsewhere. Her first book of poetry, If It Heals At All, was selected by Jaki Shelton Green for the New Voices series at Jacar Press.

Stephanie Ginese is a teller of stories & jokes from South Lorain, Ohio. She is the Director of Programs in Residence at Twelve Literary Arts. Her work has been featured in some places and she is currently working on her first collection of poems due for release this year on Twelve Arts Press. She currently lives by the water with her two children & their pet corn snake, Moonee. You can find her socially on IG @st.ginese & on Twitter @StGinese.

The Reverend Dr. Leah C.K. Lewis, J.D., is the Founder and Executive Director of Little Lumpy’s Center for Educational Initiatives and Executive Producer of the Great Lakes African American Writers Conference. She is the author of Little Lumpy’s Book of Blessings. As head of Three Butterflies Entertainment LLC, Dr. Lewis is a writer, documentary filmmaker, social entrepreneur, and event producer. Her articles and commentary have appeared in The Christian Century, Cleveland Scene,,, and a host of other outlets. Currently, Dr. Lewis is directing and producing two documentaries, Black Buckeyes: A Tale of Two Cities, an independent production examining the lived and historical realities of African Americans in Cleveland and Cincinnati, and Leo’s Legacy for MidTown Cleveland Inc, which highlights Cleveland’s famed Leo’s Casino nightclub of the late 1960s and early 1970s. A former community organizer, minister of community engagement at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, elected official, and adjunct faculty at Tri-C and Georgia State University, Dr. Lewis now fully focuses on projects that promote equity and justice for African American people. With degrees from Ashland Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, Howard University School of Law, and Bowling Green State University, she brings her whole being to every task she undertakes. Justice, equity, and eliminating knowledge deficits are always her focus. Read her essay "The City" in Literary Cleveland's new anthology: Black Women Coping in Cleveland.

Sarah Minor is a writer and interdisciplinary artist and author of Slim Confessions: The Universe as a Spider or Spit (Noemi 2021), Bright Archive (Rescue 2020), winner of the 2020 Big Other Nonfiction Book Award, and The Persistence of the Bonyleg: Annotated, a chapbook from Essay Press. Her essays have appeared in several anthologies including Best American Experimental Writing and Advanced Creative Nonfiction and have been selected for an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award and the Barthelme Prize for Short Prose. Minor serves as Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Video Editor at TriQuarterly Review and the Assistant Director of the Cleveland Drafts Literary Festival. Find images of her work at

Philip Metres has written numerous books, including Shrapnel MapsSand Opera, and The Sound of Listening. Awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim and Lannan Foundations, and three Arab American Book Awards, he is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University. 

Mordecai Cargill is a co-founder and Creative Director of ThirdSpace Action Lab and Third Space Café. Prior to starting this exciting venture, Mordecai served as the Director of Strategy, Research & Impact at Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP), a community development funding intermediary committed to fostering inclusive neighborhoods of choice and opportunity throughout the city of Cleveland.


Details: Inkubator Kickoff takes place Sunday, July 11 from 7-8:30pm remotely through Zoom. 


Zoom Info: Register for the talk and Lit Cleveland will send you an invitation and instructions on how to attend via Zoom. 

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