Writing Project Hopes To Capture A Day In The Life Of Cleveland

A colorful, graffiti-splashed footbridge spans a highway to connect two Cleveland neighborhoods
A graffiti-splashed footbridge spans a highway to connect two Cleveland neighborhoods [Literary Cleveland]
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Does pandemic isolation have you ready to scream?

Perhaps, you might express your frustrations through writing, instead. A Northeast Ohio writers' group wants Clevelanders to record their feelings – and then share them. The project is “Documenting Cleveland,” and it’s coordinated by Literary Cleveland. Associate director Matt Weinkam said the group is taking a look at a random day of our lives.

“Our hope is to capture everything that happens on May 12th, 2020, by asking everyone in the city, all ages, all neighborhoods, to send us their writing about what happened to them that day, particularly during this pandemic,” Weinkam said. "We're sort of beginning to open up and tiptoeing into what are the next steps of how we live together. A project like this will help us to see how we're all living. And by combining everyone's experiences, our writing will become something bigger.”

Contributors can document anything that happens from midnight to midnight of that day, adding a time stamp and location to the piece.

“So it could be 9:13 at Clark-Fulton. It could be 4:30 in the afternoon in Collinwood. And by combining all of those together, we'll sort of get a portrait of the day from all around the city,” he said.

The definition of "the city" is Greater Cleveland, so suburban contributors are welcome. And you don’t have to limit yourself to the written word, Weinkam added. Supplemental photos are encouraged, as well.

“And so, just documenting your day in whatever way works for you,” he said. “That could be an actual physical note pad. It could be the notes app on your iPhone. It could be photos on your phone or photos on an actual camera.”

Weinkam said the project challenges the traditional concept of documentation. There’s more to recording our lives than what is seen or heard in the news.

“One of the fun parts about this experiment, especially since we're all maybe stuck indoors by ourselves, is that you can sort of reconsider what is worth documenting,” he said. “What is worth chronicling?”

The May 12 crew of chroniclers will have a little less than a week to assemble the notes, thoughts and pictures into a finished piece. Submissions are due by noon on May 18. Editors at Literary Cleveland then hope to merge the submissions into one chronological narrative.

“One person might just have the, ‘9:15 and grabbed a cup of coffee,’” said Weinkam. “The other person, might have the, '9:16' and a really long story of everything that happened in that moment.”

Weinkam added that all forms of non-fiction writing are fair game, even poetry. Just keep it real.

“Although you might be sitting on a great science fiction piece, save that for another time,” he said.

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