When Pittsburgh native Rachel Ekstrom Courage moved back from New York with her husband Nick Courage last year, they didn’t know what to expect from Pittsburgh’s literary scene. To their surprise, the couple was overwhelmed by the number of literary events happening in the city and unable to keep track of them all. With the help of friend Katie Kurtzman, a recent New York City transplant and University of Pittsburgh graduate, Littsburgh was born.
“We built Littsburgh for us at first,” says Nick. “We wanted a bird’s eye view of everything that was happening because so much was going on. We’d hear about an event we wanted to go to two weeks too late. Given our skill sets, this is how we knew we could best be involved.”
Littsburgh works as an online aggregator to pull together independent bookstores, literary professionals and events onto a master list of resources for Pittsburgh’s reading and writing community.
In a recent survey, Pittsburgh was ranked the sixth most literate city in the country. Filtered through criteria including bookstores, education, library resources and newspaper circulation, Pittsburgh boasts some of the most avid readers in the country. And Pittsburgh’s literary legacy includes Pulitzer Prize-winning authors August Wilson, Michael Chabon and Annie Dillard to name a few.
Littsburgh brings these readers and writers together “to showcase Pittsburgh as a hub of literary talent and activity, and to serve as a resource to foster further collaboration and connection within this community.”
“Pittsburgh already has such a vibrant tradition, we’re highlighting it so people are more aware,” explains Kurtzman, Littsburgh’s publicity director. “We felt like there was a need for a central hub to have everything located as a resource.”
Pittsburgh is home to many different genre writers, from poets to romance and young adult, but Littsburgh found that these groups didn’t cross paths often. With a master calendar on the site, Littsburgh hopes writers across genres will find opportunities to meet and share ideas.
From large events like the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures series to smaller salons at City of Asylum or “Coffee and Crime” readings at Mystery Lovers Bookshop, there’s something for every type of reader in Pittsburgh.
Nick, a young adult author and book marketer, says the calendar helps him connect with other writers in the Pittsburgh area. In such an inward-facing profession, it can be refreshing to meet up with other authors. “It’s been interesting to see how many genres the city spans, how many authors there are in Pittsburgh. It’s nice to meet a bunch of people who are publishing in my genre.”
In compiling the directory on the Littsburgh page, Rachel discovered that Pittsburgh is host to more than just authors. The city has a thriving population of independent publishers, book marketers, book jacket designers and literary agents. Writers and literary professionals can submit their names to Littsburgh’s directory to connect with other professionals in the Pittsburgh community.
Beyond the professional literary community, Littsburgh wants to be a source for the many readers of Pittsburgh. But diving head first into the world of readings and conferences can be intimidating, Rachel notes.
“We’re lucky in Pittsburgh that we have a lot of local neighborhood bookstores and library branches. You could start in your comfort zone, your neighborhood, then branch out,” she says.
Since founding the site in August, the trio has been floored by the response. “Writers have been coming out of the woodwork—it’s been overwhelming,” Rachel says. “We thought we knew a large portion of literary professionals in Pittsburgh, but we barely scratched the surface.”
In the future, Littsburgh hopes to connect Pittsburgh’s readers and writers with original programming. On Tuesday, November 10th, Littsburgh will host its first Happy Hour at Spirit in Lawrenceville. The event encourages writers to bring a reader, and vice versa.
As word about Pittsburgh’s literary community receives national attention, Littsburgh wants to serve as a platform to promote visiting authors, explains Nick. “When writers come here, we want them to know Littsburgh is focused on getting the word out about these events.”
As to the question of why Pittsburgh is such a literary city to begin with, the Littsburgh group isn’t sure. “Maybe there’s something in the air or the water,” Rachel says, “but I think it has to do with our long history, we’ve had a great library system for so long, and it’s a livable city, so you can make a life here that is creative.”