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Inkubator, A Literary Conference In Cleveland

Inkubator is an annual conference hosted by an organization called LitCleveland. Oddly enough, I had never heard of this organization (or most of it's partners and sponsors) until I was halfway around the world, in Portugal, for another conference called DisQuiet. I happened to take a poetry workshop and during one of the breaks, in between our own poetry writing sessions, I began talking to another attendee. This attendee grew up only 30 minutes from me and was a member of LitCleveland. As someone who has always loved meeting other writers and sharing space, whether to write together or simply talk about books, I was happy to hear what they had to say.

Skip ahead a few weeks and I'm back home and I suddenly remember that conversation. So, I do some looking and find out about their conference. I decide to sign up because, well, why not? The conference itself is entirely free and while you can donate, it isn't required. However, if you wanted any of the catered meals, those had to be paid for separately. However, they were reasonable. $15 per lunch per day and a bit more for the buffet dinners. The first few events were all virtual and while moderation could have been better, and the waiting music less tinny and hard on the ears, overall, the virtual events were nice. I especially enjoyed the conversations of Clint Smith and Hanif Abdurraqib. It was engaging and felt like a good pairing.

LitCleveland offered a mixer on Thursday to sort of open up the conference. A mixer and book swap, of gently used books. While I was not able to attend due to prior obligations, it seems that quite a few people enjoyed it and made new writing buddies.

I did however attend both Friday and Saturday, which is when the bulk of in-person events were held.

And trust me, there were a truckload of speakers and presentations. With only 30 minutes between them, it was mighty hard to get to the bathroom, check out the vendors and get a good seat in your next one. There was free water, coffee and mints all throughout the conference and tons of book stores and other vendors you could patronize or just learn more about, including writing groups. While I do wish they would have had tea available, the Cleveland Public Library was right across from a small local chain cafe so I made it work when I needed my caffeine fix.

Some pros would definitely be the bang for your buck. As I mentioned, there were tons of sessions and a few were generative and not just talks. They even had sessions particularly for teens, to help inspire and encourage young writers. I appreciated the fact that lunch was provided, for a fee, as well. It just made it easier than trying to find something nearby when everyone in Cleveland was taking their lunch at the same time. Plus, the lunch was absolutely delicious. And on Saturday, an extra garden salad was prepared and the staff of LitCleveland even served the Unhoused who came and asked. While not technically a part of the conference, I think that speaks to the personalities of those who have chosen to volunteer their time.

Some cons would be the location's parking situation. Parking is dreadful on the best day in downtown Cleveland, but it was horrendous that Friday and we spent almost 30 minutes trying to park once we got there. Parking was a bit better that Saturday as street parking is free, it was just hard to find one. So, I definitely recommend making time to park further out and walk, if you are driving. Another con was that the venue was cold and one of the main floors in which events were held doesn't have a restroom. Of course, we can almost always expect a library to be a tad chilly, but the lack of a restroom on one floor made it rough, especially when there was so little time between sessions. Lastly, and in my opinion, the biggest issue was the lack of diversity in the speakers. I would have appreciated more diverse presenters and while I am not sure how LitCleveland chooses who presents or talks at their conferences, I hope they consider doing it in the future.

To close out the conference there was a sort of free book bazaar that Sunday, but I chose to attend church and knew that I wouldn't be able to drive all the way up to Cleveland before the event ended. However, the offering of free books, comics and discussions is a great and fun way to close out the conference. I do sort of wish there was another opportunity (who doesn't like free books?) but my bookshelves are already overstuffed.

Overall, I had fun at the conference. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I had been able to attend on the days with less strict programming. Perhaps I would have made a few local writing buddies myself, or gotten to talk to more vendors and presses and share those resources. But, the past is the past so I'll let it lie. I am considering doing things differently if I decide to go next year, though!

Happy writing!

Let me know if this sounds like a conference that you'd be interested in, or if you've been before! I'm curious to hear others' experiences with it!

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