For Lydia Munnell, nothing makes for a good story like “massive change.” The writer and essayist would know. In 2016, she traded in the prompts and critiques of grad school at Bowling Green University for a first-time teaching gig at Lakewood’s St. Edward High School. This summer, the 27-year-old takes over as creative director for Brews & Prose, the author showcase on the first Tuesday of every month at Market Garden Brewery. The series celebrates its fifth anniversary July 11 with Alissa Nutting, author of Made for Love. Munnell chats with us about what inspires her writing, what character Cleveland would be and her comic style.
Q: What makes the ink flow for you?
A: I spend a lot of time thinking about the intersections between my rural upbringing and the urban environment of Cleveland. Family history and sense of place are buzzy in writing circles right now. I also love to write about the stories that were told around my family’s table, and the variability of memory that exists when you bring those stories onto the page.
Q: Who is Cleveland as a literary character?
A: Cleveland often gets described with super-masculine adjectives: gritty, industrial, rebuilding. I would like to throw in some feminine characteristics: long conversations, face-to-face connection, food and sitting around a table together telling stories with friends and family.
Q: I stumbled onto your WeirdHorseComics online. Draw the first Brews & Prose panel.
A: It would have to be beer coming out of a tap into a glass. That symbolism has been at the crux of Brews & Prose since the founding.
Q: What does Brews & Prose add to the local literary scene?
A: We have writers with Pulitzer Prizes and national reputations who all call Northeast Ohio home. Brews & Prose gathers everyone together in Cleveland at a bar rather than a school or cultural institution. It’s always free. Plus, Brews & Prose is a dream of a reading space for a lot of writers: You get to read in front of a crowd, there’s beer, and no one is required to be there for class credit.
Q: What are you hoping to get out of this experience as creative director?
A: I’m hoping to not screw it up. [Laughs.] Other than that, I would love to connect with people and facilitate connections for other people. Founder Dave Lucas and Market Garden have set up a night where writers and readers come together, and the whole highbrow reading atmosphere is demystified. When Dave asked, I was already so sold on his approach that I couldn’t say no. Come in for a drink; stories won’t be far behind.