Fifth annual SunLit Festival brings literary fun for the whole family

Local authors team up with actors, musicians, visual artists and more for more than two weeks of lively entertainment.
Photo by Maureen McDole
Author Rob Sanders signs one of his children’s books at the 2018 SunLit Festival. He’ll return with a new book this year.
Photo by Maureen McDole Author Rob Sanders signs one of his children’s books at the 2018 SunLit Festival. He’ll return with a new book this year.
Published April 9

Just five years after it began, the SunLit Festival has blossomed into a celebration of local literature and other arts that spans more than two weeks and both sides of Tampa Bay.

SunLit is the biggest project of Keep St. Pete Lit, a nonprofit literacy organization founded and directed by St. Petersburg native Maureen McDole. A poet herself, McDole has worked to make SunLit an event that welcomes everyone and makes vibrant connections among literature and other art forms — theater, music, visual arts and more.

That diversity can be seen in the 2019 event schedule, which includes everything from a children’s poetry hike to a panel on horror fiction, from a reading of erotica to the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. Events are April 11 through 28 in St. Petersburg unless otherwise noted.

April 11

Kickoff Party with food, music, speakers and performances. $35. 7-9 p.m. Chihuly Museum, 720 Central Ave.

April 13

Downtown Tour With a Literary Twist is a two-hour walking tour starting at 10 a.m. $10. City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N. Reservations at

Ekphrastic Performance inspired by Quest: A Celebration of Glass, with writers and poets performing ekphrastic interpretations drawn from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey and the art in the exhibition. Free. 2 p.m. Florida CraftArt, 501 Central Ave.

Children’s Poetry Night Hike lets kids read poetry related to wilds of the night. $5 for age 3 and up. 7 p.m. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S.

April 14

Wordier’s 1K Walk and Write (or Read) is part 1K, part writing workshop, part silent read-in, part walking tour and part pub crawl. $20. Starts at 1:30 p.m. at the Hangar Restaurant and Flight Lounge, 540 First St. SE, and goes to the Ale and the Witch, with 15-minute stops at various points along the way for free writing or reading.

April 15

Author Talk with Paul Wilborn, executive director of the Palladium Theater, discussing his new collection of short stories, Cigar City: Tales From a 1980s Creative Ghetto, about the Ybor City arts scene in the 1980s. Photographer-filmmaker David Audet, whose images appear in the book, will also speak. Free. 5:30 p.m. Mirror Lake Library, 280 Fifth St. N.

April 16

Howl: A Night of Poetry and Music, hosted by Friends of the Jack Kerouac House, is an evening of live music and a reading of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. Musical acts will be the Florida Boys, Grant Peeples and Ronnie Eliot; readers will include Bob Devin Jones and Peter Meinke. Free. 7-10 p.m. Old Key West Bar and Grill, 2451 Central Ave.

April 18

Poem in Your Pocket Day Art Installation invites participants to select or write a poem, cut a pocket from an old piece of clothing, place your poem in the pocket on the rear fence of the ArtsXchange and snap a photo of you and your poem to share. Free. Noon-4 p.m. ArtsXchange, 515 22nd St. S.

Lector Social Club with Cigar City Journal is a bilingual event featuring writers Jonathan Simkins, Sarah Escue, Marielle Grenade-Willis and Guillermo Parra. Free. 6:30-8 p.m. at Lector Social Club: A Lit & Natty Wine Shoppe, 305 E Polk St., Tampa.

Staged Reading of Art People, a play by Mark E. Leib about the lives, loves and occupational hazards of artists. $10. 7 p.m. [email protected], 620 First Ave. S.

April 19

Porch Party: Gulfport Trolley celebrates the official dedication of Trolley Market Square as a historic site in Gulfport with kids’ activities, live music and an unveiling of the new historic marker and a walking tour. Free. 7-10 p.m. at Trolley Market Square, 49th Street S and Tangerine Avenue, Gulfport.

April 20

Baked in the Florida Sun: A Benefit for Keep St. Pete Lit, a celebration of local poetry and visual art, will include a sculptural installation by Chad Mize and readings by Florida poet laureate Peter Meinke and other local poets, live music, local literary vendors, food trucks, coffee and a bar. $5. 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Behar + Peteranecz Architecture, 2340 Terminal Drive S. There will also be a private party including a conversation with Meinke and Mize, music, open bar and catering. $50. 7 p.m.

April 22

A Celebration of the Erotic features Lisa Birnbaum, Amber DiPietra, Maureen McDole and Enid Shomer reading from their own erotic work as well as pieces by other writers, with a panel discussion to follow and a cash bar; for 18 and up. Free. 7 p.m. Venus, 244 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.

April 23

Literary Trivia Night and Costume Contest, which includes a literary-themed costume contest with cash prizes. Free. 7 p.m. SubCentral at Iberian Rooster, 475 Central Ave.

April 24

The Long and Short of It: The Relevance of Dark Fiction and Horror in Our Time features popular Florida authors of dark fiction Steph Post, Kenzie Jennings, F.F. Amati and K.L. Nappier, with book signing . Free. 7 p.m. Books at Park Place (new location), 6800 Gulfport Blvd., South Pasadena.

April 25

Literary Carousel at MFA brings photography from the museum archives alive with the art of the Ekphrastic, a literary interpretation of a piece of visual art, with writers Roy Peter Clark, Lee Irby, Lisa Kirchner, Cindy Stovall, Jon Kile, Shelly Wilson, Silvia Curbelo and Maureen McDole. Included with museum admission, $10 after 5 p.m. for nonmembers, free for members. 6:30 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive NE.

April 26-28

The 38th annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, the oldest and largest fair of its kind in the southeastern United States, features dealers specializing in books of every age and subject matter, antique maps, ephemera and other paper collectibles. $6-$10, 12 and younger and students free. 5-9 p.m. April 26, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. April 27, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. April 28. St. Petersburg’s Historic Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N.

April 26

Poets & Lizards: A SunLit Celebration of New Southern Writing presents Southern writers Cynthia Arrieu-King, C.H. Hooks, Soham Patel and Caleb Michael Sarvis as they launch new books of poetry and fiction. Free. 6 p.m. Lector Social Club: A Lit & Natty Wine Shoppe, 305 E Polk St., Tampa.

One in Ten is a one-act play about the well-kept secret of adult illiteracy, performed as a fundraiser for the Literacy Council of St. Petersburg. $20, 16 and younger $10. 7 p.m. Sunshine Center Auditorium, 330 Fifth St. N.

April 27

KidsLit!: Poetry in the Gardens is an afternoon of exploring social justice poetry. There will be poetry stations, story time and a stage where kids can perform their work. Free. Noon-2 p.m. Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, 2490 Ninth Ave. S.

Writers, Authors, and Winners features Kristen Hare, Gale Massey and researcher Cal Branche, who will discuss their latest work and answer questions about the journey to publishing. McDole will moderate. Winners will be announced for the SunLit short story contest. Winners must be present to receive prizes. Free. 2-4 p.m. St. Petersburg Main Library, 3745 Ninth Ave. N.

Not Just Music: A Sonic Journey compares narrative-based music by Nina Simone and work by contemporary artist Lauryn Hill. Free. 3:30 p.m. Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, 2490 Ninth Ave S.

Rob Sanders Stonewall Book Performance and Reading commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising with a readers theater of Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution, the first picture book to tell of its role in the gay civil rights movement, performed by Sanders, Bob Devin Jones and an ensemble cast. Q&A with the author and a book signing will follow the performance. Preorder books from Tombolo Books or buy at the event. Free. 6 p.m. [email protected], 620 First Ave. S.

Contact Colette Bancroft at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.