Reading and writing saved my life,” said Maureen McDole who is the founder and executive director of Keep St. Pete Lit.
The “Lit” is shorthand for “literature.”
McDole said, “I grew up in a dysfunctional household. I used reading as a way to escape my environment and to see what else was out there. I used writing to process my emotions.”
She is all about promoting reading because she knows firsthand that it changes lives.
Annually, her organization produces SunLit, a collaborative citywide festival in St. Petersburg that promotes the value and love of literature. This year, over 30 partners are helping to create events and content.
On Saturday, April 14, the Friends of the St. Petersburg Main Library, a partner in SunLit, hosted a panel featuring established and new authors from 2 to 4 p.m. followed by free refreshments that included a sheet cake decorated with a variation of the festival’s logo.
“This year, we are honoring some local authors with new publications,” said Lorraine Franckle, president of the friends group. “And, we’re running a short story contest.”
The following three prizes were awarded as part of the panel event: First Place, Second Place and the Young Writer Award for people 18 years of age or younger.
The contest allows members of the public to participate in SunLit, which features local events celebrating the written word from April 7 through April 22, said McDole.
Winner of the Young Writer Award and a $100 cash prize was Tauna Anderson, a student at Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport.
First place honors and a $100 cash prize went to Leslie Waters, and Elliott Darron was awarded second place and a $50 cash prize.
Each winner read their short story to the crowd of about 100 literary enthusiasts.
The writing contest judges were Phil Coleman, a retired professor of American Literature and Morgan Gresham, a professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg specializing in writing program administration and portfolio assessment. She also teaches composition and writing in digital environments.
Local authors featured on the panel were Peter Golenbock, Cathy Salustri and John A. Vanek. They spoke about their writing and publishing processes.
“Six minutes of reading lowers your stress levels by over 60 percent,” said McDole. “So, more than ever in this time of fast-paced social media and everything, there’s nothing else like reading.”
For more information, visit keepstpetelit.org/sunlit-festival.