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St. Petersburg SunLit Festival starts Friday

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Petersburg’s second annual SunLit Festival officially kicks off this Saturday with an award ceremony honoring the city’s Poet Laureate Helen Pruitt Wallace. The 2 p.m. event at the Main Library located at 3745 Ninth Ave. N. launches 10 days of celebration of literacy, literature and writers.

The festival runs through March 13.

The sixth annual James Weldon Johnson Literacy Festival is also Saturday. It runs from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the community library in his name located at 1059 18th Ave. S. Johnson was a famous writer, lawyer and civil rights activist from Jacksonville.

The festival features several exciting events designed to make reading and writing fun. Lucha Libra runs  7 until 10 Friday night at Bloom Art Center. The free event features eight writers. Each is given a prompt and then five minutes to create an original story around it. The authors then present their creation. Theatrics and costumes are encouraged. Writers are eliminated each round until only one remains.

Professional actors from the community, as well as those from USF St. Petersburg, will perform Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the William’s House Courtyard at USFSP. The play is a tragic romantic comedy.

Other events include talks with writers, live poetry, talks about protest literature and many others drawing attention to literary arts.

The city is hosting a Read-and-Write-In Sunday at 2 p.m. at South Straub Park in downtown St. Petersburg. Residents are encouraged to bring a blanket and enjoy a favorite book or an afternoon of creative writing in the park. That event is being held in conjunction with Keep Saint Petersburg Local and Keep St. Petersburg Lit.

The festival also features several activities geared toward children and families. The Main Library is hosting a puppet show Monday at 10:30 as well as “Roll Over & Read” featuring service dogs. That event is also located at the South Community Library at 2300 Roy Hanna Drive S. Exact dates and show times are on the St. Petersburg Library system website.

The Florida Writer’s Association will hold its monthly meeting 5:30 p.m. Thursday while the LGBT Book Club will meet next 11 a.m. March 12. Both are at the city’s Main Library.

The festival concludes 3 p.m. March 13 with an adult crafting program also at the Main Library.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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