Baltimore Writer

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Among the most famous writers who have lived in Baltimore are Edgar Allan Poe, H.L.Mencken, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Barth. Poe was born in Boston in 1809 but his work as a writer, editor, and literary critic led him to other East Coast cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, and Baltimore, where he died under mysterious circumstances in 1849. He is buried in the Westminster church graveyard there. The Mystery Writers of America have initiated the Edgar Allan Poe Award to honor the best mystery works published or produced each year. H. L. Mencken was an outspoken critic and columnist for the Baltimore Sun in the early twentieth century who skewered politicians and others with his sarcastic wit. Fitzgerald was named after his famous Maryland ancestor, Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner on board a ship in Baltimore harbor during the War of 1812. While living here in the early 1930's, Fitzgerald wrote a short story entitled "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which was originally set in Baltimore. He also completed work on his novel entitled Tender is the Night. John Barth taught for many years at Johns Hopkins University and spent his summers sailing on the Chesapeake Bay. He won a National Book Award in 1972 for his novel Chimera. In 1997 he received the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Fiction. Other Baltimore writers are profiled below, along with descriptions of their works.
Pictured above:
Edgar Allan Poe
H. L. Mencken
F. Scott Fitzgerald
John Barth

Not shown:

Russell Baker
Anne Tyler
Laura Lippman
John Waters
Barry Levinson
David Simon

Rafael Alvarez
Matt Porterfield

Anne Tyler is an award-winning American novelist who was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1941. Tyler worked as a bibliographer and librarian before settling in Baltimore in 1967 where she began to write full-time. Although somewhat reclusive, she has been known to frequent the Roland Park Library for research and has contributed to their fund raising events. Her novels are marked by a gentle, compassionate wit and precise details of domestic life. Her best known works are Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons, and A Patchwork Planet. All are set in Baltimore and focus on eccentric middle-class people living in chaotic or dysfunctional families. In 1983 Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. In 1985 The Accidental Tourist was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and was subsequently made into a movie starring Gina Davis and William Hurt. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons in 1989. Her novel entitled Noah's Compass is available in paperback and reviewed elsewhere on this site.

 

Laura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and attended school there through the ninth grade.She is the daughter of Theo Lippman Jr., a Baltimore Sun editorial writer, and a Baltimore City school librarian. After graduating from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Maryland, Laura attended the School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She worked for the Waco Tribune-Herald and the San Antonio Light before returning to Baltimore in 1989 and spending twelve years as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Lippman began writing novels while working as a full time journalist and published seven books about a feisty private investigator named Tess Monaghan before leaving the Sun in 2001. Since then her crime fiction has won many awards, including the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. As her work suggests, Laura is fond of Baltimore and appears at book festivals, library lectures, and author signings in the area. She won the Mayor’s Prize for Literary Excellence and was recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association. Her latest work is entitled Lady in the Lake, which Stephen King called "haunting and extraordinary" in his New York Times review of July 18, 2019. 


Russell Baker was born in Loudon County, Virginia. After his father died of diabetes his mother moved the family to New Jersey and then to Baltimore, where he graduated from City College high school in 1943. He received his B. A. from the School of Arts & Sciences at Johns Hopkins and worked for the Baltimore Sun from 1947 to 1954 before joining the Washington bureau of the New York Times. By the early 1960s he was writing a syndicated column which focused mostly on political satire. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for that column and received a second Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for his autobiography Growing Up. Baker was well known as the host of the PBS Masterpiece Theater from 1992 to 2004. During that time he continued to write the nationally syndicated "Observer" column for the New York Times and was a regular contributor to such national periodicals as The Saturday Evening Post, Sports Illustrated, and Mc Calls. After leaving Masterpiece Theatre he retired to Leesburg, Virginia, not far from his birthplace. Growing Up describes his childhood in rural Virginia, growing up during the Great Depression, and his young adulthood in Baltimore.


Stephen Dixon is a native of New York city who worked as a journalist and in radio while in his early 20’s. In that role he interviewed such major political figures as Richard Nixon, JFK, and Khrushchev. Since his first book, No Relief, was published in 1976, Dixon has published 26 books, including novels, short-story collections, and the occasional as-yet-unproduced play. He's also published 500 stories in literary magazines, which is an unofficial record. He won the Stegner Fellowship in 1964. He was nominated for a National Book Award for Frog in 1991 and again in 1995 for Interstate. A Pen/Faulkner Award finalist, he won three O. Henry Awards, two NEA Fellowships, a Pushcart Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction, and an American Academy of Arts and Letters literature award. Dixon taught at Johns Hopkins University in the Writing Seminars from 1980 until he retired in 20007.


John Waters is a native of Baltimore who became a film director, screenwriter, author, journalist, and visual artist. He first rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films, especially Pink Flamingos. Between 1964 and 2015 Waters wrote, directed, or produced 30 films. He has also written 7 books and appeared in numerous television interviews and documentaries. All of his early films were shot in the Baltimore area with a company of local actors including Divine, who eventually became their primary star. Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Desperate Living, which he labeled the Trash Trilogy, pushed hard at the boundaries of conventional propriety and movie censorship. Waters’1981 film Polyester starred Divine opposite former teen idol Tab Hunter. Since then, his films have become less controversial and more mainstream. Hairspray, the last movie he produced, was turned into a hit Broadway musical that swept the 2003 Tony Awards. Since the early 1990s, Water’s photo-based artwork and installations have been internationally exhibited in galleries and museums. He is also a bibliophile, with a collection of over 8,000 books, serves on the board of the Maryland Film Festival, and is a contributor to Artforum magazine. In 2012 Waters completed a hitchhiking journey across the United States from Baltimore to San Francisco, turning his adventures into a book entitled Carsick. In 2014, he was nominated for a Grammy for the spoken word version of Carsick.

Barry Levinson was born and raised in the Forest Park neighborhood of Baltimore. He began his career as a Hollywood director with Diner (1982), for which he had also written the script and which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Diner was the first of four films set in the Baltimore of Levinson's youth. The other three were Tin Men (1987), a story of aluminum-siding salesmen in the 1960s starring Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito; the immigrant family saga Avalon (1990) and Liberty Heights (1999). He said, “It had never occurred to me when I started to write that I would end up drawing on my own experiences, and that the stories I heard would end up as movies.” Liberty Heights is about the friendship between a Jewish boy and a black girl who are classmates in a newly integrated high school. Levinson said he wanted to examine not the anger among the city’s different populations but the lack of understanding -- because with misunderstanding comes humor, humor from character. “Baltimore is my homeland, it's like no other city in the country and it is exactly like every town throughout the world. It is a place for me to examine all the issues that interest me, past and present, with humor and passion, for better or worse.” As a writer, director, or producer he has been nominated for a total of 38 Academy Awards and 33 Golden Globe Awards. In 2010 Levinson received the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement, a lifetime achievement award from the Writers Guild of America.

David Simon is an American author, journalist, television writer and producer who grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland. He worked for the Baltimore Sun city desk for twelve years from 1982 to 1995 and spent most of his time covering the crime beat. In 1988 took a year’s leave to join the Baltimore Police Department Homicide Unit and write a book entitled Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (1991). The book won the 1992 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime book. The Associated Press called it “a true-crime classic” and Newsday described it as “one of the most  engrossing police procedural mystery books ever written.” Simon credits his time researching this book for altering his writing style and informing later work. The book was the basis for the award-winning TV series Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999), on which Simon worked as a writer and producer. In 1997 he co-authored, with Ed Burns, The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, about a West Baltimore community dominated by a heavy drug market. It was named a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times and later produced as a six-hour TV miniseries for HBO. It received three Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or a Movie. Simon is best known as the creator, executive producer, and head writer of the HBO drama series The Wire. Simon and his writing staff were nominated by the Writers Guild of America for Best Dramatic Series for the fifth season of The Wire. Simon and Ed Burns collaborated to write the series finale which received the show's second Emmy nomination in the category of Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. Simon was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship grant in 2010 and is currently working with Burns to adapt Philip Roth’s acclaimed novel The Plot Against America into a miniseries.


Matt Porterfield is a native of Baltimore who attended the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and teaches screen writing and film production in the Film and Media Studies program at Johns Hopkins University. An independent filmmaker, he has written and directed four feature films: Hamilton (2006), Putty Hill (2011), I Used To Be Darker (2013), and Sollers Point (2017). Most are set in working class communities in Baltimore. His work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the Harvard Film Archive and has screened at Centre Pompidou, Walker Art Center, The Whitney Biennial, and film festivals such as Sundance, the Berlinale, and SXSW. Matt made his first short, Take What You Can Carry, in Berlin in 2014 with a grant from the Harvard Film Study Center. It premiered in the Berlinale Shorts Competition in February 2015. In the summer of 2015, he co-produced and co-wrote Argentine director Gaston Solnicki’s first fiction feature, Kekszakallu, which won the FIPRESCI prize at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019.

Rafael Alvarez is fond of saying that he is a writer “born, working, and living in the city of Baltimore.” Like many others at the time, his parents left the city for the suburbs in the early 1950s but he reversed his family’s upwardly mobile trend and eventually moved back because “The city was where things were different, things were alive, and people were strange.” He went to Mount Saint Joseph High School in the southwest Baltimore neighborhood of Irvington, where he met kids from Little Italy, Highland Town, and Locust Point. He attended Loyola College and eventually settled in the same house and neighborhood called Greektown where his father and grandfather both grew up. Alvarez writes mostly about working class people in his “Holy Land” stories. He calls East Baltimore the Holy Land because “it’s the sacred ground that my ancestors walked on.” Alvarez recently became involved in a project called Mapping Dialogues at the University of Maryland, which focuses on the history and culture of older industrial neighborhoods in Baltimore. The results are shared in a series of stories and memories centered on where the participants lived.


Gerard Marconi has a master's degree in Drama from Catholic University and in Humanities from Johns Hopkins University. He spent over twenty five years as a teacher and administrator in arts education at the college level. During that time he produced, designed, or directed over two hundred theatrical events, served as President of the Theater Association of Pennsylvania and a board member of the Frederick County (MD) Arts Council. He also conducted field trips to theatres and museums in Washington, Baltimore, London, and Florence, Italy. Since relocating to Baltimore he has volunteered at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore Heritage, the Baltimore Book Festival, and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts.

He is an award winning author of short stories and one-act plays whose work has appeared in The Chattahoochee Review, The Tuscarora Review, and The Summerset Review, among others. His short story “How the Dead Are Buried” was featured in Mayday magazine published by New American Press and his one-act play “Rapture” was given a public reading by the Baltimore Playwrights Festival. His collection of short stories entitled Searching for Paradise was awarded the Best Short Fiction prize by the Self-Publishing Review.




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