‘The Ohio Literary Trail’ puts the spotlight on authors from the Buckeye State

From Toledo, home of the secrets of Nancy Drew, to Lorain, who became the remarkable Toni Morrison, and Columbus and his favorite son, James Thurber, Ohio have put many great writers on the map.

These and many other writers – and where they came from – are dealt with in “The Ohio Literary Trail: A Guide” by journalist and PR specialist Betty Weibel. The book is broken down into five geographic regions of the state and covers the homes, museums, parks, monuments, libraries, and more of writers who celebrate Ohio-born literature.

The Toledo Lucas County Public Library holds a collection by Nancy Drew, the popular teenage truth series by Mildred “Millie” Wirt, better known by her pen name Carolyn Keene.

The Paul Laurence Dunbar House in Dayton celebrates the first African American poet.

Columbus has a variety of authoring locations including the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, as well as the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theater Research Institute, both at Ohio State University, and of course Thurber House, where Thurber’s family lived in 1913 until 1917.

A few lesser-known locations make for delightful surprises: Amelia Valerio Weinberg Memorial Fountain in Hamilton County, better known as the “Book Fountain,” with water flowing over jumbo books; the McCloskey Museum (also in Hamilton County), which celebrates the creator of the popular picture book “Make Way for Ducklings”; and the Wick Poetry Center and Poetry Park in Kent.

The book references a number of more than 1,700 state historical markers, a wonderful project sponsored by the Ohio History Connection. The texts of the markings contain precise but detailed information about plaques placed in front of their historical locations.

Most Ohio authors are mentioned, if not in the body of the book, then in the long appendix listing the Ohioana Library Award winners. The book has several other appendices, but not a simple old index telling readers which page to find information on a particular author or page of literature.

The first map of the Ohio Literary Trail was created in 1957 by the Ohio Center for the Book and the State Library of Ohio and is regularly updated. A 2020 version is included in this book, but it is small and difficult to read. The large digital version with links to the locations, developed by the Ohioana Library Association, is available at www.ohioana.org. It would be nice if The Ohio Literary Trail included a large, full-color, fold-out map that tourists could take with them as they browse the many literary locations in the state.

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