CLEVELAND, Ohio — Local author Betty Weibel has long admired the literary travel sites in other states. What she didn’t realize until recently: Ohio has its own literary gems, waiting to be discovered.

She details them in her new book, “The Ohio Literary Trail: A Guide,” published earlier this year (The History Press, $21.99).

Weibel was appointed last year to the board of the Ohioana Library Association, a long-time nonprofit that promotes and preserves the work of Ohio writers. She was intrigued by the association’s maps, which detail dozens of places in the state with literary connections.

She suggested transforming the maps into a travel itinerary – and the Ohio Literary Trail was born, with more than 70 sites across the state that celebrate Ohio writers. Among them: the Nancy Drew Collection at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, the Thurber House in Columbus and the Langston Hughes Historical Marker in Cleveland. (Related: New Ohio Literary Trail celebrates sites, works of state’s best-known writers)

The book is meant as a companion to the trail, perhaps to store in the glove box as literary-minded travelers wind their way through the state. “It’s meant to spark your interest and get you to want to go yourself,” Weibel said.

Weibel, a former newspaper reporter who has written several books, also serves on the board of the Ohio History Connection. She lives in Geauga County and is co-founder of Chagrin Falls public relations firm Yopko Penhallurick.

She agreed to answer a few questions for us about her new book.

What made you want to write the book?

The purpose was to increase awareness of Ohio’s depth of literary talent and position the state as a literary hub influencing literature worldwide. Although Ohioana Library had been saying it, I didn’t understand it until I saw how many great names called Ohio home at one time — it was like putting the pieces of a puzzle together to see the big picture. I had done all of the research to create the expanded digital trail, so I was halfway through writing the book.

Are Ohio authors underrated? And if so, why do you think that is?

So many Ohio authors and illustrators have achieved national and international acclaim, but people don’t realize they are from Ohio and some of them have been gone for so long, they are forgotten. It is the Ohio roots that inspired so many to achieve success, but they may have moved on to Boston or New York or beyond, and people don’t realize they were from Ohio.

One other powerful factor is that while states like to claim well-known literary figures, there are many lesser-known and diverse early influencers from Ohio who inspired generations of literary talent. It shows how impressive Ohio has been in shaping the literary landscape (Sherwood Anderson inspired Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Faulkner, for example, but many don’t know his name; Virginia Hamilton inspired many children’s authors like Jacqueline Woodson).

Do you have a favorite destination (or destinations) that are featured in the book?

That’s like picking a favorite child, but I look forward to visiting the Nancy Drew collection at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, children’s author/illustrator Robert McCloskey Museum in Hamilton, and the Oak Hill Cottage and Malabar Farm’s big house from Louis Bromfield’s day.

I will add that the book is published but the trail will continue to expand and be updated online because there are places I missed on the current version and people have been kind enough to suggest additions. We will review the list of suggestions and update annually. I can tell you the new Toni Morrison historical marker will be dedicated in Lorain in August and that certainly will be added to the trail.

Ohio Literary Trail

Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar’s house in Dayton.

Ohio Literary Trail

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house in Cincinnati.

What’s the best way to approach creating an Ohio-literary itinerary? For example, geography, theme, time period – or something else?

There is no perfect plan and the table of contents will guide travelers as the book is divided by Ohio’s five regions and then sites are broken down by county. I have stops in 35 counties and you could spend a week in Southwest Ohio alone on a literary-themed vacation visiting sites around Dayton and Cincinnati, as well as the towns around them (which is so important too) or you might just decide to take a side trip and hit one or two stops on your way to somewhere — perhaps a family balances a trip to Cedar Point with a stop to see the Nancy Drew exhibit in Toledo. Or you go for a hike in Hocking Hills and swing by the National Road & Zane Grey Museum in Norwich.

When we were bored during the pandemic, my daughter and I would take short trips to visit the sites closest to us we had never seen – the Hart Crane historical marker in Garrettsville (we discovered his father founded Life Savers candies) and the exterior of the Haines House, a former Underground Railroad site in Alliance (where we also discovered the nearby Troll Hole Museum — a fun surprise!)

Do you have a favorite literary-themed destination in another state?

I loved many Boston literary sites on their literary trail, as well as Nathanial Hawthorne’s Salem home, however my favorite is Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West, Florida.

Are these sites interesting to more than just writers? What makes them so?

As I hear from people around the state during the series of virtual library talks about the trail, the appeal seems to go far beyond writers, although I do hope they will be inspired. People who like history and books, as well as proud Ohioans, are attracted to the trail. It was purposely designed so there is something for everyone in a family even if they aren’t readers, including children, seniors and outdoor lovers.

I wanted to connect the writers of the past from the trail with today’s writers, as Ohio continues to produce great talent. There is a section in the book that showcases a book fair/festival in each region of the state where people can go to meet current authors/illustrators and sometimes view panels and demonstrations. The back of the book also includes a list of Ohio writers by genre and Ohioana book award winners to encourage you to “read Ohio.”

Read more: Floating tents, Harding presidential library, John Glenn centennial: What’s new in Ohio travel for 2021

Ohio Literary Trail

The Thurber House, former home of humor writer James Thurber, is a literary center in Columbus, and a stop on the Ohio Literary Trail.

Ohio Literary Trail

Malabar Farm, the one-time home of novelist Louis Bromfield, is an Ohio State Park.The Plain Dealer

Ohio Literary Trail

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum in Columbus.

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