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Work Samples

HOTEL COVID_Baltimore Magazine_Wilhelm.pdf

Baltimore magazine piece (Dec 2020) describing my family's stay in a penthouse above the Lord Baltimore Hotel Triage, Respite, and Isolation Center during the summer of 2020. Below us, "hot floors" with quarantining residents and "cold floors" with medical professionals and hotel staff were part of the frontlines of Baltimore's COVID response effort. Then, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, which occurred just weeks after the fifth anniversary of Freddie Gray’s death while in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department, protesters flooded the streets around the hotel. The fuse to the powder keg that Baltimore can be seemed primed to be lit. 
 

PDF icon HOTEL COVID_Baltimore Magazine_Wilhelm.pdf

Hotel COVID_CNF Proposal to Fictionalization_Wilhelm_Baker.pdf

Converting Nonfiction Project into a Novel
“Hotel COVID”: A Novel by Gregg Wilhelm

After developing a lengthy nonfiction proposal on the amazing and singular story of the Lord Baltimore Hotel Triage, Respite, and Isolation Center (LBH TRI Center), I have decided to recast the narrative as a novel. Since May 2020, the LBH TRI Center has worked on the pandemic frontlines in Baltimore preventing thousands of hospitalizations and untold deaths among the city's most at-risk residents. The nonfiction book proposal can be read in its entirety via the attached PDF.

Converting a nonfiction project on the real LBH TRI Center into the fictionalized “Hotel COVID” also makes for interesting narrative possibilities that might restrain literary journalism and certainly straight-forward reportage. That said, the project entails significant research and reporting in a documentary sense to ensure that the story is told authentically.

This freedom is most evident in the choice of narrator: Sadie, the ghost of an 11-year-old girl who died at the Lord Baltimore Hotel in the late 1920s. Given its popularity upon opening in 1928, followed soon after by the stock market crash of 1929, the 23-story hotel was the site of several suicide leapers. Sadie’s parents were among them, and perhaps she died of a broken heart, but hotel guests have since claimed to see a mysterious red ball, just like the one Sadie was known to play with, roll unattended down hallways. The hotel has actually been the subject of ghost tours and broadcast investigations into paranormal activity. Such an omniscient narrator allows access to a variety of events (past and present), private conversations, and inner monologues that take place in the novel.

I also like how the introduction of an other-worldly narrator resonates with the opening lines of a quote from Union Army Brigadier General Joshua Chamberlain that was recited at the LBH TRI Center’s May 2021 anniversary commemoration: “In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls.”

Sadie is the lingering spirit that propels the novel’s narrative.

In December 2021, spikes in new COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by the Delta and Omicron variants repopulated the Lord Baltimore to near max capacity. Phones buzz at all hours with multiple daily texts calling for nursing support at the LBH TRI Center. Sadly, the story of Hotel COVID continues.

PDF icon Hotel COVID_CNF Proposal to Fictionalization_Wilhelm_Baker.pdf

Wilhelm Sample NOVEL

Abstract for “Backbeat the Waves”

Set in a time between glam rock and filthy punk, “Backbeat the Waves” washes over the summer that changed Mercury Widdershins’s life.  His divorced mother struggles to keep the family bar from sinking.  His strung-out sister bursts like a seagull popping Alka-Seltzer.  His tollbooth-collector uncle stresses over the opening of a new bridge that completes the city’s beltway circuit, which might make his job at the only tunnel through the harbor obsolete.  His extended family of barflies includes a wooden-legged charlatan, a former stripper with dementia, a reporter with literary aspirations, an AWOL sailor of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, arabbers, beat cops, beatniks, and ballplayers.   

Merck’s life completely spazzes when his cousin Nixie arrives from Appalachia for treatments at the prestigious hospital nearby. Girded by a bandolier filled with drawing pens instead of bullets, Nixie brings a weird look, strange words, and ultimate questions.   Together, they discover their own liberating music, recover their adolescences stolen by fate, and muster their separate solutions to what the future holds.  Set in 1977 between the debut of Star Wars, the death of Elvis Presley, and the launch of the Voyager space probes, “Backbeat the Waves” explores moments when people exist between things: city and country, adolescence and adulthood, perseverance and mortality. How, or will, Merck and Nixie reach escape velocity?

For a summer that witnessed the death of a universal “king” and the launch of human culture into outerspace, the most dramatic events happened at home. 

Just let me hear some of that
Rock and roll music,
Any old way you choose it;
It’s got a backbeat, you can’t lose it,
Any old time you use it.
It’s gotta be rock and roll music,
If you want to dance with me…

-- Chuck Berry
Representing the United States, Voyager 2 Golden Record
Launched August 20, 1977

PDF icon Wilhelm Sample NOVEL

Wilhelm Sample POETRY

Five poems published in Beltway Poetry Quarterly. I've written and been published in multiple genres: fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. In teaching, I promote working across disciplines as studying poetry--fiction, rhyme, prosody, economy, etc.--can inform prose on the sentence level; studying character and scene can bring new life to poems; conducting research and examining the self be it memoir or essay lends itself to fiction and poetry.

PDF icon Wilhelm Sample POETRY

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About Gregg

Baltimore County

Gregg Wilhelm's picture
Gregg Wilhelm is a literary artist, educator, community builder, and advocate. Gregg has been Director of Mason Creative Writing at George Mason University since 2018. He oversees the undergraduate BFA in Creative Writing and graduate MFA in Creative Writing programs and serves as assistant professor, teaching the BFA Capstone and Thesis course. In 2020, he co-founded Watershed Lit: Center for Literary Engagement and Publishing Practice at Mason. Watershed Lit is a collective of organizations whose... more

Book Covers

This image depicts a selection of titles that Gregg Wilhelm has shepherded to publication as an editor, designer, production manager, marketer, and/or publisher; these are some of more than 300 book projects he has been honored to be involved with during his career in independent publishing. 

  • WILHELM Select Covers BOOKS PUBLISHED

    This image depicts a selection of titles that Gregg Wilhelm has shepherded to publication as an editor, designer, production manager, marketer, and/or publisher
    This image depicts a selection of titles that Gregg Wilhelm has shepherded to publication as an editor, designer, production manager, marketer, and/or publisher; these are some of more than 175 book projects he has been honored to be involved with during his career in independent publishing.

Baltimore Ekphrasis Project

A collaboration between The Light Ekphrastic journal (edited by Jenny O'Grady) and the Baltimore LED Project, visual artists paired with literary artists to create an original artwork based on a orginal poem, and in turn a new poem was written based on a new piece by the visual artist. Poet Gregg Wilhelm partnered with painter Dayna Carpenter.

Clash By Night POETRY ANTHOLOGY

Co-edited by Gerry LaFemina and Gregg Wilhelm, Clash By Night inspired by The Clash's seminal London Calling album was the first title in CityLit Press's Lo-fi Poetry series where "poets cover your record collection." Forty poets from across the United States contributed to the anthology, which found its way into the hands of the three surviving band members and other musicians, such as Alejandro Escovedo.

For a long time, lyric poetry and song lyrics have lived parallel lives, but so many poets love music and rock-and-roll. Clash by Night attempts to enter the space between those parallel lines, and engage a dialogue between other poems and the songs of London Calling. It is an artistically anachronistic book: it asked poets to “cover” songs, which led to a variety of questions (What does it mean to cover a song vis-à-vis a poem? What do these songs say today? What does the process of writing the poems discover?) that could only be answered through the making of the poems themselves.

  • Clash By Night Cover

    Clash By Night Cover (Design by Gregg Wilhelm)
    Clash By Night Cover (Left: back cover / Spine / Right: front cover) mimics the album sleeve to The Clash's LONDON CALLING. Contributing poets list on back cover. Design by Gregg Wilhelm. Publisher: CityLit Press.
  • ZENITH from Clash By Night

    Poem by Gregg Wilhelm
    Poem by Gregg Wilhelm in the Lo-fi Poetry series anthology CLASH BY NIGHT.
  • Do You Remember? (Smith Center, 1984)

    Poem by Gregg Wilhelm in the Lo-fi Poetry series anthology CLASH BY NIGHT.
    Poem by Gregg Wilhelm in the Lo-fi Poetry series anthology CLASH BY NIGHT.

Wilhelm at Writers Reading @ AACC

Gregg Wilhelm was a featured author at Anne Arundel Community College's Writers Reading @ AACC series.

CityLit Festival Highlights

Gregg Wilhelm's work as a literary arts administrator includes developing the popular annual CityLit Festival. This video represents some of the free events highlights over the years.

CityLit Project Youth Programs

Highlights of CityLit's outreach to youth through creative writing and project management strategies.

Geo-Poe: A Literary Geo-Caching Adventure

“Geo-Poe” was a city-wide literary geo-caching adventure dreamed up and coordinated by Gregg Wilhelm in the Fall 2014.  Fifteen writers (from established authors to emerging voices) penned short short stories surrounding the mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe or stories written in a Poe-esque style.  These stories were hidden around Baltimore in spots relevant to the narrative, and readers-seekers used mobile devices to find-and-read the story caches. Clues to each stashed cache were posted via social media.  The project took on extra life as a reading was staged at Westminster Hall, Eight Stone Press published a chapbook, and a culminating event celebrating the publication of the chapbook took place at Atomic Books.  Participants stated that the experience was a highlight of their year, and stories produced by the writers were uniformly excellent.

WBAL-TV Compilation

Compilation of Gregg Wilhelm's appearances on WBAL-TV promoting books and literary events.

  • WBAL-TV Compilation

    Gregg Wilhelm's appearances on WBAL-TV promoting books and literary events.

Connect with Gregg

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Gregg's Curated Collection

View Gregg's favorite works from other Baker Artists