Arkansas Literary Festival slate piles on 

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This year's Arkansas Literary Festival packs nearly 100 authors into three short days, its organizers putting together an encyclopedic event for all tastes and habits of reading. That's a good thing, and a bad thing: Those with a broad range of interests are going to be tearing their hair out trying to decide what sessions to sacrifice.

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, for example: If you love graphic novels and are a fan of Mad Magazine, intrigued by the West Memphis Three case, a would-be member of the Mysterious Benedict Society and you lust for novels about the paranormal, you are going to want to throw Brad Mooy, festival director, into Lake Glimmerglass (as in "The Monsters of Templeton," see entry on "The Magic of Happiness and Grief" below).

Talk about stuffing things in: Competing with all of the above is a session at the Witt Stephens Jr. Nature Center with Dave Madden, author of "The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy."

It only gets worse. Say you're a Renaissance person whose interests include architecture, political sneakiness, Central High, the energy industry and yoga — you'll be bent out of shape for sure come 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

The 1 p.m. that day slot puts uberwits Roy Blount and Ian Frazier up against a trio of authors who write horror and true crime stories set in Arkansas.

Then there are all the other things going on — street music, special children's events, theatrical performances, all requiring a mad dash back and forth across the Main Street Bridge.

Fortunately, the Arkansas Times' annual "Pub or Perish" (see page 22) stands alone, so everybody can show up at Lulav at 7 p.m. for early bedtime stories and poetry. The Friday schedule is better (though you'll still need a coin to flip) and Sunday schedule light, and require only that you sneak out of work or church.

It's a fine thing that the festival, the ninth annual, includes sessions for gardeners, foodies (from Mexican to meatless to cakes), historians, lepidopterists, hikers, crafters and readers of romance novels. But what's the festival to do about the logjam? Certainly not cut back on the authors. Possible: Start earlier, stagger times and move more events to Sunday. More realistically, perhaps: Take a page from the Clinton School for Public Service handbook and put video of the sessions at the festival website, arkansasliteraryfestival.com (where you can find the complete, enormous schedule and bio of all authors and presenters). Because on Saturday at least, there won't be enough hours in the day.

Here, highlights of the festival, which starts Thursday, April 12, and runs through Sunday, April 15.

Author sessions and panels


Placed/Displaced (Pulaski Technical College, Wills Lecture Hall, NLR, 11 a.m. reading, 12:30 a.m. discussion). Novelists and poets John Bensko (MFA Creative Writing Program, University of Memphis), Hope Coulter (Hendrix College), Tyrone Jaeger (writer-in-residence, Hendrix College) and Stephanie Vanderslice (University of Central Arkansas) will read and talk about the importance of place in writing.

John T. Edge (Clinton School for Public Service, 6 p.m.) The Southern food sage discusses his forthcoming book, "Truck Food Cookbook." More on following page.

Spoken Word Live (Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, 7 p.m.). Winners of a city-wide poetry competition and other writers will read.


An Infinite Gastronomy (Main Library, Darragh Center, noon). "Oaxaca al Gusto" author Diana Southwood Kennedy, an expert on Mexican cuisine regional cuisine and winner of the 2011 James Beard Foundation Award for Cookbook of the Year, speaks about her cookbook (her eighth published) and her environmental work. Capital Hotel Executive Chef Lee Richardson will moderate.


Speaking of Arkansas Literary Festival

  • Our guide to the 2015 Arkansas Literary Festival

    April 23, 2015
    Panels feature writers from Waters to Wells. /more/
  • A Q&A with Brian Walter, director of 'Stay More: The World of Donald Harington'

    April 25, 2014
    Donald Harington, the late Arkansas novelist labeled an "Ozark Surrealist" by the New York Times, was born in Little Rock in 1935 and would go on to teach art history at the University of Arkansas for 22 years. When he died in 2009, he left behind a series of deeply idiosyncratic novels set in a fictional Arkansas town called Stay More, which, as William Grimes noted in his obituary for the Times, "drew the inevitable comparisons to William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County." Grimes also quotes from an interview with the poet Fred Chappell: "Don Harington is not an underappreciated novelist. He is an undiscovered continent." /more/
  • The Arkansas Literary Festival begins

    April 24, 2014
    Today at noon, the Arkansas Literary Festival started things off with a talk by longtime L.A. Times rock critic Robert Hilburn at the Oxford American Annex, moderated by Oxford American associate editor Maxwell George. HIlburn is the author, most recently, of "Johnny Cash: A Life," and so was there to tell Cash stories: playing Folsom Prison (a concert Hilburn actually attended, though as a freelancer not, he stressed, a prisoner), stealing horn riffs from Bob Moore, having an affair with his wife's sister, recording a novelty song called "The Chicken in Black" /more/
  • Nate Powell's 'March' nominated for 2014 Eisner Awards

    April 15, 2014
    The Eisner Awards, given out an award ceremony on the last night of Comic-Con and often called the Oscars of the comic industry, announced their 2014 nominees this afternoon, and "March: Book One," the collaboration between North Little Rock native Nate Powell, Congressman John Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aydin, earned nods in three categories: Best Publication for Teens, Best Reality-Based Work and Best Penciller / Inker. /more/
  • Weekend Longreads from the Arkansas Literary Festival lineup

    April 11, 2014
    The Arkansas Literary Festival will be in town April 24-26, and as an early primer I thought we could revisit some stories from a few of the lineup's highlights. /more/
  • Get your Arkansas Literary Festival tickets now

    April 7, 2014
    The Arkansas Literary Festival, held this year from April 24-27, has released this year's schedule, which includes appearances by Mary Roach, Mona Simpson, Kevin Brockmeier, John Lewis, David Finkel, Victor LaValle and presentations on lucid dreaming, paleontology and Arkansas legends from Johnny Cash to Donald Harington and Brooks Robinson. /more/
  • Arkansas Literary Festival 2014 lineup announced

    January 29, 2014
    Today, the Arkansas Literary Festival announced the slate of authors who'll attend the 11th annual event, scheduled for April 24-27 /more/
  • Richard Ford on growing up in Little Rock's Marion Hotel

    April 18, 2013
    Richard Ford is a long way from Little Rock these days. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his 1996 novel "Independence Day," the Mississippi-born Ford has taken his seat at the table of great American authors, and it looks like he'll be staying awhile. /more/
  • Richard Ford, Karen Russell, CD Wright and more to Arkansas Literary Festival

    January 24, 2013
    The Arkansas Literary Festival unveiled its 2013 author lineup today. /more/
  • Little Rock author on NPR

    March 27, 2012
    Award-winning Little Rock children's author Trenton Lee Stewart will speak at the 2012 Arkansas Literary Festival. /more/
  • More »


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