Ninth annual?! Really? Can it actually be that much time has passed, both for the Arkansas Literary Festival and The Arkansas Times' bar reading, Pub or Perish, originally thrown together that first year in a scant two weeks?
Not to go stumbling down memory-lane, but it was, we admit, a more ambitious effort back then: three hours of readings at three different River Market watering holes, the assembled congregation bar-crawling from one spot to another, with the lectern and lamp thrown over my shoulder. Between delays and overbooking the bill, we ran over by a solid hour-and-15 in Year Zero, not that anybody complained much. Ah, the good ol' days, when we were all so young and crazy.
We've learned a thing or three since then, and Pub or Perish has only gotten better. This year's edition — scheduled to run from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 14 — will be a bit more reasonable: two hours instead of three, one venue instead of a slightly-wobbly march around town. While we made those changes years ago, one new wrinkle for 2012 is that we're loading up our semi-famous coat-rack-turned-lectern and moving out of the River Market for the first time, heading uptown to a much more grown up and sophisticated space: the large room upstairs at Lulav, A Modern Eatery at 220 W. 6th Street.
Not only will the move help us avoid our past issues with noise from bands down the way in the River Market, our new hosts at Lulav have graciously agreed to provide Pub or Perishers with complimentary hors d'oeuvres during the event, and will offer a dinner special for PoP atendees who want to stick around after the reading for dinner. As always, there will be a full bar close to the action for those who like their poetry, fiction and memoir both shaken and stirred.
One of this year's big-draws will undoubtedly be Little Rock young-adult novelist Trenton Lee Stewart. Author of "The Mysterious Benedict Society" series — the first of which was recently featured on National Public Radio's "Backseat Book Club" — and a graduate of the famous Iowa Writers' Workshop, Trent is a hell of a writer even when he's not penning for the youngsters. We've been trying to get the stars to align to get him on the bill at PoP for several years, and this year they finally did. Stewart's latest book in the Benedict Society series — a prequel called "The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict" — is scheduled for release later this month.
Building on that hometown theme, Pub or Perish 2012 went decidedly local this year. Several other great Arkansas writers will also grace the stage, including Loria Taylor, Amy Manning, Rhett Brinkley, Clint Murphy, Hope Coulter and Nickole Brown.
Hope Coulter, a professor at Hendrix College, has seen her writing appear in New Delta Review, Slant, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Rattle. Her work was nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize in 2008.
Nickole Brown is a recent hire at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where she teaches creative writing and poetry. Her debut collection, "Sister," was published by Red Hen Press, and her poetry has appeared in The Writer's Chronicle, Poets and Writers, Another Chicago Magazine, Florida Review and others.
In addition, as has been our custom and privilege from that first year, Pub or Perish will feature three or four three-minute slots at our semi-open mic. Why "semi-open?" To be one of the lucky few to join the bill, send an e-mail titled "Pub or Perish 2012" at 9 a.m. sharp on Friday, April 13, to: david@arktimes. Those who get in first get the slots. All e-mails sent before 9 a.m. will be deleted. Move quick. They go fast.
Come on out and eat, drink and be literary at Lulav. It's always a great time.