Literary Lights Shine During Columbia's Unbound Book Festival
Press Releases
Written by Visit Columbia, MO   
Monday, April 01, 2019 05:15 PM

COLUMBIA, MO - Nationally and internationally renowned authors will gather in Columbia April 19 and 20 for the fourth annual Unbound Book Festival, celebrating literature in all its forms.

Unbound, which is free to attend, takes place predominantly on the historic Stephens College campus in downtown Columbia and features discussions,panels, readings, book signings, performances and special events across two days. In addition, there will be many opportunities to meet the attending authors.

This year's program features a diverse selection of authors, discussions and panels that attest to Unbound's growing status among literature festivals in America.

According to Alex George, festival founder and author of "A Good American" and "Setting Free the Kites," the goal is to continue to grow, improve and become more ambitious in the programming each year. 

"We've worked very hard to have as broad a range of voices as possible," George says. "I couldn't be more excited about the quality of the authors coming to Columbia for this year's festival. They're going to knock everyone's socks off."

Unbound Book Festival events begin on Friday, April 19 with Poetry Abound! from 4-6 p.m. at Cafe Berlin, 220 North Tenth Street in downtown Columbia. Poetry Abound! is hosted by T'Keyah Thomas and highlights the talents and experiences of 12 poets providing fresh voices and perspectives to this timeless genre.

The keynote event of the 2019 festival begins at 7:30 p.m. on Friday with a special presentation featuring the acclaimed author George Saunders at the historic Missouri Theatre, 203 S. Ninth Street, also in downtown Columbia. Named by TIME magazine as one of the "most influential people in the world," Saunders has had an illustrious career in literature. He has published numerous award-winning collections of short stories, children's books and collections of essays. Saunders' highly-anticipated first novel, "Lincoln in the Bardo," won the 2017 Man Booker Prize for fiction, one of the most coveted prizes for literature in the English language.

Saunders' presence carries on a tradition of strong Unbound keynote speakers. Past keynote speakers include the celebrated wordsmiths Zadie Smith, author of "White Teeth;" Salmon Rushdie, author of the controversial "Satanic Verses;" and Michael Ondaatje, author of "The English Patient."

The festival continues the following day on the campus of Stephens College, 1200 E. Broadway. More than 50 authors will be on hand to talk about their work and their lives. There will be 11 separate panels, each anchored by at least three visiting authors. Panel topics include writing from the rural perspective, how authors are shaped by the city in which they live, how to successfully write about music and musicians, how the immigrant experience shapes one's perspective, finding the right audience for a children's book and more. There also will be eight moderated conversations between 16 authors touching on many intriguing topics.

One of the panels George is most eagerly anticipating is called "Prison Sentences," which examines the nature of America's prison industrial complex and includes three first-hand perspectives: that of a journalist, a former prison guard and a former inmate. The authors included on this panel are Shane Bauer, Walidah Imarisha and Reginald Dwayne Betts. 

"Betts has such an incredible story," says George. "He spent eight years in prison for a carjacking he committed when he was 16 and has gone on to be a highly-acclaimed, award-winning poet, memoirist and also an attorney. He attended law school at Yale. He's simply brilliant and I cannot wait to sit in on this conversation."

In addition to the "Prison Sentences" panel, Betts also is reading some of his poetry on Saturday and will be one of the authors visiting the Columbia public schools as part of the "Authors in the Schools" program.

Other special events slated for Saturday include "Tales From Beyond the Ban," a spoken word concert of folktales from predominantly Muslim countries as well as a discussion with James Mustich, author of "1,000 Books to Read Before You Die - A Life Changing List," which was named by the Washington Post as the "ultimate literary bucket list."

Saturday's festivities also include the Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB) regional finals. Louder Than A Bomb, founded by 2019 Unbound guest Kevin Coval, is the largest high school youth poetry slam competition in the world. The regional finals see the best young poets from across mid-Missouri perform their works for a chance to be crowned slam poetry champions. The LTAB finals take place from 2-4 p.m. at the Warehouse Theater.

"Louder Than A Bomb is a such a cool thing and I'm delighted we're able to have the regional finals at Unbound," says George. "You get to see these high school students stand up and perform what they've written and it's simply incredible. They're so impassioned, brave and talented."

Venues at Stephens College range in size from an intimate 75-seat parlor to a 330-seat theater. Events run concurrently and begin as early as 10 a.m. and the last event of the day begins at 5:30 p.m. Admission to all Unbound events is free and based on a first-come, first-served basis. Organizers strongly recommend attendees show up early to the events of their choice.

Throughout Unbound Book Festival, attendees will have the opportunity to purchase books from the visiting authors and have their books signed. An Independent Author Fair, featuring 16 local independently published authors speaking about their work, will be set up in Kimball Ballroom in Lela Raney Wood Hall on the Stephens campus and will be open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

One of Unbound's core missions is to encourage a love of reading and writing in all ages, but especially the young. To that end, the "Authors in the Schools" initiative allows students of all ages to hear authors speak at the various Columbia public schools. This program takes place the afternoon of Friday, April 19 and features eight authors and there will be an author in at least one classroom in every grade from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The "Authors in the Schools" keynote speaker for 2019 is Jacqueline Woodson, one of the most beloved writers of children's literature working today. Woodson has won just about every available award and prize (including, to name just a few, the Caldecott Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Newbery Honor Medal and a National Book Award). Woodson also is the Poetry Foundation's Young People's Poet Laureate and the Library of Congress appointed her National Ambassador for Young People's Literature for 2019. Jacqueline will be speaking at the Missouri Theatre to an audience of eighth graders bused in from across the Columbia Public Schools District.

And, on Saturday morning, there are events for younger readers at the Warehouse Theatre which begin at 9:30 a.m. with a special performance by Columbia's TRYPS Children's Theater followed by presentations by lauded children's authors Karma Wilson, Javaka Steptoe and Derrick Barnes.

For continually updated details on the 2019 Unbound Book Festival, including a complete list of participating authors, panels, events and festival venues, check back often at www.UnboundBookFestival.com or follow the event on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/unboundbookfestival.

Visitors interested in attending the festival can find information on Columbia's array of lodging, dining, nightlife, shopping, additional events, attractions and things to do around Columbia by heading to the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) website at www.VisitColumbiaMO.com. Or, they can call the CVB at 573-874-2489.