COLUMBIA, MO – After two years of virtual programming due to the pandemic, the 2022 Unbound Book Festival returns – in-person! – but to new venues in downtown Columbia to celebrate literature in its many forms with nationally and internationally renowned authors, April 21-24.
According to festival founder and organizer Alex George, planing a major literary festival during a pandemic proved both challenging and rewarding, but there’s nothing like physically attending a festival.
“The fact that we’re able to physically host the festival in Columbia again is beyond massive,” says George, who also is the accomplished author of seven novels. “It was wonderful to be able to stretch Unbound out across three months last year during our all-virtual festival. It was fun, different and it was a great success. The online format allowed us to expand our audience and we had people attending from as far away as Canada, Vietnam and the UK, which was very cool. However, we were missing the intimacy and collective feeling of community that comes with an in-person experience, so we are extremely excited to be back in Columbia this year.”
The keynote event of the seventh annual Unbound Book Festival will be Friday, April 22 featuring award-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen at the historic Missouri Theatre in downtown Columbia. Nguyen won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his New York Times bestselling debut novel “The Sympathizer.” His follow-up sequel, “The Committed,” was published in 2021 and also quickly hit the best-seller lists. Past Unbound keynote speakers have included Pulitzer winning poets Tracy K. Smith and Jericho Brown as well as literary heavyweights George Saunders, Zadie Smith, Salmon Rushdie and Michael Ondaatje.
More than 50 authors will be on hand throughout the rest of the weekend to discuss their craft and creative journey during Unbound’s 24 different programs, professional panels and Q & A sessions with attendees focusing on a mix of literary topics. There will be separate programs on fiction, non-fiction and poetry, all anchored by critically-lauded writers. There also will be author meet-and-greet opportunities as well as book signings. The 2022 schedule features 11 literary panel discussions, three poetry events, four author conversations and six special events.
New for 2022, Unbound Book Festival will host its world-class authors and poets at eight different venues throughout downtown Columbia. Since its inception, Unbound had taken place almost exclusively on the historic Stephens College campus; however, Columbia’s downtown district offered ample space to expand and accommodate the festival’s increase in popularity. For 2022, Unbound events will take place within a roughly seven-block radius in downtown Columbia at the historic Missouri Theatre, The Tiger Ballroom at The Tiger Hotel, The Katy Ballroom at The Broadway Hotel, both the “Little” and “Big” theaters at Ragtag Cinema, Serendipity Salon and Gallery, Orr Street Studios and the Stephens College campus – making for an easily walkable festival experience with convenient access to Columbia’s many downtown restaurants, cafes, bistros and shops.
Another change for 2022 is the Write On! Workshop, which will be hosted from 9:15 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 24 on the Stephens College campus. Write On! is geared to up-and-coming authors or those that have a story to tell but aren’t sure where to start. This full day of workshops is dedicated to honing the craft of writing. The workshops will explore the theory and practice of writing with participants learning more about the craft and about publishing from accomplished authors. There is a $50 registration fee to participate in the Write On! Workshop. Write On! will take place throughout several venues on the Stephens campus.
An important part of Unbound’s core mission is to encourage a love of reading and writing for all ages, but with a significant emphasis on young, developing minds. To that end, the “Authors in the Schools” program brings some of the foremost writers of children’s literature into participating classrooms around Columbia and virtually throughout the state. The keynote speakers for “Authors in the Schools” this year are bestselling author Jerry Craft, creator of the graphic novels “New Kid” and “Class Act,” and Minh Le, award-winning author of “Drawn Together,” “Let Me Finish!” and “The Perfect Seat.” Additional in-person classroom visits will be made by the multi-talented authors Malaka Gharib, who is an artist, writer and regular contributor to NPR; Shanthi Sekaran, who is a successful novelist and television writer; and Andrea Williams, an accomplished journalist and who co-authored the bestselling book We Are Family with LeBron James.
Admission to all Unbound activities (with the exception of the Write On! Workshop) is free, making this festival accessible to literature lovers and bibliophiles from all walks of life. For more details on this year’s roster of authors, schedule of events, descriptions of the different events and festival updates, visit www.UnboundBookFestival.com.
Columbia features a mix of small town charm and friendliness with the amenities and cultural offerings of a big city. There is always something exciting to see and do in Columbia, so for more information on these and other ways to have fun in Columbia, please contact Megan McConachie at the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau at 573-441-5572 or at VisitColumbiaMO.com.