True Lit


words: Nancy Hartney
images: courtesy Fayetteville Public Library

Each October, the Fayetteville Public Library celebrates the world of writing. The literary event is called True Lit, its name a play on True Grit, the famous book and subsequent movie written by renowned Arkansas author, Charles Portis.

Putting together the festival takes hard work and lots of planning, and each year the staff at the library is amazed by the response they get from those who attend. As for this year’s line-up, Lolly Greenwood, the Fayetteville Director of Youth and Outreach Services and True Lit Coordinating Chair, says she couldn’t be more excited. And that excitement starts with the keynote speaker. “Author Louis Sachar, winner of the National Book Award and Newbery Medal, writes children’s books,” Lolly says. “Although best known for the Wayside School series and Holes, he’s also written There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, Fuzzy Mud, and Small Steps. This is our fourth year in a row that we have featured a Newbery Award-winning author as our keynote.”

Lolly says the Fayetteville Literary Festival became a reality when “the partners realized that individually we were all promoting the same goal of literature, literacy and the love of reading. We realized we could offer more collectively than as individuals.” Fayetteville Public Schools, Fayetteville Education Foundation, Fayetteville Montessori School, the University of Arkansas Program in Creative Writing and Translation, and the Walton Arts Center co-sponsor the festival.

This year’s True Lit Festival begins October 18 with Linda Williams Palmer’s evening discussion and presentation of her original sketches, Champion Trees of Arkansas: An Artist’s Journey, which captures the beauty of our Arkansas hills and plains.

Linda Leavell, the author of Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore, presents a hands-on workshop, “Narrative Nonfiction: Turning Facts into Story.” Winner of the PEN Award and Plutarch Award for 2013, the book was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

With more than forty books to his credit, William Bernhardt leads writers in the “Fundamentals of Fiction.” He’s best known for his blockbuster Ben Kincaid mystery series and the Red Sneakers how-to books on writing. By the way, he can beat you at Scrabble and work the New York Times crossword in under five minutes.

There will be a workshop designed for poets led by UA’s Geoffrey Brock called “Generating Poetry Imitations.” This workshop offers an introduction to poetic imitation, the process of creating new poems by using existing poems as models. They will examine several famous instances of poetic imitation by poets such as W.B. Yeats, Donald Justice, and Anne Carson, and participants will write an imitation of their own as an in-class exercise.

By Saturday, authors, and writers, craft tools firmly in hand, will have an opportunity for a one-on-one session with book publishers to pitch their work for publication. Graphic novelist Cole Closser and self-publication guru Darcy Pattison also appear.

On Sunday UA Press Spotlight Author Jerry McConnell presents The Improbable Life of the Arkansas Democrat, a non-fiction account of how a second-place paper overtook the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi and changed Arkansas journalism and Arkansas history.

Claudia Rankine, the author of five poetry collections, two plays, and editor of several anthologies, appears as the University of Arkansas Program in Creative Writing and Translation Distinguished Reader on the following Thursday, October 27. She is best known for Citizen: An American Lyric.

It’s an exciting line-up, and Lolly says there’s something at True Lit for every age. “Our event has grown from one day into a multi-day extravaganza for teens, adults, and children with author talks, live music, art, writing workshop, and reading suggestions. We encourage all ages to read and tell their stories. I’m so proud of our community and their support of literacy.”

The festival is offered each October. Through the combined efforts of co-sponsors and partnering organizations, The Fayetteville Literary Festival has hosted such notables as Lois Lowry, Jack Gantos, Jacqueline Woodson, Zadie Smith, Roy Reed, Donald Harington, Jericho Brown, Miller Williams, and Daniel Woodrell. The 2016 Festival may just be the best one yet.



True Lit 2016 Day-by-Day Schedule of Events


October 17 – “Three-day Youth Writing Camp” with Clayton Scott 

October 18 – Champion Trees of Arkansas: An Artist’s Journey with Linda Williams Palmer

October 19 – “Narrative Nonfiction: Turning Facts into Story” with biographer Linda Leavell

October 20 – “Fundamentals of Fiction” with author William Bernhardt

October 21 – “Generating Poetry Imitations” with Geoffrey Brock

October 22, Various, Full-day Events
Book publisher presentation followed by one-on-one pitch sessions; sign-up required
Darcy Pattison reads from Nefertiti, the Spidernaut
Cole Closser with “Graphic Novels for Teens”
“Self-Publishing IS an Option” with writer Darcy Pattison
Cole Closser with “Graphic Novels for Adults”

October 23 – Jerry McConnell – UA Press Spotlight presentation: The Improbable Life of the Arkansas Democrat, music with harpist Beth Stockdell, and Small Hands Montessori Art Walk

October 24 – “Writing Camp for Teens” with Clayton Scott

October 25 – “The Great Reveal: Rare Books Up Close and Personal” with Valerie Sallis of Crystal Bridges

October 26 – Open Public Presentation with Newbery Award winner and keynote guest author Louis Sachar

October 27 – University of Arkansas Program in Creative Writing and Translation Distinguished Reader Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric


All events take place at the Fayetteville Public Library unless otherwise noted. For more information, call 479.856.7250 or visit 2016


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