Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival hopes to ignite new ways of creative learning

By Cory Ray |@coryray_de, Daily Egyptian

It is the right time to be a writer in southern Illinois. 

The 14th annual Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival begins Wednesday and focusses on three aspects of literature: fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

In recent years, the festival has grown with support from the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities. CURCA provides support for the event by funding undergraduate assistants and promoting the festival across campus through emails, flyers and other methods. 


Rodrigo Carramiñana, director of CURCA, said the event used to attract a total of 30 to 40 people.

Sarah Jilek, editor-in chief of the university’s Grassroots Literary Magazine, said she expects nearly 100 people on average for events, and reports that with CURCA’s guidance.

Carramiñana said his goal is to turn the festival into an event that is not just known on campus, but into one that spans the southern Illinois region.

Besides growing in number, Carramiñana plans to integrate the festival with UCOL classes in the future. He plans to introduce freshmen students in UCOL classes to writers scheduled to attend the festival by incorporating their works in class curriculum.

“I think it would be a great way to bring more people to the festival in the fall if [instructors] say, ‘You read this book in class, and now the author is going to be here,'” Jilek said.

Carramiñana said he has tried to initiate this program in the past, but UCOL course syllabi were finalized before the list of writers was released. He hopes he will be able to put his idea into motion for the upcoming academic year, but the list of writers would need to be released by May.

“That would [give us] enough time to try to do something here with some of the classes … to look for classes where people could be reading the books,” Carramiñana said. “That way the students will have the chance to meet the writers.”


In addition to the time deadline, Jilek said the plan will need cooperation of UCOL instructors to teach the stories as part of their curriculum.

“I think it’s great, especially for freshmen, because coming in here, you don’t know tons of opportunities that are going on at the university. UCOL is a way to present those opportunities to you,” said Jori Bonadurer, a freshman from Chicago studying secondary English education.

Jilek said speakers are selected from writers who submit to Devil’s Kitchen Review Award. Every year, the editing staff of Grassroots sorts through the submissions and chooses the writers they believe would be most relevant to students. 

The festival begins at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the John C. Guyon Auditorium with nonfiction readings from Ben Tanzer. Jilek also noted this is the first year for the nonfiction award.

“It’s really cool to research [authors], look up online all the things they’ve done, read all their books and then get to meet them,” Jilek said. “You can’t really get better than that if you’re a creative writing student.”

Cory Ray can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @coryray_DE