Annual Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival begins Wednesday


Dylan Nelson

Taylor Goldtrap, a junior from Kankakee majoring in forestry, read a poetry book while relaxing in a hammock Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, at Thompson Point. “I chose this spot because it was near my dorm building and the trees were positioned perfectly to connect my [hammock] attachments,” Goldtrap said. “I was reading the book ‘Lullabies’ by Lang Leave because I was looking for inspiration to write again.” (Dylan Nelson | @Dylannelson99)

By Isabelle Rogers

Students will have the chance to meet and chat with authors from all over the country at the 16th annual Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival.

The festival, which goes from Oct. 25 to the 27th in Morris Library, is a collaboration between the Grassroots Literary and Arts Magazine and the English Department.

Grassroots editor-in-chief Maria Leifheit said the magazine is for undergraduate literature and arts and it is put together by students for students.


The primary goal of the festival is to showcase great talent, Grassroots intern Brittney Winters said.

“[The festival’s goal] is to serve the community …  at no cost to the audience, since the events are free to the public, while at the same time rewarding writers around the country for the great stories they tell,” Winters, a senior studying creative writing, said.

Three authors chosen by the Grassroots staff receive awards in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction prose, Leifheit, a senior studying creative writing from Bristol, said.

The 2017 award-winning authors are Brian Fanelli, Alexander Weinstein and Donna Kaz. The winners are awarded $1,000 and participate in public readings and panels during the festival, according to Grassroots website.

Leifheit said that along with the winning authors, three Crab Orchard Review writers will hold a Q&A panel discussion in addition to readings and book signings.

This year’s festival features Crab Orchard Review authors Jehanne Dubrow, Brendan Galvin and Erika Wurth, Leifheit said.

“[The audience] gets to hear the nuggets of wisdom that these writers have to give,” Leifheit said. “That is ultimately why they’re here. What can we learn from these writers and what they’ve achieved, and what are they doing right that we wish we were doing?”


All community members are welcome to attend any of the events, Leifheit said. Even if attendees are not English students or writers, she said everyone can get something out of the festival.

“Literature is just a very integral part of society and our lives,” Leifheit said. “Pop culture is influenced by literature. We grow up hearing fantastic stories, and that sparks creativity in us, whether it advances in writing, in art or science. Even science takes a bit of creativity.”

Nonfiction prose winner Donna Kaz said not only do the authors and their stories inspire creativity in others, but the festival also exposes SIU’s campus to diverse subjects.

In her book “Unmasked: Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl on Tour,” Kaz speaks of the sexism and racism she experienced in the theater world. She said she aims for the audience to adapt the lessons in her book to everyday life.

“It’s a sharing of ideas, and it’s a story of people,” Kaz said. “We can appreciate narratives by delving into books. There are a lot of narratives that aren’t as prevalent, and it’s important to hear and read the stories of a diverse world and a diverse United States. It’s great to be exposed.”

Poetry winner Brian Fanelli said reading about diverse experiences is important, especially in a town like Carbondale.

“I actually think literary festivals are even more important to small towns,” Fanelli said. “They really foster a sense of community and expose college students and town residents to different voices and different issues occurring in the country.”

Both Kaz and Fanelli said they look forward to hearing what they other authors have to say, as even published writers can get something out of the festival.

“I think the whole few days is going to be great, and I am excited to … be a part of it,” Fanelli said.

Leifheit said the festival is available to all community members, though it is geared towards students and has one event created specifically for SIU students.

Students will have the chance to read their own work at the open mic on Oct. 26 in the library, Leifheit said.

“The goal is to celebrate some good literature and encourage others to get out there and write as well,” she said. “[The festival] is a place where we want literature to thrive and encourage others to come to their own.”

Students interested in continuing to share their work are also welcome to submit any piece to the Grassroots 2018 literary magazine for consideration, Leifheit said.

Winters said submissions will be accepted until November 30, 2017.

“I’m just really thrilled that this festival occurs where it occurs,” Fanelli said. “It is providing community to other writers and … it makes space to stress the importance of literary citizenship, independent presses and writers from across the country. I think that’s so important and I am glad that this festival is continuing.”

Staff writer Isabelle Rogers can be reached at or on Twitter @isabellearogers. 

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