Literary festival invites famous writers, poets to read works

By Matt Daray

Meeting an author can have an impact on any aspiring writer, especially when given the chance to discuss the author’s best work.

The Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival, a three-day event dedicated to bringing distinguished authors and poets to read their works and interact with students, staff and locals concluded Friday at Morris Library. Members of Grassroots, the student-run literary magazine, and faculty alike said the festival was a success and gave literary lovers and aspiring writers a chance to meet with accomplished writers.

Abby Allen, a senior from Mowequa studying English and editor-in-chief of Grassroots Magazine, said the festival gives students incredible opportunities to meet the authors and allows members of Grassroots to become even more personable with them.


“Devil’s Kitchen brings in authors from all around the country and it gives students a chance to speak with them, hear their writing,” she said. “Those of us who are Grassroots editors get the chance to go to meals with them, talk to them with them one on one.”

Allen said the festival allows anyone to ask the writers questions about their works and the process of creating them. She said the size and turnout of the festival increases every year; plans for next year’s festival will be discussed in the spring.

The festival is a big deal for Grassroots because it is one of the largest things they work on every year besides publishing their magazine, Allen said.

“This is our biggest event aside from our magazine release party in the spring,” she said. “It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort and we need everybody to help out. There’s so much work involved but it’s so worth it in the end.”

Scott Blackwood, an assistant professor of English, said it is important to bring in writers for the festival because they have a huge impact on the students who attend.

“It’s a way for us to bring in nationally and internationally recognized writers and share with the southern Illinois community and this kind of wider university community,” he said. “You want to have some of the highest quality writers to expose students to.”

Blackwood said meeting authors can have a great impact on young writers and can influence their writing. He said the festival allows students to get a wider perspective on writing and see first-hand that exercises done in class have meaning behind them.


The experience of having a literary festival was enjoyable for the attendees as well.

Miles Harvey, an assistant professor of English at DePaul University in Chicago and an author, said the university is a great place for young writers and the festival is just one of many opportunities for them.

“I think it seems like a great thing for not only the students, but for the community and for me personally, it was great to return to Carbondale,” he said. “I started at SIU and I love SIU, it’s not only a nostalgic place, but a place I really learned how to be a student at.”

Harvey said attending readings is key for writers to develop their skills and make themselves known and respected in the writing community.

“I think writers all have to take their own path, but one thing I think is really important for young writers is to read widely and deeply, but also to listen and attend other writer’s readings,” he said. “Sometimes young writers don’t get that they need to go to the other writer’s readings and be part of the literary community.”

While the festival had a smaller budget this year than most because of state budget cuts, Blackwood said the festival would still go on because of its importance to the university community.

“State budget cuts are trickling down and we’re hoping to restore those and we always have to make arguments as to why something is important,” he said. “The impact that a community can have when it has access to the best and the brightest, it can have a huge impact on a community like this and kind of a grassfire reaction. People get charged up and want to do more of what they’ve been doing.”