Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival to be held by SIU

By Brooke Buerck, Staff Reporter

The SIU department of English and the Grassroots Undergraduate Literary and Arts Magazine is hosting the Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival on campus starting Oct. 23.

The festival brings winners from the Devil’s Kitchen Reading competition, put on by Grassroots, to read their winning works and speak with the community at SIU. 

The Devil’s Kitchen reading competition is a national competition, and Allison Joseph, associate professor of English at SIU, said Grassroots receives around 300 to 400 books. The books range from self-published works to works published by large publishing companies. 


The call for authors to submit their work is posted online, and authors mail their books to SIU to be considered for an award, Matthew Gordon, editor-in-chief of Grassroots, said.

The editorial team of Grassroots is responsible for reading competition entries and selecting winners, and therefore the awards are chosen solely by undergraduates, Gordon said.

“Our spring semester at Grassroots is spent reading every single entry trying to find the best ones. Almost every submission gets a second pass [between editors],” Gordon said. “When we come up with our short list, everybody looks at all of them.”

The festival is unique in this way because SIU was the first university to give undergraduates the chance to select winners of a literary competition, Joseph said.

“We were really the first university to do that, where the authors invited weren’t selected by faculty, but by students,” Joseph said. 

The literary competition features three categories: fiction, nonfiction and poetry. 

Gordon said since it’s a competition, the winners do receive prize money, as well as the opportunity to come to the festival and engage with SIU’s literary community. 


The festival is mainly organized by the undergraduate students of Grassroots, while the Department of English staff and administration assist with some aspects of the festival, Gordon said.

For their Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award winner in Nonfiction Prose, Grassroots selected Bill Sullivan’s book “Lemon Jail: On the Road with the Replacements.” The book recounts Sullivan’s time spent on tour with the musical group during the 1980s. 

Grassroots chose Emily Jungmin Yoon’s “A Cruelty Special to Our Species” for the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in poetry. Jungmin Yoon is a professor of creative writing at the University of Chicago. Gordon said the piece is about female Korean sexual laborers in Japanese-occupied territories during World War II. 

“Lava Falls,” a collection of short stories by Lucy Jane Bledsoe, was selected for Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Fiction. Bleadsoe’s short stories are about family, nature, identity, and coming-of-age, Gordon said.

Two winners from the Crab Orchard Review open competition, Leslie Williams and Corrie Williamson, will also be reading from their works of poetry. 

Jon Tribble, former managing editor of the Crab Orchard Review, made selections from poetry manuscripts submitted to the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, Joseph said. Tribble died on Oct. 2.

The 30 selections Tribble chose were narrowed down to two winners which Joseph chose herself, she said.

See more: (‘A loss,’ SIU community laments death of professor Jon Tribble)

The final day of the festival will include an undergraduate open-mic event at 11:00 a.m. and reading from SIU assistant professor of creative writing Rebekah Frumkin at noon.

The undergraduate open-mic is an opportunity for undergraduate students specifically to showcase their work to an established audience of authors, Gordon said.

“It’s a chance for undergraduates to come and read their work in front of what is a national audience,” Gordon said. “These are professors, these are academics, and when they hear the sort of work we’re producing […] it’s such a good way for us to show what we’re capable of.”

The festival events will take place in SIU’s Guyon Auditorium inside Morris Library, and all events are free and open to the public. 

Schedule of events

Wednesday, Oct. 23:

7:30 – 8:30 p.m.

2019 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award Winner in Nonfiction Prose

Reading by Bill Sullivan

John C. Guyon Auditorium


Thursday, Oct. 24:

11:00 – 11:50 a.m. 

Panel featuring Lucy Jane Bledsoe, Bill Sullivan, Leslie Williams, Corrie Williamson and Emily Jungmin Yoon

John C. Guyon Auditorium


2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

Crab Orchard Open Competition winners

Poetry Readings by Leslie Williams and Corrie Williamson

John C. Guyon Auditorium 


3:15 – 4:30 p.m.

Reception and Book Signing featuring festival readers

Sponsored by the SIU department of English and the Southern Illinois University Bookstore

First floor rotunda 


4:30 – 6:00 p.m.

Readings by the 2019 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award Winners in Poetry and Fiction

Emily Jungmin Yoon, poetry, and Lucy Jane Bledsoe, fiction

John C. Guyon Auditorium 


Friday Oct. 25:

11:00 – 11:50 a.m.

Open Mic Reading of SIU Students

John C. Guyon Auditorium 


12:00 – 12:50 p.m.

Reading by Rebekah Frumkin

John C. Guyon Auditorium

Staff reporter Brooke Buerck can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bbuerck25.

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