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Lit in the Lou adds theme to this year's book festival

Lit in the Lou adds theme to this year's book festival


For the second Lit in the Lou book festival, the events have moved indoors and a theme has been added. Local authors will talk about race, religion and gender in connection to the question “How does literature inform our personal and public lives?”

Attending authors include Carol Swartout Klein (“Painting for Peace in Ferguson”), Jane Ellen Ibur (“Both Wings Flappin’, Still Not Flyin’”), José Faus (“Primera Pagina”) and John Wright (“Ethnic St. Louis”).

Tonight (Friday), a gala at U. City's City Hall honors poet Jane O. Wayne.

Winnie Sullivan, one of the organizers and director of PenUltimate Press, answered questions about this year's event by email.

1. Why did you focus on a theme this year?

The intent of members of the consortium was to allow 2015 to be a year of growth. We received our nonprofit status in May, and we considered not having the festival this year. We thought we'd just try to grow our membership and our funds and make the festival a biennial affair.

However, we were concerned about the loss of momentum were we to decide to skip a year. Therefore, we determined to decrease the scale and, rather than have a large number of authors and an array of activities, to select a theme and present a more focused offering.

Given the events that were so prominently in the news this year—Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, marriage equality, Kim Davis—it seemed appropriate to consider the relevance of the written word, particularly as we approach the 2016 election year; thus the theme Literature in Our Lives. In hindsight, it would have seemed almost frivolous to go forward with business as usual and have a traditional book festival, given the gravity of the news events.

2.  It seems there are fewer authors, but two full days.

As previously stated, we chose to have fewer authors this year, but we've chosen four categories of issues—Race and Politics, Religion and Politics, Income Inequality, and Gender and Politics. We needed two days to do justice to those issues, each of which, alone, could have consumed two full days.

3. Was it easier to plan the second year? What were special challenges this time?

Whenever one is attempting to get many people in one place at a given time, there will undoubtedly be challenges, and we yet have a very small core group undertaking the work to make the festival happen. However, in some respects it was easier this year.

Our nonprofit status made fundraising a bit easier. We have received grant support from the Missouri Arts Council and the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission. Llywelyn's Pub and Cicero's restaurant both held Dine Out events in support of Lit in the Lou. The involvement of the University City School District has been extremely helpful. The ability to use one of the district's school buildings (and equipment) affords a more contained space, and the festival is not weather-dependent.

And we've continued to rely upon our partnerships with the University City Public Library, the University City Arts and Letters Commission, and the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance. We were also fortunate to have a few things already in place this year (e.g., contractual agreements for vendors), so we didn't have to reinvent the wheel. We're optimistic that each year, things will get a bit easier.

When 10-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday • Where Julia Goldstein Early Childhood Center, 737 Kingsland Avenue • How much Free • More info 314-447-3888;

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