ArkaText literary festival set for Feb. 20-24

By Paige Turner

College of Fine Arts and Communication Media Office

CONWAY — The University of Central Arkansas Department of Writing will host the annual literary festival ArkaText Feb. 20-24.

All events of the festival, which celebrates Arkansas’s literary voice as well as student writers from UCA, are free and open to the public.

The purpose of the festival is to celebrate all the great writing that gets done within the borders of this state and to commemorate work by people with strong Arkansas connections.

“We want our students to understand that being a writer from Arkansas or a writer living in Arkansas is not a liability on the national stage but a terrific strength,” Dr. John Vanderslice, associate professor in the Department of Writing, said.

The festival will kick off Monday, Feb. 20, from 1-3 p.m. with a UCA student reading in the grand foyer of Thompson Hall. It is open to any UCA student who wants to read his or her own creative work to an audience. This reading will also feature five special guests from Auburn University. A reception/reading will be held that evening at the Conway Country Club from 7-9 p.m. and will feature readings from Ryder Collins, an Auburn faculty member and Terry Wright, professor of writing at UCA.

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, faculty from UCA’s Department of Writing will read aloud from their own creative work in the grand foyer of Thompson Hall from 1:30-3 p.m.

For the rest of the week, visiting writers from across the state will come to the UCA campus.  On Wednesday, Feb. 22, Noel Murray of Conway, who writes about popular culture for the nationwide satiric newspaper The Onion, will appear. Murray will give a craft talk at 11 a.m. in Thompson Hall room 338 and a public reading from his work at 2 p.m. in the grand foyer of Thompson Hall.  On Thursday, Feb. 23, Ben Davis, a writer, web designer and runner, will appear. Davis, a former UCA student who became nationally renowned after a video he created about his running-inspired weight loss— posted on his web site — went viral.  He will give his craft talk at 10:50 a.m. in Thompson Hall room 338 and will read from his work at 1:40 p.m. in Thompson Hall.  On Friday, Feb. 24, the visiting writer is Thomas Cochran, a poet and young adult novelist who lives and teaches high school in Fayetteville.  Cochran will give a craft talk on writing young adult fiction at 10 a.m. in Thompson Hall room 338 and will read from his own work at 1 p.m. in the foyer of Thompson Hall.

Finally, the week goes out with a bang with the big launch celebration for UCA’s Toad Suck Review literary magazine, which has just released its second issue. The celebration will start at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, in the Lewis Science Center auditorium.

“There’s no better training for an aspiring writer,” Vanderslice said. “Given the fine lineup of events we have established for this year’s festival, I’m sure our students will get more out of ArkaText than ever.”

For more information, contact Vanderslice at (501) 450-3653 or