Kelli Marks courtesy of Central Arkansas Library System

An updated collection of comics that meditates on “occult economics” and “demographic demons,” all framed by world-bending architecture (“Beta Testing the Ongoing Apocalypse”). A chapbook that puts itself in conversation with “The Wizard of Oz” (“A Homegrown Fairytale”). A community contest that asks young readers to create “edible books.” A conversation about desire and consent through the lens of science and the #MeToo movement (“Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again”), followed immediately by a look at the life of a Black woman who hid her identity to become J.P. Morgan’s librarian (“The Personal Librarian”). These are a few of the discussions happening at the 2021 Six Bridges Book Festival from the Central Arkansas Library System, which runs from Thursday, Oct. 21, to Sunday, Oct. 31.

This year, the fest is almost fully virtual, but no less ambitious in scope. If you’re venturing out, join the Arkansas Times for drinks at Stickyz Rock ’n’ Roll Chicken Shack for Pub or Perish at 7 p.m. Oct. 23, where host Chris James will lead a lineup of readings from local writers and poets. Otherwise, grab the printable schedule at cals.org/six-bridges-book-festival, make your picks, mark your calendars. Meanwhile, we’ve included some brief interviews conducted over email with a few of the Arkansas-connected authors featured on the Six Bridges lineup this year:

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Kelli Marks is a self-taught cake decorator-turned-pastry chef, and author of “Easy One-Bowl Baking: No-Fuss Recipes for Sweet and Savory Baked Goods.” Catch Marks at Six Bridges Book Festival 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30 and again at 4 p.m. that day for a baking workshop. 

You’re a wedding cake professional, and one-bowl baking might be about as far away from the elaborate world of custom tiered wedding cakes as it gets. Why, for you, is it important to uncomplicate baking for your readers?

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This was so hard! But really, I’ve spent years working on figuring out how to bend or break rules to maximize my output without disrupting the integrity of a baked good. I’ve seen many people say that you can’t double a pecan pie recipe. That it won’t work; your pie won’t set. But while helping in the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Center bakeshop I made a single batch of pecan pie filling to make 800 mini pecan pies. So that rule simply isn’t true. By knowing what something is trying to accomplish and knowing how ingredients play together, I was able to create recipes that accomplished the same result but took a much shorter way to get there.

A lot of people think baking is hard. It’s really not. You just need to follow the steps and measure. And remember, in most cases, something underbaked is better than something overbaked; once a baked good comes out of the oven, it will continue to cook from residual heat, so less is usually better.

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What’s your biscuit philosophy — butter or shortening? Neither? Both?

I’m both, but butter and lard! I like the oldschool traditional flavor and texture that lard provides, but you just can’t beat the flavor that butter provides. Here’s my big secret to a great biscuit: Mix all your ingredients together (flour, leavening, butter and lard) and put that dry mix into the fridge (or freezer). When you’re ready for biscuits, just add in your buttermilk and — BOOM — biscuits, quickly. Plus your butter is still very cold, which helps prevent your biscuits from spreading as much.

I understand you learned baking, in part, from your grandmother. Is there a particular recipe or memory you associate with her?

I spent a few summers with my grandmother. We baked, but we also tended her garden, and I learned about eating fresh and working with seasonal ingredients. I remember the year I turned 10 that we canned green beans. She let me follow along with my one jar; I snapped them to length and did the whole canning process. My jar won a grand champion ribbon at the Grant County Fair. More than just the “how to do things,” she taught me the care that can (and should) be put into food.

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