When essayist/humorist Guy Choate resigned himself to the idea that he’d have to cancel the next installations of the literary program he founded, Argenta Reading Series, he thought about the authors who’d lost a chance to read their new work in front of the sorts of attentive, thoughtful audiences the series has become known for. He probably thought about writers Brooke Elliott, Ethan Braziel, Samantha Woods and Julia Gallagher — the four finalists ARS had named for its annual High School Writing Contest, knowing they’d geared up for a March 14 reading of their work in front of an audience and would now need to wait until the makeup date in May.
“It’s devastating to work so hard on something and then, when it finally gets out into the world, have it collapse because of unknown forces like a pandemic, of all damned things,” Choate said. He would know; the Friday following the discovery of the first positive coronavirus case in Arkansas was the date Choate had planned to be at Central Arkansas Library System’s Bookstore at Library Square to sign copies of his first book, an essay on Army life called “Gas! Gas! Gas!” with pithy illustrations by Evan Hallmark.
Now, Choate’s keeping the spirit of the series going digitally every day at 12:30 p.m. on the ARS Facebook page, by reading work from authors who have appeared at ARS in the past. Donate to the organization at argentareadingseries.com.