RICK BRAGG: At Lit Fest.

With a great line-up of authors, scholars and thinkers — and no pesky competition this year with the L.A. Times Festival of Books, which had organizers scrambling to land big-name authors in 2004 — the 2005 Arkansas Literary Festival that starts Friday, April 15, should be even better than last year’s freshman effort, with something for any lover of the printed word.
This year, organizers (full disclosure: I’m one, in charge of the “Pub or Perish” event) have solved one of the major gripes of last year, moving the book signings and vendors from Riverfront Park to the Main Library’s parking lot. That’s in the midst of the festival’s main venues: Willy D’s Piano Bar, the Darragh Center in the library and the Historic Arkansas Museum. (Rock Street will be closed between President Clinton Avenue and Second Street Saturday and Sunday.)
Though the festival doesn’t go into high gear until Saturday, there’s plenty to do on Friday, and in fact there are pre-festival events on Thursday, including two broadcasts with National Public Radio’s “The Book Guys” at the Main Library. Most events are free, and tickets for those that aren’t — like Wine, Dine and Sign at 6 p.m. Friday at Trapnall Hall, and the children’s breakfast at the Clinton library at 9 a.m. Saturday) will benefit the Arkansas Literacy Council.
The first official event, at 1 p.m. Friday, is bound to be finger-lickin’ good: “Lunch with John T. Edge” will feature the food critic and a soul food luncheon at the Millionaire’s Room at 700 Broadway St. The author of “The Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South” and “Fried Chicken: An American Story” is a guy who obviously didn’t listen to his momma’s advice about not talking with his mouth full. He’ll sign books too. Tickets are $25.
Walk off lunch at the Arkansas Times’ pub crawl/literary readings, “Pub or Perish,” at 7 p.m. in the River Market. More than a dozen authors — including novelist Bret Anthony Johnston and poet Andrea Hollander Budy — will read at three bars in as many hours (see the schedule for more information). There will be five-minute open mic slots, so be bring your own writing and intestinal fortitude.
Saturday’s schedule includes multiple readings and seminars on the hour. Our personal faves:
At 9 a.m., a $15 ticket will buy you some vittles and a little quality time with your tyke at the Clinton library for “George Washington’s Breakfast” with children’s author and historian Gail Karwoski (see the festival schedule for info on ordering tickets).
At noon at the Historic Arkansas Museum, James Morgan will read from his book “Chasing Matisse,” his realization of a dream of painting and traveling in France.
Fayetteville-based architect Marlon Blackwell, a recognized master architect who draws heavily on Southern vernacular architecture for inspiration, will speak on “Architecture in the Ozarks” at 2 p.m. at the HAM.
Vietnamese immigrant Quang X. Pham, who went from the refugee camps of Fort Chaffee to flying a helicopter during Operation Desert Storm, will read from his memoir at 3 p.m. at the Darragh Center in the Main Library.
The news hound in us won’t be able to keep from sniffing out the 4 p.m. talk by Jon Lee Anderson, New Yorker magazine’s chief correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan. Anderson will speak about his book “The Fall of Baghdad” at the Darragh Center.
Given our long-standing tradition of sinnin’ on Saturday night and repentin’ on Sunday morning, 1 p.m. on the Sabbath will likely find us back at the Darragh Center, listening to theologian David Dark speak about “What it Means to Be Christian in the ‘Weird Moment’ We Live In.” With a dose of Jesus to fortify us, we intend to head to Willy D’s at 3 p.m. for a discussion of Arkansas politics with Jay Barth. We haven’t made up our minds on the competing events at 4 p.m.: Historian Bill Sloan’s talk on World War II’s bloodiest battle in the Pacific at the Darragh Center or sportswriter Buzz Bissinger’s talk about his new book on the St. Louis Cardinals, at the HAM.
CALS Main Library
100 Rock St., 918-3000
Cox Creative Center
120 Commerce St., 918-3090
Willy D’s Piano Bar
322 President Clinton Ave., 244-9550
William F. Laman Library
2801 N. Orange St., N. Little Rock 758-1720
Millionaire’s Room
7th and Broadway St., 372-3200
Trapnall Hall
423 E. Capitol Ave., 324-9716
Historic Arkansas Museum
200 E. Third St., 324-9351
Museum of Discovery
500 President Clinton Ave., 396-7050
10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Poetry Party featuring Mars Hall (Dr. Gary Marshall). The UA Monticello professor will use ideas from the audience to create impromptu poetry and music on the kazoo and tuba. William F. Laman Library.
11 a.m.–noon
Celebrate Literacy Month Ceremony. Honors adults who have worked to gain or improve their literacy skills; the Top 25 G.E.D. students for 2004; Arkansas Literacy Council student and tutor of the year, and Arkansas Reading Association winners. State Capitol Rotunda.
12 p.m.-1 p.m.
Mary Waters. The Little Rock poet will read from her books “Sandpaper Blankets” and “Private Rooms.” William F. Laman Library
2 p.m.-3 p.m.
“Broken Water,” with Paula Morrell. The Little Rock author will read from her short stories, talk and sign books. William F. Laman Library.
5 p.m.-6 p.m.
Arkansas Poet Laureate Peggy Vining. Reading. William F. Laman Library.
6 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.
Allan Stypeck and Mike Cuthbert. National Public Radio’s “The Book Guys” will appraise your books while taping two shows for future broadcast on NPR. Darragh Center Auditorium, Main Library. Free. Reservations required. Call 918-3032.
7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Jo McDougal. The Kansas poet (a DeWitt native) will read from and talk about her books “The Woman in the Next Booth,” “Towns Facing Railroads,” “From Darkening Porches,” etc. William F. Laman Library.
1 p.m.
“Lunch with John T. Edge.” A down-home lunch of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and apple pie, served up with a heapin’ helping of insight by writer and food scholar John T. Edge. The Millionaire’s Room, 700 Broadway St. Tickets $25, include a signed copy of the Southern Food issue of the “Oxford American,” guest-edited by Edge. Order with credit card at 663-4321.
5 p.m.-6 p.m.
“A Feast of Literary Journals: Their Presence and Future.” “Southern Review” editor Bret Lott, “Georgia Review” editor T.R. Hummer, and “Oxford American” author Marc Smirnoff will talk about the future of “little” literary magazines. Darragh Center, Main Library.
6 p.m.-9 p.m.
“Wine, Dine and Sign: A Party with the Authors.” A shindig to welcome our literary guests to town. Trapnall Hall. Tickets $40. For more info call 663-4321.
7 p.m.–10:30-ish
“Pub or Perish.” The Arkansas Times’ pub crawl will feature readings by authors Bret Anthony Johnston, Makuchi, Andrea Hollander Budy and others (including open mic volunteers) at three River Market watering holes: Ernie Biggs’ Upstairs (7-7:50 p.m.), Underground Pub (8-9 p.m.) and Mallard’s Bar (Peabody Hotel, 9:15-10:30). Free. E-mail david@arktimes.com for more info.
9 a.m.
“Children’s Breakfast.” Eat what George Washington might have eaten and learn about history from children’s writer Gail Karwoski. William J. Clinton Presidential Center. $15 per child; $5 per accompanying adult, includes autographed book. Reservations required. 6634321.
10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Teen writing workshops. Includes sessions on prose and poetry with Arkansas writer Sandy Longhorn (10-11:30 a.m.); poet Antoinette Brim (noon-1:30 p.m.); poet Joey Cole (2-3:30 p.m.); reading of student works and presentation of awards (3:45-4:30 p.m.). Third floor, Cox Creative Center. Reserve space by e-mailing slonghorn@pulaskitech.edu.
10:30 a.m.
Letters About Literature Awards Ceremony. By invitation only. Old Supreme Court Chambers in the State Capitol Building. 682-5288.
11 a.m.
Symphony Arts Partners, petting zoo, picture book author Tammy Carter Bronson. Bronson’s program starts at noon. Free. Museum of Discovery.
10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Hourly readings of children’s literature. Third Floor, Main Library.
11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Crafts and writing activities. Main Library. Free.
11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m.
Music by local bands. Stage, President Clinton Ave. and Rock Street.
11 a.m.–noon
“Writing the Memoir.” NPR commentator and author Beth Finke discusses her memoir about being blind, “Long Time, No See.” Darragh Center, Main Library.
“Science: The Miracles of Einstein.” With author and Einstein scholar John Rigden. Historic Arkansas Museum.
“Poetry: Words Can Change You.” Panel discussion with “Georgia Review” editor T.R. Hummer and Arkansas poet Andrea Hollander Budy. Willy D’s Piano Bar.
Noon-1 p.m.
“Arkansas Autobiography: From Gould to the White House.” President Clinton’s White House diarist, Janis F. Kearney, reads from her autobiography. Darragh Center, Main Library.
“Art: An Amateur Painter Abroad.” Former Little Rock author and artist James Morgan reads from his memoir. Historic Arkansas Museum.
“Mystery: Dangerous Writing.” With novelist Ace Atkins. Willy D’s Piano Bar.
1 p.m.-2 p.m.
“Are the French Vile?” With National Review Online columnist Denis Boyles. Darragh Center, Main Library.
“Writing Africa.” With Cameroon-born novelist and University of Southern Mississippi teacher Makuchi. Willy D’s Piano Bar.
“Self-Publishing.” Panel discussion with Reginald Martin, Marck Beggs and Sonny Brewer. Historic Arkansas Museum.
2 p.m.-3 p.m.
“The Wide World of Nonfiction.” With Pulitzer Prize-winning memoirist and journalist Rick Bragg. Darragh Center, Main Library.
“Architecture in the Ozarks.” With author/historian/architect Marlon Blackwell. Historic Arkansas Museum.
“Oprah Novels.” Panelists Bret Lott and Connie May Fowler talk about getting their books selected for Oprah’s Book Club. Willy D’s Piano Bar.
3 p.m.-4 p.m.
“Memoir Writing 2: Vietnam to the U.S.A.” Author Quang X. Pham talks about his memoir of his journey from a Fort Chaffee refugee camp to flying helicopters during Operation Desert Storm. Darragh Center, Main Library.
“Fiction: Novels by Women.” With novelists Diane Payne and Cathy Landis. Historic Arkansas Museum.
“The Wide World of Nonfiction 2.” Memoirist Michael Perry talks about recording his adventures as an EMT and firefighter. Willy D’s Piano Bar.
4 p.m.-5 p.m.
“Romance: Writing about Love.” With romance novelists Laura Parker Castoro and Gina Wilkins. Historic Arkansas Museum.
“Fiction: Short Stories by Men.” With writers Kevin Brockmeier, Bret Anthony Johnston and James Whorton Jr. Willy D’s Piano Bar.
4 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
“The War in Baghdad.” With Jon Lee Anderson, the “New Yorker” magazine’s chief correspondent in Afghanistan and Iraq. Darragh Center, Main Library. Presented by the Foreign Relations Committee.
5:30 p.m.
Book signing by William F. Buckley Jr. The man some call the father of neo-conservatism will autograph books and greet the masses in the signing tent near the Main Library.
6:30 p.m.
“Totally Booked Literary Gala.” Dinner, silent auction and literary quiz show, with William F. Buckley Jr. William J. Clinton Presidential Center. Tickets $125 or $1,200 for a table of 10. 663-4321.
Noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m.
Music by local bands. Stage, President Clinton Ave. and Rock Street.
1-5 p.m.
Readings, crafts and writing activities for children. Main Library. Free.
1-1:30 p.m.
“Saint George and the Dragon.” Presented by Teen Advisory Board. Third floor, Cox Creative Center.
1 p.m.-2 p.m.
“Religion 1: What it Means to Be Christian in the ‘Weird Moment’ We Live In.” With author and theologian David Dark. Darragh Center, Main Library.
“First Novels: Breaking Through.” Novelists Sonny Brewer and Joshilyn Jackson talk about getting their first breaks as writers. Historic Arkansas Museum.
“Poetry 2: Arkansas Poets.” With Arkansas poets Michael Heffernan, Terry Wright and Marck Beggs. Willy D’s Piano Bar.
2 p.m.-3 p.m.
“Women in American History: Some Unsung Heroes.” New York historian Carol Berkin talks about the women left out of history books. Darragh Center, Main Library.
“From Rap to Christianity.” With Mykel Mitchell, a young artist who seeks to connect religion with the roots of hip-hop. Historic Arkansas Museum.
“The Ins and Outs of Novel Writing.” With Lisa Tucker and James Whorton Jr. Willy D’s Piano Bar.
3 p.m.-4 p.m.
“Arkansas Autobiography 2: Country Music.” Arkansas-born singer and author Maxine Brown of the influential country music group The Browns talks about her autobiography. Darragh Center, Main Library.
“Writing Advice: Prose Tips from the Pros.” Authors Bret Anthony Johnston, James Morgan and Cathy Landis dole out pearls of wisdom to beginning writers. Historic Arkansas Museum.
“Arkansas Politics.” Historian Jay Barth talks about the second edition of Diane D. Blair’s “Arkansas Politics and Government: Do the People Rule?” Willy D’s Piano Bar.
4 p.m.–5 p.m.
“Buzz on Baseball: The St. Louis Cardinals.” “Friday Night Lights” author Buzz Bissinger talks about his new book, “Three Nights in August,” on the St. Louis Cardinals. Historic Arkansas Museum.
“World War II’s Bloodiest Battle.” Investigative reporter and writer Bill Sloan talks about his chronicle of the First Division Marines’ struggle to claim a Pacific atoll at a cost of more than 6,500 American lives. Darragh Center, Main Library.