The Paper Plains Literary Festival on Thursday announced Angeline Boulley, Sarah Smarsh, and Colson Whitehead as keynote speakers for the inaugural in-person festival, slated for April 8 and 9.
The “collaborative, cross-media, diverse and inclusive literary festival celebrating authors and artists from the Plains and beyond” launched in 2020. The pandemic has upset plans two years running, but organizers are excited for this year’s hybrid event. All events will be held at Liberty Hall, but they will also stream live via CrowdCast.
Here’s some information about the keynote authors from festival organizers:
Boulley is the author of Firekeeper’s Daughter, a bestselling novel that will soon be adapted for TV by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, according to the festival’s news release. Boulley will be in conversation with University of Kansas English Professor Giselle Anatol at 6 p.m. Friday, April 8.
That event is presented in partnership with The Commons at KU, Humanities Kansas, the KU First Nations Student Association, and the Hall Center for the Humanities. Humanities Kansas is supporting Boulley’s event with a $3,500 grant.
Smarsh, a native Kansan and author of Heartland and She Come By It Natural, will give a keynote address at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 9. Smarsh is a journalist who has covered socioeconomic class, politics and public policy for The New York Times, The Atlantic, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Harper’s and more, according to the release. Her keynote is in partnership with The Commons at KU, the KU Honors Program, the Spencer Museum of Art, and the Hall Center for the Humanities.
Whitehead, described as “one of the most decorated living novelists,” is the author of Pulitzer Prize-winning novels The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys. He will speak at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 9. Whitehead’s Paper Plains appearance is part of the Beach Author Series which was established by the Ross and Marianna Beach Foundation, according to the release, and it is presented in partnership with the Lawrence Public Library, the LPL Friends & Foundation, The Commons at KU, and the Hall Center for the Humanities.
All Paper Plains events are free, but VIP passes are available through the website for $100 or $150 for couples. VIP passes entitle holders to an opening reception at Cider Gallery, plus priority seating and first-in-line access to book signings, according to the release.
The festival has aimed to be coalition-based and community-minded, director Danny Caine said, so it’s a collaboration between numerous local organizations. The big partners for 2022 are the Commons at KU and Lawrence Public Library.