Unbound 2019 - The Movie!

I don’t know about you, but in the coma-inducing heat of early July, April seems like a long time ago. If your memory of those halcyon, cool days is fading somewhat, perhaps we can help.

Here’s a small movie of some highlights from this year’s festival. Things move along pretty quickly - there’s an awful lot to cram into three minutes - but it’s been a joy for us to watch and relive that fabulous weekend.

After a couple of months to recover, we are starting to plan next year’s event. Look out for more information and updates soon!

Program Change - and Introducing Randall Horton!

It’s somewhat inevitable, when you have more than fifty authors and poets coming to your festival, that sometimes the best-laid plans go awry.

So it goes, as someone once wrote.

We’re sorry to announce that Reginald Dwayne Betts won’t be coming to Unbound after all - he has to be in South Carolina next weekend as he’s writing a profile of Kamala Harris for the New York Times. (As reasons go, we’re not sure this one can really be topped.)

But every cloud, people. We’re delighted to report that Randall Horton, himself an acclaimed poet and the author of a gripping memoir, Hook, has agreed to come in Dwayne’s place at very short notice. Randall will be reading his poetry with Aaron Coleman at 10:00 in the Senior Hall Parlor and participating in the Prison Sentences panel at 1:00 in the Macklanburg Playhouse.

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Randall Horton past honors include the Bea Gonzalez Poetry Award, a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Literature, and most recently GLCA New Writers Award for Creative Nonfiction for Hook: A Memoir, published by Augury Books/ Brooklyn Art Press. His previous work include poetry collections: The Definition of Place, The Lingua France of Ninth Street, both with Main Street Rag and Pitch Dark Anarchy (Triquarterly/Northwestern University Press). Horton is an Associate Professor of English at the University of New Haven. He is a member of the experimental performance group Heroes Are Gang Leaders which recently received the 2018 American Book Award in Oral Literature. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he now resides in New Jersey.

Announcing: "All Ears" - A Listening Party with the Missouri Review


You all know that Columbia is a great town for book people. One of the reasons for that is that it’s the home of one of the most prestigious literary periodicals in the country, The Missouri Review. Given the magazine’s peerless reputation, both nationally and internationally, a collaboration with TMR has long been a goal of the festival, and so we’re very excited to announce that on Thursday April 18, we’ll be kicking off this year’s festival with an event at Skylark Bookshop celebrating The Missouri Review’s work in audio recording.

The evening will feature a couple of brief selections from the Missouri Review audio archives, and will also include a short reading from short story writer and novelist (and one of this year’s Unbound guests) Joanna Luloff, whose first fiction publication was in TMR as the winner in fiction of the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize. 

Beer, sparkling wine, and gourmet snacks will be served, TMR swag will be available, and of course there will be conversation and good fellowship in true Unbound abundance. The event starts at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are free (of course) but EXTREMELY LIMITED. Go here to reserve yours.

Hope to see you there!


Please Help Us Spread the Word!

It’s a sign.

It’s a sign.

As we head into the final few weeks before the festival, we’re keen to let as many people as possible know about everything that’s going on. In addition to our banners downtown, we have lots of radio spots on our radio sponsor, KBIA, ads in the Tribune, and a ton of posters and flyers that we’d like to distribute as far and as wide as we can.

Which is where we hope you might come in.

We have posters and flyers and yard signs publicizing the festival, and we would really love your help in distributing these so that they’re seen by as many people as possible.

If you have somewhere at work (like a community board) where you could stick up a poster, or an office door which would look great with a flyer stuck to it, or a yard just begging for one of our tasteful signs, please help us out.

We have yard signs and posters and flyers ready and waiting for you to pick up at Skylark Bookshop - just go and ask the staff and they will happily give you what you need. Alternatively, please email us at mail@unboundbookfestival.com with your address and we will happily deliver a yard sign to your door. Hell, we’ll even stick it in the ground for you!

As you all know by now, the festival is completely free for everyone to attend. We want as many people as possible to participate and enjoy the events we’ve put together. Unbound is for everyone in our community, and we’d love to reach as many folks as we possibly can.

So, could you please help us spread the word?

Thanks so much!

The Website is in Full Festival Mode!


You know we’re getting close when we switch the website into Festival Mode - if you go online you’ll notice the look of the thing has changed a little - there’s a new menu on the left-hand side which details all the various panels, author conversations, and special events that we have planned this year. And, of course, there’s also the schedule for Saturday - in other words, everything you need to begin planning your day of bookish goodness.

Happy reading!

No Ticket to George Saunders? Read This.

This guy.

This guy.

As we get closer to the festival (four weeks today!) we are receiving a lot of questions from people who did not manage to snag free tickets to the George Saunders keynote at the Missouri Theatre on Friday, April 19. (The tickets were all snapped up in a matter of hours back in January.)

One of those things we’ve learned over the past three years of Unbound is that, because these tickets are free, a lot of people reserve seats and then don’t show up. We anticipate that this may happen to an even greater extent this year as the event is on Good Friday, which a lot of people probably didn’t realize when they got their tickets a couple of months ago.

That means: if you want to see George Saunders but you don't have a ticket, you should come to the Missouri Theatre on April 19 anyway. Just come a little early. We’ll have a "no-ticket” line and will start letting those people into the theatre at 7:15 to fill all empty seats at that time.

While we can’t make any promises, what we can tell you is that in the past three years, everyone who showed up on the night was admitted to the event. So: don't despair! You may just have to turn up a little earlier than you'd planned.

The Kids Are All Right

One of Unbound’s core missions is to encourage a love of reading and writing in all ages, but especially the young. Our events for younger readers take place in two different ways and places, and on two different days.


The day before the festival proper, we’re putting on the third “Authors in the Schools” project, which will bring authors into multiple classrooms throughout the Columbia Public Schools system, from Kindergarten to Twelfth Grade.


Our keynote speaker this year is none other than Jacqueline Woodson, one of the most beloved writers of children’s literature working today. She has won just about every available award and prize (including, to name just a few, the Caldecott Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Newbery Honor Medal and a National Book Award.) She is also the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate, and this year the Library of Congress appointed her National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Jacqueline will be speaking at the Missouri Theatre to an audience of middle school students from across the CPS District on Friday.

This year’s other participating authors are:

Derrick Barnes

Reginald Dwayne Betts

Kevin Coval

Jay Sexton

Javaka Steptoe

Karma Wilson

Deborah Zemke


On the morning of the festival itself, the following authors will be doing presentations at the Warehouse Theatre on the campus of Stephens College:

Karma Wilson (10.00 – 10.45)

Javaka Steptoe (11.00 – 11.45)

Derrick Barnes (12.00 – 12.45)

The singing princesses from TRYPS will entertain the crowds with their songs at 9.30.

In addition our friends from Children’s Grove will provide a variety of fun kids’ activities in and around the Warehouse Theatre on Saturday morning.

Programming for children’s events this year is made possible by generous grants from the Assistance League of Mid-Missouri, the Friends of the Daniel Boone Regional Library, and the Columbia Public Schools Foundation.

Shop With Purpose (and help Unbound)

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Please come and join our friends at McAdams' Ltd. TODAY for special event that goes on until 6 p.m. this evening! This is their now-annual Unbound fundraiser, which is also a book drive, and a chance to meet and greet some local authors. We’re very grateful for their continued generosity and support - and hope that you’ll go along and support them.

Book Drive and Sale: Earn up to 25% off your entire purchase by donating new or gently used books. For each book you bring, you'll receive 5% off your purchase. Bring one book, get 5% off; three books gets you 15% off; and five books gets you 25% off! If you forget to bring books then McAdams’ will accept a $10 donation to receive 25% off your purchase. Additional donations (books or cash) are greatly appreciated! All books donated will be distributed by Unbound after the festival to local community organizations who serve those in need. (Please note, the sale excludes estate, antique & artist made items, & special orders.)

Fundraiser: In addition to their storewide sale and book drive, McAdams’ will also donate 25% percent of the day's sales to the Unbound Book Festival!

Meet and Greet: Throughout the day on Tuesday a number of local authors will be present at the shop to discuss the festival and talk books.

So please head over to McAdams’ Ltd at 1501 Old Hwy 63 South, and join in the fun!