Kevin Coval Will Be Doing All Sorts of Excellent Things at Unbound

We won’t lie. Sometimes we work our authors hard when they come to Columbia for the festival. Take Kevin Coval, for example. As an educator, he expressed a particular interest in talking to students, and so on Friday April 19 he will be part of our “Authors in the Schools” and will be speaking to audiences at two high schools. Then on Saturday he’ll be giving a poetry reading and will also be participating on two panels, one about writing about music (he’s an expert on hip-hop) and one about Chicago.

Kevin is also the founder of the world’s largest youth poetry festival, Louder Than a Bomb, and Unbound will be hosting the final of the local LTAB competition… so our guess is that he’ll probably want to hang out there a little bit, too.

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Both poet and community builder, Kevin is the author of 10 books, including A People’s History of Chicago, co-editor of The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, and co-writer of the play This is Modern Art, which premiered at Steppenwolf Theater in 2015. Additionally, he is the Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors, the winner of a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, founder of Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival, and co-host of the WGN Radio podcast The Cornerstore. His work has appeared on The Daily Show, four seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam,, Poetry Magazine, and Fake Shore Drive. He is the editor of the Haymarket Books imprint Break- Beat Publishing, which is dedicated to publishing radically fresh voices, and teaches hip-hop poetics in high schools, colleges, and community centers around the globe.

Kate Christensen!

It’s Monday morning, and there’s 20 inches of snow outside. Want news of another brilliant, award-winning author to look forward to in April to cheer yourselves up a bit? Oh, all right then.

Kate Christensen will be at this year’s Unbound. We are thrilled!

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Kate is the author of seven novels, including The Great Man, which won the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction, and, most recently, The Last Cruise. She is also the author of two culinary memoirs, Blue Plate Special and How to Cook a Moose, which won the 2016 Maine Literary Award for Memoir. Her short works have appeared in many periodicals, including Tin House, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, VogueElle, Bookforum, and Food and Wine. She lives with her husband and dog in Portland, Maine. 


At Last! Steven Rowley is Coming to Unbound!

If at first you don’t succeed…

We tried to get Steven Rowley to come to Unbound two years ago for a panel called IN DOG WE TRUST, which featured writers who have written about dogs. If you have read Steven’s wonderful (and bestselling) debut novel, Lily and the Octopus, you will know why. Anyway, Steven had another commitment that weekend and so was unable to come to Columbia. But we don’t give up, here at Unbound! Steven’s new book, The Editor, will be published in April, and we’re thrilled that he’ll be coming to this year’s festival to talk about both books.

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Lily and the Octopus is currently in development as a feature film by Amazon Studios, and his new novel has already been optioned for a feature film by Fox2000. Steven is writing the screenplay for director Greg Berlanti. Prior to becoming a novelist, he worked as a freelance writer, newspaper columnist and screenwriter. His novels have been published in nineteen languages. Originally from Portland, Maine, Rowley is a graduate of Emerson College. He currently resides in Los Angeles. 

Sarah Gambito

One of the greatest pleasures of Unbound, for us, is the opportunity of introducing our audiences to some of the most exciting poets presently working. If you’ve attended Unbound in the past, but have skipped the poetry, might we suggest that this year you give it a try? It might just change your life. We’re very happy to announce that one of our featured poets this year is the amazing Sarah Gambito.


Sarah Gambito is the author of the poetry collections Loves You (Persea Books),  Delivered (Persea Books) and Matadora (Alice James Books). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Iowa Review, POETRY, Harvard Review, American Poetry Review, The New Republic and other journals. Her honors include the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets and Writers, and the Wai Look Award for Outstanding Service to the Arts from the Asian American Arts Alliance. She has received grants and fellowships from The New York Foundation for the Arts and The MacDowell Colony. She is Associate Professor of English / Director of Creative Writing at Fordham University and co-founder of Kundiman, a non-profit organization serving writers and readers of Asian American literature.

George Saunders Tickets Will Be Available Next Week!

The man himself.

The man himself.

We know you’ve been waiting patiently.

Tickets for the George Saunders keynote at the Missouri Theatre on Friday, April 19 will be available online at 7:00 a.m. next Thursday, January 17.

At that time we will post the link to the site where you can reserve your tickets. We’ll post it on the festival website and on our social media pages.

E-newsletter subscribers will receive the link a little earlier, so you might want to sign up ahead of time. Go to the main page of the website and scroll down to the bottom to sign up.

Mark your calendars - if past years are anything to go by, tickets will vanish quickly!

Please note that you’ll be able to reserve a maximum of two tickets per reservation.

And, of course, as with all Unbound events, the tickets are completely free.

Natalia Sylvester

On this rainy Monday morning, we’re very pleased to announce that acclaimed novelist Natalia Sylvester will be joining us this April!


Born in Lima, Peru, Natalia Sylvester came to the US at age four and grew up in Florida and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. She earned her BA in creative writing from the University of Miami, is a faculty member of the low-residency MFA program at Regis University, and works as a freelance writer in Austin. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Catapult, Electric Literature, Latina magazine, and the Austin American-Statesman. Natalia’s first novel, Chasing the Sun, was named the Best Debut Book of 2014 by Latinidad. Her latest novel, Everyone Knows You Go Home, won an International Latino Book Award and has been named one of the Best Books of 2018 by Real Simple magazine.

New Author Announcement - weekend edition. It's Christopher Castellani!

One of the fun things about putting on a book festival is that publishers sometimes send us galleys, or advanced reading copies, of books before their publication date. This way, we can annoy our friends by enthusiastically talking about books that aren’t available yet.

One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in the past several months was Leading Men, the new novel by Christopher Castellani. It’s a wonderfully evocative, bewitching story which has already garnered some pretty staggering reviews from the likes of Lauren Groff, Alexander Chee, and Justin Torres. And no, you can’t get your hands on it yet - it’s not published until February 12. (See? Annoying.) The good news is that by the time Unbound rolls around, this miraculous novel will be out in the world and you’ll be able to snag a copy at the festival and get it signed - because Christopher will be here to tell you all about it.

credit: Michael Jospeh

credit: Michael Jospeh

Chris is also the author of The Art of Perspective, a collection of essays on point of view in fiction, and three other novels. He works as artistic director of GrubStreet, was a Guggenheim fellow, and is on the faculty of the MFA program at Warren Wilson and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. He lives in Boston. We can’t wait to welcome him to Columbia!

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Home town talent - Phong Nguyen

At last year’s festival author Phong Nguyen moderated the “Once Upon A Time” panel on historical fiction. Since then he has moved to Columbia and now serves as the Miller Family Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing at the University of Missouri. We’re delighted to welcome him back to Unbound in April, this time as one of our featured authors.

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Phong is the author of a novel, The Adventures of Joe Harper (Outpost19, 2016), and two story collections: Pages from the Textbook of Alternate History (Queens Ferry Press, 2014) and Memory Sickness and Other Stories (Elixir Press, 2011), winner of the Elixir Press Prize for Fiction. His individual stories have appeared in more than 50 national literary journals, including Agni, Boulevard, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review Online, Massachusetts Review, North American Review, and Ninth Letter.

He lives Columbia with his wife (visual artist Sarah Nguyen) and their three children.

Thank you!


Happy New Year to you all!

As some of you know, every December sees the festival raising much-needed funds through the online charitable giving fiesta known as CoMoGives. This year we were THRILLED to end the month in 8th place (out of 122!) on the “Leaderboard”, with a staggering $22,229 given by 252 different individual donors. This represents an increase of almost exactly 100% over last year’s total, and we couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who was kind enough to give. It’s thanks to your generosity that we hope to be able to keep every event at Unbound free for absolutely everyone to attend.

Tomorrow we’ll continue with our author announcements for April - but today we just wanted to say: thank you. We really couldn’t do this without you.

Crystal Wilkinson is coming to Unbound!

Good morning, all!

We hope you had a good weekend. To brighten up your Monday morning, and to see 2018 out with a celebratory bang, we’re pleased to announce that award-winning novelist Crystal Wilkinson will be appearing at next year’s festival.

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Crystal is the author of The Birds of Opulence (winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence), Water Street and Blackberries, Blackberries. Nominated for both the Orange Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, she has received recognition from The Kentucky Foundation for Women, The Kentucky Arts Council, The Mary Anderson Center for the Arts, The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and is a recipient of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Literature. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her short stories, poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including most recently in the Oxford American and Southern Cultures.  She currently teaches at the University of Kentucky where she is Associate Professor of English in the MFA in Creative Writing Program.

The Birds of Opulence also happens to have one of the best book covers we’ve seen in ages:

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