First Unbound Book Festival

After Alex George’s 2012-13 book tour included stops at two book festivals, he decided Columbia needed to host one of its own. Life got in the way of making anything of it, he said, but eventually he ran the idea past a few friends to see what they thought. They all agreed a literary event would fit in nicely with the music and film festivals Columbia is already known for.

“It just acquired momentum” from there, George said. “There’s a real hunger for this event, and our community is committed to making it happen.”

All of those conversations about, “wouldn’t it be great if” will come to fruition when the Unbound Book Festival makes its debut April 23 at Stephens College. There will be separate programs for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Children’s Events, as well as a variety of panels throughout the day on a range of book-related topics.

Guest authors include acclaimed poet and National Book Award winner Mark Doty, New York Times and international bestselling author Eleanor Brown, all three Missouri poets laureate — Walter Bargen, David Clewell and William Trowbridge — author/designer Dinah Fried, Emmy-winning storyteller Bobby Norfolk and Sen. Claire McCaskill and Terry Ganey, who helped write her memoir “Plenty Ladylike.”

Local writers George Hodgman, who wrote the New York Times bestselling memoir “Bettyville,” and Laura McHugh, winner of the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel for “The Weight of Blood” also will be featured.

The festival will be interactive, with each of the authors interviewing another writer and being interviewed in turn, as well as Q&A sessions and multiple opportunities for attendees to meet and speak with the writers.

George, who lives in Columbia, is the author of “A Good American” which won recognition from a number of sources, including being named a “Library Journal” Best Book of the Year.

Unbound also aims to encourage aspiring writers, with the Open Book contest for self-published writers and the First Page Rodeo contest in which unpublished writers can submit the first page of an unpublished — or even unfinished — novel.

With hopes to expand Unbound in the future, George referenced the festival’s name when asked if he has a vision of what that future will look like.

“People have so many ideas about what we might do. It could grow in many different ways,” George said. “One of the nice things about the name Unbound is it means unlimited … so I don’t really know.”

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