KU units partner in support, leadership of Paper Plains Literary Festival

LAWRENCE — Several University of Kansas units are partners and sponsors of the Paper Plains Literary Festival, which will take place April 8-9 at Liberty Hall. The festival’s recently announced lineup features authors Angeline Boulley, Sarah Smarsh and Colson Whitehead as keynote speakers.

KU faculty and staff serving on the board of directors for the Paper Plains Literary Festival are Giselle Anatol, professor of English; Christy McWard, executive director of communications & advancement for KU Libraries; and Emily Ryan, director of The Commons. McWard and Ryan are members of the festival’s executive committee as well.

In addition to The Commons, KU’s Department of English and KU Libraries, other KU units involved in the planning and sponsorship of the event include the Hall Center for the Humanities, Spencer Museum of Art, the University Honors Program, the Department of American Studies, the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies and the KU First Nations Student Association.

The inaugural in-person festival will present all three authors’ talks at Liberty Hall. In addition, each event will be livestreamed via Crowdcast:

  • Angeline Boulley, 6 p.m. April 8: Boulley, author of “Firekeeper’s Daughter,” will be in conversation with Anatol.
  • Sarah Smarsh, 4 p.m. April 9: A native Kansan, Smarsh is the author of “Heartland,” a National Book Award finalist, and “She Come By It Natural,” a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.
  • Colson Whitehead, 7 p.m. April 9: One of the most decorated living novelists, Whitehead is the author of back-to-back Pulitzer Prize-winning novels “The Underground Railroad,” which also won the National Book Award, and “The Nickel Boys.” His most recent novel, “The Harlem Shuffle,” was a New York Times Notable Book.

Festival director Danny Caine, owner of The Raven bookstore, said, “There’s something magical about a room full of literature fans, and I can’t wait to get back to that with these three amazing authors.”

“This in-person festival will be the result of three years of support, commitment and creative pivoting in an effort to bring local readers and audiences a slate of truly exceptional contemporary writers,” Ryan said. “And the first event will be offered in collaboration with the KU First Nations Student Association Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival, happening the same week.”

About Angeline Boulley

Boulley’s “Firekeeper’s Daughter” was a No. 1 New York Times bestselling novel that won the Printz Medal and the Morris Award and was named an American Indian Youth Literature Award YA honor book. A Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club YA Pick, “Firekeeper’s Daughter” will be adapted for TV by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground. Boulley’s Paper Plains keynote event is presented in partnership with The Commons at KU, Humanities Kansas, the KU First Nations Student Association and the Hall Center.

About Sarah Smarsh

KU alumna 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 many other publications. Smarsh’s Paper Plains keynote is presented in partnership with The Commons, the University Honors Program, the Spencer Museum and the Hall Center.

About Colson Whitehead

Whitehead has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Dos Passos Prize and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. His Paper Plains appearance is part of the Beach Author Series, which was established by the Ross and Marianna Beach Foundation. It is presented in partnership with the Lawrence Public Library, the Lawrence Public Library Friends & Foundation, The Commons and the Hall Center.

All Paper Plains events are free, but VIP passes are available at Paper Plains. Paper Plains VIP passes entitle holders to an opening reception at Cider Gallery, plus priority seating and first-in-line access to book signings.

Paper Plains is a collaborative, cross-media, diverse and inclusive literary festival celebrating authors and artists from the Plains and beyond. This event nurtures and showcases the literary landscapes of Lawrence and the surrounding region through a variety of free programs for all ages.

Thu, 02/10/2022


Christy McWard

Media Contacts

Christy McWard

KU Libraries