festival schedule
#mlaf 2018

FRIDAY, JUNE 15 | 6pm - 9pm
$85 GA | $1000 for a table (8 seats)

featuring Kiese Laymon, Adia Victoria, Andrea Morales, and D.Arthur Catering


Free & Open to the Public

9:00 AM — 5:00 PM
Readings, conversations, and performances at
Premiere Palace Ballroom,
Marshall Arts Gallery, Riverdeep Church
and High Cotton Brewery
#MLAF Street Fair 
Hosted by Literacy Mid-South
Marshall Avenue between
South Orleans Street & Monroe Extended

* * *

7:30 PM - 10:00 PM
jook: the #mlaf18 afterparty

with dj siphne aaye
Free with RSVP.
Premiere Palace

we'll be jookin at the jook. be loose and get free.
music. drink. dance. joy.

come celebrate the finale to the CSLA's inaugural year.
First 100 drinks on us.

Sponsored by High Cotton Brewery.

MLAF Festival PrograM

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Please note that for each time block there are multiple sessions running simultaneously across the venues.
Not all venues have a session for each time block.

This schedule is subject to change; make sure you check back with us.

9:00 AM — 10:30 AM

Premiere Palace Ballroom

The Future Has a Past: Using Nonfiction in Storytelling
 Alice Faye Duncan and Ravi Howard 

How does craft change when the writer pulls from real life events? This session will offer participants insight on writing non-fiction and historical novels for children and adults. Alice Faye Duncan and Ravi Howard will also share tips for finding primary sources and interview contacts related to non-fiction research. Alice Faye Duncan’s most recent book for children is Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop. Ravi Howard is the author of the novels Driving the King and Like Trees Walking.

Marshall Arts Gallery

The Short Story is Dead / Long Live the Short Story
Maurice Carlos Ruffin
, Rion Amilcar Scott, and Chanelle Benz
Moderated by Danielle Littlefield

Every few years there is a pronouncement that the short story is dead, but the form seems to be fairly indestructible. We will talk with three experts on the craft of short fiction about why the form endures. Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s short fiction has won numerous prizes including the Iowa Review Prize and his novel, We Cast A Shadow, is forthcoming from One World in 2019. Rion Amilcar Scott is the winner of the 2017 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction for his collection Insurrections. Chanelle Benz’s collection, The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead, was selected as a Best Book of 2017 by the San Francisco Chronicle. Memphis native Danielle Littlefield joins as moderator. She is a writer of short fiction, a professor at Rust College, and founder of The Veil Public.


Riverdeep Church

Boomeranging While Black & Literary: The Journey of Returning, Building Community, and Releasing Your Words
Yasmin Boakye and Minda Honey

Stories about young writers traveling away from home to chase the romance of the literary life in cities like New York and Paris are familiar tales of struggle and triumph — but what happens when writers come back home to reckon with what they’ve left behind? Nonfiction writers Minda Honey and Yasmin Boakye will read excerpts from personal essays about journeying away from and returning back to the mid-South, and discuss the what they’ve gained (and lost) in the process. Join them in considering the act of returning ‘home' as a working writer, the practice of building diverse writerly communities, and the process of reconnecting to your origins and the places that shaped you.

10:30 AM — 12:00 PM

Premiere Palace Ballroom

Place Women
Destiny Birdsong, Heather Dobbins, and Christina Olivares
Moderated by Carolyn Matthews

Join us for a reading and discussion from three powerful poets who help us decode the myriad ways that place shapes us. Christina Olivares, winner of the Marsh Hawk Press Book Prize for her collection, No Map of the Earth Includes Stars, Memphis native Heather Dobbins whose latest work is River Mouth, and Destiny O. Birdsong, winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize. The moderator for the event is Carolyn Matthews, a poet, educator, and Cave Canem Fellow. 


Marshall Arts Gallery

Speculation and Truth-Telling: Imagining Different Worlds
Kiese Laymon and Daniel José Older
Moderated by Zandria F. Robinson

Folks say that truth is stranger than fiction; or is it the other way around? Essayist, novelist, and memoirist Kiese Laymon and New York Times bestselling speculative author and composer Daniel José Older talk with essayist and Co-Founder of the Center for Southern Literary Arts Zandria F. Robinson about the strange fictions of lived experience and the truths to be found in the speculative.


RiverdEep Church

Smashing the Patriarchy in YA Literature
S. Jae-Jones, Sarah Nicole Lemon, and Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

Three notable authors of Young Adult Fiction join us for a discussion on subverting patriarchal ideas and presumptions in YA literature as well as in the publishing industry. S. Jae-Jones (JJ), author of the New York Times-bestselling Wintersong and Shadowsong; Sarah Nicole Lemon, author of Done Cheap and Valley Girls, and Memphis-based Kaitlyn Sage Patterson, author of the recently released The Diminished, and The Exalted, its forthcoming 2019 sequel.


High Cotton Backroom

The Oxford American presents Writers on Writing:
 Crystal Wilkinson and Jamey Hatley in conversation
Moderated by Sara Lewis

Contributors to the “Writers on Writing” section of the Oxford American’s 100th issue, Crystal Wilkinson, winner of the Ernest J. Gaines prize for Literary Excellence, and Jamey Hatley, a Rona Jaffe award recipient, will join OA Associate Editor Sara A. Lewis for a brief reading and conversation about finding your storytelling voice, forming a literary community, and the influence of writing mentors.

12:00 PM 1:30 PM


Memphis Jazz Lunch featuring Ekpe Abioto & the Afrikan Jazz Ensemble

Grab some lunch from one of our vendors or one of our neighbors in the Edge and meet us at the crossroads to enjoy the artistry of some of Memphis’s legendary OG jazz artists.

1:30 PM — 3:00 PM

Premiere Palace Ballroom

Sound and Vision: Remixing History, Culture, and Identity
 Marco Pavé, Ann PowersMychal Denzel Smith, and Adia Victoria
Moderated by Charles Hughes

In both past and present, music has remained a crucial method for way for individuals and communities to understand themselves and reckon with the world around them. This panel presents artists and authors whose work reimagines the role of music as expressions of identity and mechanisms of historical change. Moderated by Charles L. Hughes, author of the acclaimed book Country Soul, this discussion features award-winning writers Ann Powers and Mychal Denzel Smith, along with celebrated musicians Marco Pavé and Adia Victoria.

Marshall Arts Gallery

Designing Women
Alice Bolin, Barb Johnson, and Addie Citchens
Moderated by Dr. Cookie Woolner

The three writers on this panel both explore the lives of complex women in their work. What does it mean to make work that confronts the usual tropes of women in literature? Alice Bolin is the author of the forthcoming essay collection Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving An American Obsession. Barb Johnson is the author of the short story collection More of This World, Or Maybe AnotherAddie Citchens is the author of The Fire Starter. Dr. Cookie Woolner, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Memphis, will moderate this lively discussion.

High Cotton Backroom

Southern Foodways Alliance presents:
What Beychella and Donald Glover can teach us about (food) writing

Osayi Endolyn and Ashanté M. Reese
Moderated by Tundé Wey

Words like “representation” and “appropriation” command our attention these days. It’s good that we’re talking about who gets a voice, but it’s important that we allow space for a plurality of narratives. Simply being present isn’t enough — people of color want to tell holistic stories that embody who we are, not just how we might be seen through a white cultural lens.  In this lively conversation, Ashanté Reese and Osayi Endolyn use recent pop culture triumphs like Beyoncé’s Coachella performance and Donald Glover’s provocative series, Atlanta, to explore what it means for people of color to tell stories centered in food and beyond, that are as banal or groundbreaking as creators wish them to be.

RIverdeep Church

Memphis Vangaurd 3000
Siphne Aaye, Talibah Safiya, Kenneth Wayne Alexander, and Raven Writes
Moderated by Elle Perry

At the intersection of urban and rural cultures, Memphis has always been home to vanguard artists in sound, language, adornment, and visual culture. Four of today's leading Memphis artists working in different disciplines—deejay and visual artist Siphne Aaye, visual artist and music producer Kenneth Wayne Alexander, novelist and literacy expert Raven Writes, and singer/songwriter Talibah Safiya—talk making art in post-soul Memphis, building on the city's black artistic legacies, and charting new courses for themselves and the next generations of creators. 

3:00 PM — 4:30 PM

Premiere Palace Ballroom

Solid Gold Soul: Writing American Music, Writing American Culture
Hanif Abdurraqib and Doreen St. Félix
Moderated by George Arnett Dowdy

Three of the most important voices on American life, sound, and popular culture, today’s literary soul singers, come together to talk about their approaches to the page and the future of writing. Music critic, poet, and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib, New Yorker staff writer, essayist, and pop critic extraordinaire Doreen St. Felix join fiction writer George Arnett Dowdy for a conversation about music writing's gold standard.

Marshall Arts Gallery

Literary Hoodoo: At the Crossroads of Spirit and Storytelling
Ekpe Abioto, Courtney Alexander, and Arthur Flowers
Moderated by Jamey Hatley

Sometimes a story is more than just a story. These three artists pull from the deep, rich archetypes of Black American history and spiritual practices to craft works of power and healing. Arthur Flowers is a novelist, essayist, and performer from Memphis, TN. His most recent work is Brer Rabbit Retold. Courtney Alexander is a multi-disciplinary visual artist who created Dust II Onyx: A Melanated Tarot Deck. Ekpe Abioto is a musician, performer, and artistic director of Genius Unlimited. Jamey Hatley, Co-Founder of the Center for Southern Literary Arts and Rona Jaffe Foundation Award winner, will moderate.

High Cotton Backroom

A Reading: Three Poets
Eloisa Amezcua,  Jenny Johnson, and sam sax 
Moderated by Marcus Wicker

Three poets from three different parts of the country who examine love, the body, and their borders with tenderness and brutality. sam sax, two-time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion and winner of the National Poetry Series; Eloisa Amezcua, Phoenix-based poet and author of From the Inside Quietly; and Jenny Johnson, Pittsburgh-based author of In Full Velvet and recipient of a Hodder Fellowship and Whiting Award join us for a reading from their works. Marcus Wicker, author of Silencer and University of Memphis professor in poetry, will emcee the reading.

RiverDeep Church

Chalkbeat TN, MLK50, and High Ground News present:
New Media Journalism in a Changing Memphis

Laura Faith Kebede
Andrea Morales, Kirstin L. Cheers, and Madeline Faber
Moderated by Micaela Watts

Independent, digital publications are able to use innovative platforms and community embedding to advance a more inclusive reporting lens for Memphis’ majority minority city. Chalkbeat TN, High Ground News, and MLK50 utilize independent models and digital newsrooms to report with accuracy and dignity on economic justice, education, and community development. Laura Faith Kebede (ChalkBeat TN), Madeline Faber (HighGround News), Kirstin L. Cheers (MLK50) and Andrea Morales (MLK50) discuss their experiences pursuing proper representation of vulnerable communities by the media. Moderated by Micaela Watts (MLK50).