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story.lead_photo.caption Dozens of people came out to view the second South Arkansas Literary Festival earlier this month. There were booths of all kinds; from local and state libraries, to booksellers and authors. Everyone enjoyed the booths and we look forward to next year. Contributed photo

The second annual South Arkansas Literary Festival went off without a hitch after last year’s was cut short due to a fire at the Administration Building.

The festival is a partnership between the SouthArk Library, the Union County Public Library and the Calhoun County Public Library to help the library create more of a resource of cultural activities. It lasted all day on March 9 with a welcome before moving into sessions.

As part of the event, visitors could attend break out sessions covering a variety of topics including poetry writing, scholarly publishing and reading recommendations for teens.

This year, vendors were stationed in the hallway of the El Dorado Conference Center rather than in one of the side rooms like they were at last year’s event, which made them feel more accessible to people.

The idea for the festival came from SouthArk looking to be more of a recognized cultural resource for the area. Philip Shackelford, SouthArk Library director, said especially for an academic library it’s their responsibility to promote literacy, academic success, learning and educational enrichment. The festival, from his point of view, is a way to be that.

Gallery: South Arkansas Literary Festival

Last year’s festival was held in April and scheduled to be two days. However, the evening of the first day, the SouthArk Administration Building was struck by lightning, causing a fire that burned throughout the next day and caused the festival to be canceled. Part of the reason that the fire lasted as long as it did was the multiple tornado warnings throughout the night that forced firefighters to retreat into the truck while the fire was still burning.

Despite some severe weather and multiple tornado warnings over the course of the day at this year's event, it went on without interference and was able to finish off with “Back to Bremen” author Cecelia Wilson as the keynote speaker.

Michael Shine may be reached at 870-862-6611 or Follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook @MichaelAZShine for updates on Union County school news.

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