Six Bridges Book Festival 2023 a Success!

The Six Bridges Book Festival took place September 25 through October 1 and brought in about 50 authors from across the country. Monday through Wednesday, the festival began with a delicious appetizer – if you will – a series of virtual events, including Stephen Aryan, Ananta Ripa Ajmera, and Caroline Dodds Pennock among others. Then Thursday brought the beginning of the main course – all the in-person events!

2023 Six Bridges Festival Highlights

That night, David Grann spoke to a packed house at the Ron Robinson Theater about his new book, The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder, as well as discussing his other book, Killers of the Flower Moon that was made into a film staring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro and is currently being promoted for its October 20 release.

In addition to the traditional Festival book-related sessions, there were workshops of the writing and cooking sort. Eggshells Kitchen Co. served as host for three chef authors, including Stacey Mei Yan Fong, 50 Pies, 50 States; Susan Gravely, Italy on a Plate; and Sandra A. Gutierrez, Latinísimo. Ninety people attended the three events and watched as the chefs made recipes from their respective cookbooks. Fong made the first pie of the fifty – pie Number 1, blackberry and peach from Alabama. Gravely made crostini and mushroom soup while also having orange shortbread cookies available. Gutierrez made pupusas and discussed how different forms of tortillas vary regionally.

One of the fulfilling parts about volunteering with the Six Bridges Book Festival is not just meeting authors and helping with labels, but being able to share Little Rock with authors like Susan Gravely just as she shared her memories and impressions of Italy with attendees.—Joel DiPippa, who served as sous chef for Susan Gravely

Two writing workshops took place on Saturday morning, the first led by CALS Writing Circle Programmer Deb Moore and the second with CALS’s Jobe and the writing duo Quinn Connor.

A real highlight for us was connecting with creative writers in the Little Rock community at our writing workshop! Cicadas Sing of Summer Graves is Quinn Connor’s debut novel, so it was incredibly special to have our first book festival here in Arkansas, where the book is set. We also got to meet author friends face to face after connecting online. Thank you so much to the organizers and sponsors for this fantastic opportunity.—Quinn Connor

The majority of the book sessions took place at the Ron Robinson Theater, the CALS Rock It! Lab, or the neighboring UA Little Rock Downtown. But over at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center, kids were the center of attention. The all-day outdoor fair created smiling (painted) faces that happily took advantage of the new playground while inside families were wowed by Tommy Terrific’s Wacky Magic Show and later Flurffy and Friends.

I attended one virtual session and three in-person sessions with authors, and wish I could have fit in more. I probably most enjoyed David Grann, because I’ve read the most of his books and followed his works the longest; I was thrilled when I realized he’d be here. Rebecca Makkai and Curtis Sittenfeld were full of insights about their compelling female leads and the often sexism-focused culture in which their characters work. Eli Cranor was able to answer a question I had about his newest book, Ozark Dogs.

The authors were warm and engaging and often funny, real and vulnerable in touching ways. Each made a real effort to connect to the audience—nothing felt canned. They were full of candid authenticity and seemed happy to be talking with Arkansas fans of their works. It’s a treat to be able to hear from writers of this caliber working at the top of their game. We’re lucky to have such an opportunity in Arkansas. I am ready for the 2024 fest! —Festival attendee Jenny Boulden

Saturday night brought birder, activist, and author Christian Cooper, who spoke to the largest audience of the Fest. The audience was brimming with bird enthusiasts who peppered him with questions right up until the theater needed to be emptied to welcome the fantastic Andrew Sean Greer and Justin Torres. The CALS Communications department was able to meet up with Christian to talk about the birdwatching kits, you can watch that video here.

Thank you to everyone who attended the sessions and those who made the Fest possible, from the volunteers to the staff to the authors themselves; it was a great event promoting learning, sharing, and celebrating the joy of reading. You can find out more about the sessions and watch several of them here.


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