Inaugural Heartland Book Festival Boasts Notable Lineup of Authors, Workshops, Literary Activities

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

An impressive lineup of nationally known and local authors headlines a new, two-day book festival set for early October in downtown Kansas City. 

The inaugural Heartland Book Festival – co-presented by Missouri Humanities, the Kansas City Public Library, and the Missouri affiliate for the Library of Congress’ Center for the Book – also will offer an array of workshops and musical performances, a photography exhibition, and other presentations and activities – all following the theme Find Your Story. And all free and open to public audiences of all ages

The festival opens Friday, October 6, 2023, with a keynote address by storyteller and self-professed intellectual adventurer Jermaine Fowler, host of the history podcast The Humanity Archive and author of the bestselling The Humanity Archive: Recovering the Soul of Black History From a Whitewashed American Myth. He speaks at the Folly Theater’s C. Stephen Metzler Hall at 7 p.m.  

A full day of presentations and activities follows on Saturday, October 7, at the Kansas City Public Library’s downtown Central Library, just a few blocks away. Featured then is another bestselling author, crime writer, Karin Slaughter, whose works have spawned two streaming and television series (Netflix’s Pieces of Her, adapted from Slaughter’s novel of the same name, and the ABC police procedural Will Trent, taken from Slaughter’s 11-part series on an investigative agent in Georgia). She speaks at 2 p.m. 
Portrait of Jermaine Fowler
Jermaine Fowler
Portrait of Karin Slaughter
Karin Slaughter

The Saturday schedule, running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., also includes: 

  • A panel discussion including St. Louis author Vivian Gibson, winner of the Missouri Library Association’s Missouri Literary Award for nonfiction in 2022-23, on writing history through the lens of memoir. Gibson was honored for her debut memoir The Last Children of Mill Creek, about the everyday life of a working-class Black family in a segregated St. Louis neighborhood that was demolished during urban renewal.
  • A kid-friendly discussion by Colter Jackson of his children’s short story, The Rhino Suit, about a sensitive girl who makes a rhino-tough suit for protection from the world’s hurts. It was one of two books from Missouri – with Gibson’s – selected for this year’s National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., as representative of the state’s literary heritage. 
  • A presentation on creativity by Columbus, Ohio, illustrator and storyteller Andy J. Pizza, host of the Creative Pep Talk podcast.  
  • A writing workshop, Telling Our Stories, led by Missouri’s sixth poet laureate, Maryfrances Wagner
  • A discussion by local authors Desideria Mesa, Glenn North, Grace Suh, and Whitney Terrell on how the Kansas City area has influenced their work.
  • A discussion by another panel of Kansas City-area authors, C.J. Janovy, Phong Nguyen, and Steve Paul on turning historical research into a storytelling tool. 
  • A presentation on children’s picture-book making by Kansas City illustrator Charlie Mylie and local graphic designer and creative director Jordan Morris
  • A children’s theater performance workshop conducted by professional actors with Starlight Theatre’s Just Imagine interactive program. 

There are other workshops on creative fiction, nonfiction, and poetry writing; printmaking; graphic recording; and even tarot reading.  

For more information, and to reserve free tickets, go to

Reserve Free Ticket to Heartland Book Fesitval