Literature in all of its forms, from poetry to historical fiction will play a major component of the Astra Arts Festival. Literary lovers will enjoy workshops, poetry slams, discussions and readings by some of the country’s top writers.

Headlining Authors

Alan Heathcock

Alan Heathcock writes about small towns and their secrets in Volt. Heathcock has an understanding and love of rural areas. His book has received great notice and acknowledgement.

Alan Heathcock’s VOLT was a “Best Book” selection in numerous newspapers and magazines, including GQ, Publishers Weekly, Salon, the Chicago Tribune, and Cleveland Plain Dealer, was named as a New York Times “Editors’ Choice,” selected as a Barnes & Noble “Best Book of the Month,” as well as a finalist for the Barnes & Noble “Discover Prize.”

Heathcock has won a Whiting Award, the GLCA New Writers Award, a National Magazine Award, has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Lannan Foundation, and the Idaho Commission on the Arts. A native of Chicago, he lives and works in Boise, Idaho.

During the Astra Arts Festival, Mr. Heathcock will perform a reading of one of his short stories at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 10 at the Independence Community College Black Box Theatre.

Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Mvskoke Nation. Her seven books of poetry, which includes such well-known titles as How We Became Human- New and Selected Poems, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, and She Had Some Horses have garnered many
awards. These include the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas; and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. For A Girl Becoming, a young adult/coming of age book, was released in 2009 and is Harjo’s most recent publication.

“...With a double shot of heart, beauty, freedom, peace and grace that blends traditional Native rhythms and singing with jazz, rock, blues and hip-hop, Harjo is right at the top of the best contemporary American poetry and music artists.”
—Thomas Rain Crow, The Bloomsbury Review

Ms. Harjo will perform a reading of her works at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 9 at the Inge Theatre on the campus of Independence Community College.

Mary Doria Russell

Mary Doria Russell has been called one of the most versatile writers in American literature and one of our greatest contemporary storytellers. She has a huge following in the science fiction world for her award winning books The Sparrow and Children of God.

Russell’s first novel, The Sparrow (1996), was chosen as one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by Entertainment Weekly and won the Arthur C. Clarke Prize, the British Science Fiction Award for best novel in 1998. The sequel, Children of God (1998), won the Friends of the Library USA Reader’s Choice Award, and was nominated for the Hugo Award, Best Novel in 1999.

Her first historical fiction, A Thread of Grace (2005), nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, was described by a reviewer in the San Francisco Chronicle to be “As sad as the history that engendered it, and hauntingly beautiful.” Russell’s fourth novel, Dreamers of the Day (2008), was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her most recent fiction, Doc (2011), examines the Old West of Doc Holliday and Dodge City; it was named a Great Lakes Great Book, and a Notable Book by the Kansas State Library.

Mary Doria Russell lives in Cleveland with her husband and is working on her next novel, Epitaph, the story of the 1881 gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona, and its aftermath.

Ms. Russell will perform a reading at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 12, at the Presbyterian Church.

Workshops & Panels

There will be a multitude of educational workshops, panels and readings throughout the duration of the festival!

Self-Publishing Panel

Kansas authors will relate their own experiences with the process of self-publishing and will answer questions about the process from audience members. 

Ticket Price:  FREE

10 - 11 a.m., Saturday, July 5

One Teen Story Discussion with author and editor, Patrick Ryan

Author and editor of well-known teen magazine One Teen Story will discuss the creative writing market for young writers. 

Ticket Price:  FREE

3 - 4 p.m., Monday, July 7

Fiction Writing Workshop, Kathleen DeGrave

This fiction workshop will focus on place—your place, your geography—and how that can create story.  

Ticket Price:  FREE

2 - 3 p.m., Tuesday, July 8

Master Class with writer, Arna Bontemps Hemenway

Writer Arna Hemenway will conduct a master class on writing powerful fiction, which includes individual instruction on pre-submitted short stories. Short stories (no more than 15 pages) submitted by June 7 to [email protected] 

Ticket Price:  FREE

4 to 5 p.m., Tuesday, July 8

Memoir Writing Workshop with Lori Baker Martin

The workshop will focus on digging up the writer’s individual world through discussion and writing exercises. Writers from beginning to advanced are welcome.

Ticket Price:  FREE

2 - 3 p.m., Thursday, July 10

Horror Fiction Discussion with C. Michael Hall

Writer, cartoonist, musician, occasional filmmaker, pop culture junkie, and librarian C. Michael Hall will take participants on a horrific trip through horror fiction, in all its many, frightening forms. Zombie burger lunch for $10 from Turbo’s.

Ticket Price:  FREE

11 a.m. - 1 p.m., Friday, July 11

Zombie Panel with Bennett Sims

Writer of ground-breaking and award-winning zombie novel A Questionable Shape will head up the panel of zombie experts including writer and cartoonist C. Michael Hall, professor of English and writer Jamie McDaniel, and horror writer Lynn Caldwell. 

Ticket Price:  FREE

1 - 2 p.m., Friday, July 11



Haiku Lecture with Jim Fischer

A showing of photographs by Rob Morgan accompanied by haiku-style poems by James D. Fischer. Morgan is Reporter photographer; Fischer is a retired ICC faculty member.

Ticket Price:  FREE 

5 - 6 p.m., Saturday, July 5

Young Adult Poetry Slam with Patrick Ryan

Ages 13 through 19 compete with their original poetry. Hosted by writer and editor Patrick Ryan. Awards- $50 for first prize; $25 for second; and $15 for third. 

Ticket Price:  FREE

4 - 5 p.m., Monday, July 7

Poetry Writing Workshop with Chris Anderson

Poet and English Professor Christopher Anderson will work with poets—from beginning level to advanced—to enhance their skills, tap into their creative core, and stretch their imagination.

Ticket Price:  FREE

2 - 3 p.m., Wednesday, July 9

Reading with Laura Lee Washburn

Poet Laura Lee Washburn will read new work and from her several collections of poetry. Alberto Rios calls Washburn’s poems “as muscular as they are personal…She’s onto something all her own.”

Ticket Price:  FREE

4 - 5 p.m., Wednesday, July 9

Experiments in Sound & Poetry with Bridget Carson

The event will feature both new and classic poetry and several new music and art pieces, which accompany the poetry. Conversation with the audience and the artists will follow the performances. 

Ticket Price:  FREE

5 - 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 9

Reading with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Former Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg will read from her recent work. Goldberg describes herself as believing “continually cultivating spaciousness in our hearts, mind, bodies, and communities.” 

Ticket Price:  FREE

3 - 4 p.m., Thursday, July 10

Reading with Kansas Poet Laureate Wyatt Townley

Current Kansas Poet Laureate Wyatt Townley will be reading from her recent work. The confluence of poetry and poetry-in-motion has shaped Townley’s life and art. 

Ticket Price:  FREE

4 - 5 p.m., Thursday, July 10

Reading with Jim Hoy

Writer Jim Hoy will read from his work. Hoy’s work reflects his life in Kansas in the Tall Grass Prairies, and he’s been called a “cowboy” poet.  

Ticket Price:  FREE

4 - 5 p.m., Friday, July 11


Author Readings

Reading with writer, Arna Bontemps Hemenway

Writer Arna Bontemps Hemenway will read from his brand new collection of short stories, Elegy on Kinderklavier. Hemenway’s work has been called “not merely narrative but musical.” 

Ticket Price:  FREE

5 - 6 p.m., Tuesday, July 8

Reading with writer, Patrick Ryan

Editor of One Teen Story and sometimes young adult writer Patrick Ryan will read from his most recent work. Ryan’s work has been called, “graceful,” and “wise.” He’s written three novels and a collection of short stories.

Ticket Price:  FREE

6 - 7 p.m., Tuesday, July 8

Reading with writer, Amy Sage Webb

Poet and fiction writer Amy Sage Webb will read from new work. Webb's writing focuses on the working-class and draws from the many jobs she's held and places she's lived, including the Kansas Flint Hills.

Ticket Price:  FREE

3 - 4 p.m., Wednesday, July 9

Reading with writer, Thomas Fox Averill

Writer Thomas Fox Averill will read from his most recent work. Averill is two-time winner of Kansas Notable Books Award.

Ticket Price:  FREE

3 - 4 p.m., Friday, July 11

Reading with writer, Stephen Meats

Writer Stephen Meats will read from his work, both poetry and fiction. Meats’ writing “moves gracefully among images and memories, surely defining human dimensions of his geography and of his times.” 

Ticket Price:  FREE

2 - 3 p.m., Saturday, July 12

Reading with writer, Kathleen DeGrave

Fiction writer Kathleen DeGrave will read from her work. DeGrave’s work has been called “dark,” “honest,” and “clear-eyed.” 

Ticket Price:  FREE

3 - 4 p.m., Saturday, July 12


Lit Crawl 

Participants will meet at 6 p.m. at Turbo’s, then on to Magnolia Home and Health, Reflections, First Oak Bank, Independence Pharmacy, CherryBerry, and Frankie’s Dawgs. The event ends at Turbo’s at 8 p.m. 

Ticket Price:  FREE

6 - 9 p.m., Monday, July 7


Astra Writing Contest

Original poetry, short fiction, short memoir and creative nonfiction, and flash fiction entries will be accepted. Selected entries will be included in a commemorative publication. Entries are $5 per submission. Cash prizes: 1st prize: $100; 2nd prize: $50; 3rd prize: $25. For more information: [email protected] 



Writing Contest Winners’ Reception

Winners of the writing contest will be announced at this event.

Ticket Price:  FREE

6 - 8 p.m., Sunday, July 13


Book Sales & Book Fair

Self-Published Authors Book Sale

Local self-published authors will be available to the public in order to sell and sign their work.

Ticket Price:  FREE

5 - 7 p.m., Sunday, July 6

Ongoing Book Sale

Books and other memorabilia will be for sale throughout the festival. 

Ticket Price:  FREE

Celebrity Museum, July 3—13 **