The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

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Beth writes…

On the cover of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, a blue swath of paint boldy streaks across the image of a faceless young mountain woman, who carefully holds a string-bound book. In Kim Michele Richardson’s new novel, Cussy Mary Carter is not only one of the Great Depression’s Appalachian Pack Horse Librarians, she is also uniquely blue-skinned.

Kentucky-born Richardson’s snappy language captures Cussy Mary’s yearning to find a place in the world where her color is accepted:

Didn’t have myself an escape until I’d gotten the precious book route. In those old dark-treed pockets, my young patrons would glimpse me riding my packhorse, toting a pannier full of books, and they’d light a smile and call out, “Yonder comes Book Woman...Book Woman’s here!” And I’d forget all about my peculiarity, and why I had it, and what it meant for me.

The blue complexion, a result of a recessive genetic pairing, means that Cussy Mary is treated as “colored” with all its associated prejudice. While on her treacherous mountain route the traveling librarian encounters respect, friendship, and purpose; by contrast, in the more sophisticated town she is shunned from community dances and the possibility of marriage.

Based on the real-life Fugate “Blue People of Kentucky” family, as well as on the early WPA librarians, this historical fiction title offers a unique glimpse into a tiny pocket of the world that contains both beauty and harshness. Anyone who treasures spreading the joy of reading will quickly soak up Cussy Mary’s story. And for book club members looking for a new treat, Richardson provides reading group discussion questions, as well as a brief historical summary and images. We have a whole stack of ‘em on our front table - come by and grab a copy of this exceptional read!

Young Adult Fiction

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Faramola has some thoughts on the Young Adult world that she’d like to share with you…

Do people not realize how lucky they are to live during this day and age? The reason why they are lucky is not due to the fact that technological inventions such as cars, phones, and social media now exist and thus serve to make life a whole lot easier (or more complicated, I suppose, depending on the stance that you take). No, it is because a thing such as Young Adult now exists and graces our shelves with its hallowed presence.

When it comes to Young Adult literature, our grand-bibliophiles (grandparents of bibliophiles, see what I did there?) will say “back in my day, we didn’t have young adult books”. And indeed, this is the truth. Just like its audience, this is a fairly young genre compared to other book genres, but my, has it emerged with a force.

Perhaps it is just me, but when I read Young Adult fiction, I notice that young adult novelists tend to unleash more of their creative imagination and allow it to freely flow on their pages in comparison to fictional works meant for an older audience. In the book world, the possibilities are endless, but in the young adult book world, it seems not just to be possibilities that are endless, but impossibilities that are present. How refreshing.

Another component about Young Adult books that I cannot help but love is that it is timeless. While its name connotes that it is for readers that find themselves in the awkward stage of life between childhood and adulthood, I find that it is meant for readers of all ages. There is this level of maturity fused with an always present youthfulness that gives young adult novels a certain flavor meant for the palettes of readers of all ages. I find that I must be patient with those that sneer derisively down at Young Adult, dismissively claiming that they are too mature for it, before wandering off to a more “mature genre”. Their words pain me, but I must forgive, for they do not know what they are saying: older readers will find that reading young adult books is just as educational as adult fiction novels, as one can learn so much from books such as these.

When I was a teenager, I was anticipating with dread the day when I would have to graduate from Young Adult and move on to more mature genres, but even now I find that my graduation date is continually being pushed back, and I suspect that it will be continually pushed back for the rest of my life. I am okay with that. The beauty of Young Adult is that it is meant for all readers and offers a level of imaginative creativity that makes one gravitate to these books. They are empowering, adventurous, youthful, mature, hilarious, tragic and they make you love books - in genera l- even more.

Need a Quiet Place to Study?

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Finals are fast approaching, and that means that downtown’s coffeeshops are full of anxious students, hunched over their books. So here’s our little PSA: If you’re looking for a new place to study during finals, Skylark has you covered!

On our second floor we invite you to spread your projects out on our table, read in our comfy chairs, or discover our "hidden" beanbag in our "treehouse" spot. To help ease your stress during this time, we are offering coloring, chess, a puzzle, and dum dum lollipops.

In addition, enter a drawing to win a free ARC by studying at Skylark! (An ARC is an Advance Review Copy, a yet-to-be published copy of a book that gives booksellers a sneak peek of an upcoming title.) We’d love to share an ARC of a title that’s already been released. Study in the shop for an hour, and then drop a completed form with your name, email, and phone number into the container. We’ll contact if you win an ARC!

While students are always welcome to study here, check us out especially during the month of May to enjoy our special additions.

Mother's Day is nearly here. We can help.

If you’re wondering about a unique gift to give this Mother’s Day (which is on Sunday, people!!) then may we make a couple of suggestions for things which are super-convenient for you but will win you all the points?

Here’s a tip: books last longer than flowers. And chocolate.

Our subscription service is, as the saying goes, the gift that keeps on giving. Every month we’ll send a beautifully gift-wrapped book to your mom in the mail. We choose the title based on an online survey that she’ll complete. You choose whether it’s hardcover or paperback, and how many months you want the gift to last. We ship anywhere in the US. It’s awesome. People love it. More details here.

Our reading spa is perhaps the ultimate luxury gift for the book-lover in your life. Recipients get to spend a delicious hour or two at the shop. One of our team of booksellers will learn all about their favorite reads by having an informal chat over coffee or tea and a doughnut (or possibly cake), and will then suggest a range of possible titles to choose from. Every spa comes with $100 to spend books. In other words: totally guilt-free shopping. More details here.

Alternatively, just come in and talk to us, tell us what your mother likes to read, and we’ll recommend a wonderful book for her. We’ll even gift wrap it for you, at no extra cost. It’s all part of the service.

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Still adding events for the summer...

We’ve just about recovered from Unbound, and are continuing to add events as we look forward to the summer. Keep checking our events page for new stuff. In addition to this Thursday’s talk with Dr. Kathryn Fishman-Weaver, we’ve just added a very interesting event on May 16 about the most prestigious creative writing program in the country, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. More details here.

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Coming This Thursday... Wholehearted Teaching of Gifted Young Women

We’re excited to welcome Dr. Kathryn Fishman-Weaver to Skylark on May 2. Dr. Fishman-Weaver is the author of Wholehearted Teaching of Gifted Young Women: Cultivating Courage, Connection, and Self-Care in Schools. This important book explores the critical role school communities play in supporting the social and emotional needs of high-achieving young women. Using a youth participatory action research model, the book follows 20 student researchers from high school through college. This longitudinal study leads to "Wholehearted Teaching," a new framework for cultivating courage, connection, and self-care in schools. Framed with personal stories and filled with practical suggestions, Dr. Fishman-Weaver offers strategies for teachers, counselors, parents, and high-achieving young women as they navigate the precipice of youth and everything after.

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Kathryn Fishman-Weaver is an educator, author, and relentless optimist. She is passionate about community and strengths-based approaches to teaching, learning, and research. She is the author of Wholehearted Teaching of Gifted Young Women: Cultivating Courage, Connection, and Self-Care in Schools (2018). Her second book, When Your Child Learns Differently: A Family Approach for Navigating Special Education Services with Love and High Expectations, is scheduled for release later this year. Before becoming a nonfiction author, Kathryn’s first literary love was poetry and readers can hear that fondness for verse across her pages. One reviewer said “It is the rare work, such as this book by Dr. Fishman-Weaver that has the guts to interweave mind and heart and spirit into a tapestry of pure courage and hope.” Kathryn holds a faculty position in the College of Education where she serves as the Director of Academic Affairs for Mizzou K-12.

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STOP PRESS! Poet Alison C. Rollins will be at Skylark on April 24!!

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Never a dull moment around here, my goodness no. We’re thrilled to announce that award-winning poet, Alison C. Rollins, will be reading at the shop on Wednesday, April 24 at 6:00 pm.

Yes, that is very short notice. But opportunities like this don’t come along very often, and when they do, by golly you snap them up.

Born and raised in St. Louis city, Alison currently works as a Librarian for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Literature fellow. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry ReviewHayden’s Ferry ReviewMeridianMissouri ReviewThe OffingPoetryThe Poetry ReviewRiver StyxSolsticeTriQuarterlyTupelo QuarterlyVinyl, and elsewhere. A Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow, she is also a 2016 recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship. In 2018 she was the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers' Award. Her debut poetry collection, Library of Small Catastrophes, is out today from Copper Canyon Press. We will have lots on hand if you would like a signed copy!

It’s still April, which means it’s still National Poetry Month. Come on out and listen to this rising star!

Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day!

We like to keep busy here at Skylark, so after the happy madness of the Unbound Book Festival, we scarcely have a chance to draw a breath before throwing ourselves into the festivities of Independent Bookstore Day, the annual nationwide celebration of independent bookshops. By happy coincidence our first IBD also falls on the day of the District’s Spring Shop Hop, a day of exclusive offers, free refreshments, free parking, and tons of fun events for everyone to enjoy throughout Columbia’s downtown.

So how are we marking the occasion? Well, let us count the ways:

First of all, we’re super-excited to host our first-ever DRAG STORYTIME at 1:00 p.m. Come and listen to some favorite children’s picture books told by our beautiful friends!

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Secondly, at 4:00, the brilliant Samantha Fierke will be performing live jazz with her band. Sam is a wonderfully talented young vocalist and you will be charmed and delighted by her songs and performance. Come and enjoy some first-class jazz and browse for books while you’re at it.

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… and while we’re on the subject of browsing for books, we would be remiss - since, well, we are a bookshop - if we didn’t tell you that we have a ton (probably quite literally) of signed books from last week’s festival, including a few signed by George Saunders (although these are going very fast and may be all gone by the time Saturday rolls around.)

We will also be selling excellent hardcover books at significant discount, so come by and hunt for a bargain. And we’ll be doing our regular promotion with our friends at Yellow Dog Bookshop, just down the street: buy a book from us, buy a book from them, and we’ll give you a token for a free ice cream at Sparky’s. What, as they say, is not to like?

In addition to all this, we’ve just taken delivery of a bunch of cool stuff that we’re not really allowed to tell you about, save to report that it will be available exclusively on Independent Bookshop Day, and you won’t be able to find it or buy it anywhere other than a participating independent bookshop. So come on out, enjoy the free parking, and help us celebrate the District and independent bookshops! See you there?

Poet-Tree!

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April is National Poetry Month, and Beth wanted to celebrate this in a special way. We’ll let her tell the story…

So....why is that twiggy branch resting in the front corner of the shop anyway? That....drumroll....is our poet-tree. During this April's National Poetry Month, we invite you to celebrate with us at Skylark by adding any type of rhyme or line that you'd like, so that our poet-tree bursts full of beautiful leaves. We're providing some tiny green leaves, crinkly blue yarn, and a Sharpie marker, but you're welcome to go even more big and bold with your own designs.

Share some of your favorite poet's lines, or pen something yourself. Here, for example, is my brilliant haiku, written after mangling an attempt to cut a leaf silhouette:

Cutting crazy leaves

Do not leave me with scissors

This one is a mess

As you can see, absolutely anyone can compose poetry.

If you’d rather not try to write something yourself, be sure to check out our amazing three-bay poetry section up on the second floor to find something that sings to you.

Happy Trails

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Carol has something she would like to say…

While life at Skylark has had one rather large upcoming event to focus on in April, I did not want to let the chance to talk about a cause near and dear to my heart pass by without mention.  This Saturday, April 13, marks the day when people can celebrate the opening of many trails, including our own beloved Katy Trail, to the myriad of activities that make trails great.  Just to name some: hiking, running, riding (bike and horse), skating, skiing, strolling, watching for wildlife and volunteering.

For those of you who do not know, I spent nearly 25 years in Washington, D.C., and while there, I became affiliated with a great national organization called the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC for short).  RTC helps advocate for groups that want to turn unused rail beds into walking, hiking  and riding trails. They are currently supporting the effort of the Rock Island Trail organization, which, if the ongoing Missouri State Parks study finds in favor of and the trail is completed, the Rock Island and Katy Trails will form a 459-mile loop, unlike any other trail.

 The Rock Island Trail would be boon to the smaller towns located along its route—you can read more about their efforts here.  I attended a rally at the State Capitol in Jefferson City last year, and the enthusiasm of the towns was fantastic to witness, even early on a lousy weather day.

So stop by the shop on Saturday morning if you can;  I will be glad to chat more about RTC, the Rock Island Trail or just generally rave about trails. 

Busy Week Ahead!

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It’s all go around here.

Every day we’re getting deliveries vast numbers of books in anticipation of the Unbound Book Festival in two weekends’ time - we’ll be selling books at the event and are gearing up for that. With 56 authors and poets in attendance, it’s not a small thing.

If that wasn’t already enough, we also have three events this week, and on consecutive days, no less.

On Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. we’re pleased to welcome Romalyn Tilghman to the shop to talk about her fabulous novel, To the Stars Through Difficulties.

On Wednesday, also at 6:00 p.m., two wonderful poets, Cassie Donish and Stacey Lynn Brown, will be reading from their work. April is National Poetry Month, so to celebrate this, come out and hear some brilliant poetry performed live!

On the subject of performance, on Thursday at 5:00 p.m., the MU Jazz Combo will be playing in the store in celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month (April is a busy month.) Wine will be served so you can sip and enjoy live music while you browse. Oh, and we’re giving a 10% discount on all jazz-related books thoughout the month of April.

Now that we’re finally enjoying some nice weather, it’s a wonderful time to visit downtown and stroll about the District. Come by Skylark and say hello!

Tonight! The Unbound Book Club discusses "American Prison" by Shane Bauer.

We’re very much looking forward to this evening’s discussion of American Prison by journalist Shane Bauer. We think that the Unbound panel, Prison Sentences, will be one of the most important and popular events at this year’s festival. If you’ve read Shane’s book, you’ll understand why it was named as one of the New York Times’s Best Books of 2018. It’s shocking and brilliant and vitally important.

We’ll be talking about all that this evening at 6:00 p.m., and who knows? Perhaps there’ll be one or two other sneak previews of other Unbound events as well. No need to pre-register and (of course) the event is completely free. See you there?

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Ten (OK, Eleven) Reasons Why You Should be at Skylark on Thursday evening

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We have talked with many of you about The Altruists, and about how the Gary Shteyngart quote on the front (“Super brilliant, super funny.”) is super true. We might have also said that it is super ridiculous that Andrew Ridker gets to have such a super first book with super kudos when he is super young.

In all truth, this book deserves all the hype, and Ridker deserves to bask in it. There are a lot of reasons we think you should consider coming to the event (6:00 p.m. this Thursday!) and picking up a copy. I’m going to try to stick to the top ten.

 1.     It really is super brilliant. No, really. The writing is careful and patient.  The plot is intoxicatingly layered. The characters make you want to hug them, fix them, and smack them upside the head.

2.     The cover is gorgeous. Okay, so I love dandelions. I painted a mural of one on my daughter’s wall. I have been known to make bread with the flowers and every spring the kids harvest from our lawn with delight for fried dandelions (oh my yum). The cover also holds a lot of meaning. You will know the scene when you read it, and you will adore it.

3.     The book is set in St. Louis. Chances are you know these people. You have been to these places. Ridker has expertly made the setting of this novel another character. You will want to hug it, fix it, and smack it upside the head.

4.     Family is complicated. This family more than many, but still. Their feelings and circles of foolish behavior will gut you and leave you thinking about someone you love . . . or want to love . . . or hope loves you.

5.     It says the things that are not said. Novels have this sneaky way of saying all the things the characters are afraid to say. It is all in these pages. I have rarely read a book so good at holding everything back and putting it all out there at the same time.

6.     We could all use a little introspection. There is so much subtle character analysis going on, that I guarantee you will have a moment of personal reflection at one point or another . . . and another.

7.     Did I mention St. Louis? You sat on that bench once. You definitely know that frozen custard. There is a strong likelihood that some of these people are your relatives (without any of those silly flaws, of course).

8.     The story centers on “Danforth” . . . which is unabashedly Wash U . . . really any University in an education obsessed town . . . okay, here.

9.     Ridker knows that home is everything you love and everything you want to forget. And he doesn’t just remind you of that, he smashes that pie into your face and rubs it into your hair. You both laugh.

10.  Needing is the hardest and most wonderful part of being alive. Ridker takes you through the rollercoaster of need. The want, the rejection, the failure, the success, the impossible everything of it. Then somehow, he says a few words and makes you know that your own particularly nagging need makes you who you are in such a beautiful way.

11.  Okay, one more . . .
Respect people. Respect yourself. Eliminate Hate. Ridker address the toxic world we live in with the subtleness of someone who knows that the peculiar politics of today infuse every single story we now tell.

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"Guilty Pleasures"? Not. A. Thing.

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Carrie has some words of wisdom for you today. Co-signed by everyone who works at the shop!

We have heard two words a lot lately. Two words we don’t really believe in: “Guilty Pleasure.” 

It comes in a lowered voice as someone discovers Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. “It’s a bit steamier than I normally read.” It comes with a pink-cheeked glance as someone tucks a Young Adult title into their stack. “I need something fun before I dive back in.” It comes with shyness when we ask, “What are you in the mood for today?” and we hear, “I’d really like something on the lighter side.”

 So we want to put this out there. We have an amazing selection of books in our shop. We work hard choosing titles. Titles with important content, titles that can drop your jaw and slip into your dreams, titles that are filled with extreme brilliance . . . but we also have some delightfully fun books, some quick reads for the airplane, some palate cleansers.  What we don’t have are “Guilty Pleasures.” If you are reading a book and enjoying it, then there is nothing to feel guilty about. Will Schwalbe taught us that.

We would also love for you to keep this in mind for some of our younger customers. Just because they can see over the counter, that does not mean that they don’t still have a soft spot for picture books. If they are able to read at a high school or college level, they might still enjoy that graphic novel or that silly chapter book that you know they’ll finish on the way home.  The secret is, they also love a range of books. We see their longing looks as they sneak open a book they don’t think they will take home. The other secret is, that book they finish in one quick sitting? They will pick it up over and over and over and over again. You really will get your money’s worth. And you will help them grow up to be proud readers across genres and topics. And maybe, just maybe, we can wipe this feeling of guilt away when talking about something as wonderful as reading!

Come and hear Sherry Jones talk about Josephine Baker on June 4!

We’re pleased to announce a new event, featuring international bestselling author Sherry Jones, who will be at Skylark to discuss her wonderful novel, JOSEPHINE BAKER’S LAST DANCE.

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Josephine Baker was a legendary performer, a trailblazing activist, and one of the most remarkable and powerful cultural icons in history. In this moving and insightful biographical novel, Sherry Jones lifts the curtain and pays homage to her fascinating life.

Josephine Baker was born an illegitimate child of poverty in St. Louis, Missouri but emerged as a black ingénue in Paris at the height of the flapper movement. Sherry Jones creates a fictionalized reimagining of Josephine Baker’s rise to international fame and success as a headlining performer on Paris’s grandest stage.

A celebrity in the midst of the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, and beyond, Josephine Baker also had a secret career as a pilot in the French Air Force and intelligence spy for the French Resistance. She took center stage as a dedicated Civil Rights activist, becoming the only woman invited to speak at the 1963 March on Washington, and her views on social justice and advocacy continue to influence American life today.

Symbolic of her life, JOSEPHINE BAKER’S LAST DANCE is structured around the program of Josephine Baker’s final triumphant performance. As the final curtain falls, Sherry Jones brings this remarkable and compelling public figure into focus for the first time in a joyous celebration of a life lived in technicolor, a powerful woman who continues to inspire today. Come and listen to Sherry Jones read from her book and share the stories behind this enchanting novel.

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THIS EVENING: Carping on

This evening we’re very much looking forward to welcoming Andrew Reeves to Skylark, where he’ll be discussing his book, OVERRUN: DISPATCHES FROM THE ASIAN CARP CRISIS, a brilliant synthesis of intelligent investigative writing and experiential journalism about one of North America’s most voraciously invasive species.

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Politicians, ecologists, and government wildlife officials are fighting a desperate rearguard action to halt the onward reach of Asian Carp, four troublesome fish now within a handful of miles from entering Lake Michigan. From aquaculture farms in Arkansas to the bayous of Louisiana; from marshlands in Indiana to labs in Minnesota; and from the Illinois River to the streets of Chicago where the last line of defense has been laid to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, Overrun takes us on a firsthand journey into the heart of a crisis. Along the way, environmental journalist Andrew Reeves discovers that saving the Great Lakes is only half the challenge. The other is a radical scientific and political shift to rethink how we can bring back our degraded and ignored rivers and waterways and reconsider how we create equilibrium in a shrinking world.

With writing that is both urgent and wildly entertaining, Andrew Reeves traces the carp’s explosive spread throughout North America from an unknown import meant to tackle invasive water weeds to a continental scourge that bulldozes through everything in its path.

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Tonight! Unbound Poetry!

What’s better than reading a book of wonderful poetry? Hearing the poets who wrote that wonderful poetry read it themselves.

This evening at 6:00, come and listen to Gabe Fried, Poetry Director of the Unbound Book Festival, introduce the six poets who will be reading their work at this year’s book festival on April 20. He will talk a little about each poet and offer some examples of their work. An acclaimed poet himself, Gabe is also a professor in the English Department at the University of Missouri, and he knows of what he speaks. If you’ve ever heard him talk about poetry, you will know it will be an illuminating and entertaining talk.

While we’re on the subject, Unbound have announced one more poet they’ve just added to next month’s roster - Aaron Coleman. Aaron is the author of Threat Come Close (Four Way Books, 2018) and his chapbook, St. Trigger, was selected by Adrian Matejka for the 2015 Button Poetry Prize. A Fulbright Scholar and Cave Canem Fellow, Aaron’s poems have appeared in journals including Boston Review, Callaloo, and New York Times Magazine. Winner of the American Literary Translators Association’s Jansen Fellowship, the Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Contest, and The Cincinnati Review Schiff Award, Aaron is currently studying 20th-century poetry of the African Diaspora in the Americas in Washington University Saint Louis Comparative Literature PhD program.

Photo Credit: Katherine Simone Reynolds

Photo Credit: Katherine Simone Reynolds

Louder Than A Bomb!

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Louder than a Bomb is the largest youth poetry slam competition in the world. Based out of Chicago and birthed by Young Chicago Authors, Louder than a Bomb has expanded to over a dozen cities since 2001.

The Mid-Missouri chapter includes 7 high school teams from Columbia, Jefferson City and Mexico, who have gathered to build bridges across our communities with words, verse, and conversation.

Their 2nd season kicks off with the first preliminary bout at 6PM on Tuesday, March 12th, 2019, and Skylark is very proud to be hosting the event. This will be the first of four rounds (the second is Tuesday, March 19th, also at Skylark) and the final of this year’s competition will take place on the campus of Stephens College on Saturday, April 20, as part of the Unbound Book Festival.

Poetry is gonna change the world, ya'll. Come get your soul shook and stand witness as the next generation of leaders take center stage!!