Photo: Giving Voice Writers Festival

Giving Voice Writers Festival

A Festival of Writing and the Arts

Giving Voice: A Festival of Writing and the Arts has always been about creative exploration. This year, certainly, was no exception. From September 20-22, 2017, JBU welcomed graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang, spoken word artist David Bowden, and memoirist Lisa Ohlen Harris to campus for one of the most successful and exciting years of Giving Voice yet. Members of the JBU student body and the wider community got the chance to meet with these three incredible artists over the course of the festival and gain a new perspective on the role of creativity.


Our guest artists spoke to around 85 JBU English and art majors at a Q&A luncheon and provided Master Workshops focused on their unique field. Both Bowden and Yang spoke in convocation on Thursday, September 21, reaching 829 students, staff, and faculty with a message about creativity and the importance of diversity.


Of course, Giving Voice is also for the community. We partnered for the third year with the Friends of the Siloam Springs Library to host a public reading of Harris's memoir, The Fifth Season, and a special Meet the Author event. Thursday night, JBU welcomed 325 individuals from the school and the community to the Giving Voice talk and concert. Yang addressed the need for diversity in literature and about his initiative Reading Without Borders. Following intermission, Caroline Dinger, the winner of our first ever spoken word poetry contest, stepped up on stage to perform her spoken word poem. Bowden followed her performance with several of his own poems, emphasizing the need for creativity and unique storytelling.


On Friday, the last day of the festival, JBU welcomed in over 200 high school students and teachers. They traveled from all over Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri to join high school workshops hosted by Lisa Ohlen Harris and twelve JBU faculty and staff members. Sixteen students from JBU volunteered to welcome the high schoolers when they arrived, connect with students in and between workshops, and assist the workshop leaders. Feedback from the workshops was phenomenal. Students voiced their excitement about the workshops and eagerness to practice what they had learned.


JBU and the Giving Voice organizers would like to thank all who attended the festival and who helped to make it a success. The festival could not have happened without the school and community's interest and support. We're always looking for ways to make Giving Voice better and better. We're looking forward to next year, so mark your calendars for September 19-21, 2018. We hope to see all of this year's attendees and more back on campus for a fantastic Giving Voice 2018.


For additional updates and information, click here to visit our Giving Voice Facebook page.



Dr. Jessica Hooten Wilson
Associate Professor of Creative Writing & Literature
Associate Honors Director
Director of Giving Voice
John Brown University




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