Jon Tribble’s vision continues with fall literary festival

The success of the 2019 Devil’s Kitchen Literary Fall Festival could be measured in organizer Allison Joseph’s hearty laugh. She found some joy at a difficult time. Her husband, Jon Tribble, internationally respected editor and poet, passed away on Oct. 2.

Joseph — who arrived at SIU in 1994, two years before it started its MFA program — has been sifting through countless emails and handwritten cards that have arrived from around the world. She missed some of the festival opening on Oct. 23 because she didn’t feel like she wanted to be in public just then. But, by the event’s closing two days later on Friday afternoon, Joseph found happiness around an open-mic reading from mostly SIU students, plus a closing reading from new colleague, Rebekah Frumkin.

Allison Joseph photo
Allison Joseph, SIU Carbondale professor of English and director of the creative writing program, discusses the 2019 Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival. Joseph’s husband, Jon Tribble, an internationally respected editor and poet, passed away earlier this month. The couple founded the Crab Orchard Review after their arrival on campus 25 years ago. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

“It hurts like hell right now, because it’s so fresh,” Joseph said. “But moving forward, I’ll find all sorts of ways to honor Jon and his legacy. It’s difficult that he passed this month, but it’s also kind of fitting.” An acclaimed poet, managing editor of Crab Orchard Review and series editor of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, Tribble specialized in creative writing.

An ‘incredible advocate’ for writers

Joseph called her late husband “an incredible advocate for writers” and said the literary fall festival has built on that heritage by having undergraduate students who “annually choose interesting and diverse writers to come here.”

“That was Jon’s vision. We’ve proudly earned a reputation that if you come as a guest or a visitor, that audiences are going to treat you well,” she said.

Tribble and Joseph founded Crab Orchard Review after arriving at SIU Carbondale.

“We are the first literary festival where the majority of the participants are selected by the undergraduate students,” Joseph said. “It’s meant to be a celebration of writing, poetry, fiction, nonfiction; all of those things that make a writer’s life possible.”

Dual celebrations of Tribble’s life and artistry are set in both Carbondale and Tribble’s hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. A time of visitation in Carbondale will be from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday at Meredith Funeral Home, followed by a time of readings and reflections.

Student involvement in Devil’s Kitchen

This year, Frumkin, an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing, read from her acclaimed novel “The Comedown” to close the festival.

“It was a wonderful event and probably the best reading I’ve done yet,” Frumkin said. “I’m really impressed with what the students were able to put together.”

One book of poetry, one book of fiction (novel or short fiction), and one book of prose nonfiction (memoir, essays, or literary nonfiction) were selected from submissions of titles published in 2018.

The winning authors received an honorarium of $1,000, presented a public reading and participated in panels at the literary festival.

Judges come from SIU Carbondale’s MFA Creative Writing program faculty and the staff of “Grassroots,” the university’s undergraduate literary magazine selected the award winners. There were more than 400 entries to sort through, as the students worked with advisers to narrow the list down to select winners. The literary magazine is almost completely managed by undergraduate students who work as editors, authors and designers.

2019 Festival winners announced

In poetry, the winner is Emily Jungmin Yoon for her 2018 collection of poems, “A Cruelty Special To Our Species” by Ecco Press.

In fiction, the winner is Lucy Jane Bledsoe for her 2018 collection of a novella and stories, “Lava Falls: Stories” by University of Wisconsin Press.

In nonfiction prose, the winner is Bill Sullivan for his 2018 memoir, “Lemon Jail: On the Road with the Replacements” by University of Minnesota Press.

Plans for 2020 festival are underway

Entries for the 2020 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Awards will be accepted from Dec. 1 through Feb. 8. The festival will be Oct. 21-23 on campus. For more information, email or call 618/453-6833.

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