Damien Echols and his wife, Lorri Davis, will present a public reading from Echols’ 2012 book, Life After Death, at the University of Central Arkansas’s Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall on Monday, Nov. 11.
Echols and Davis will be at UCA as artists in residence for the 7:30 p.m. talk. A book-signing will follow.
Admission is free but tickets are required. There is a two-ticket maximum per person. They are available now exclusively for UCA students with I.D. at the Reynolds Box Office from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and will be available to the general public (including UCA faculty and staff) beginning Thursday, Oct. 17, during the same hours. Tickets may be ordered in advance at (501) 450-3265 or (866) 810-0012 and picked up at Will Call beginning at 6 p.m. on Nov. 11.
At 18, Echols, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., were convicted of the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis. He was sentenced to death and spent 18 years on death row before all three men were released in an Alford plea with the state of Arkansas in August 2011.
“We asked him to campus as a writer,” said Dr. Francie Bolter, associate professor of writing and the sponsor of the residency. “For me, Echols’ work demonstrates the power of words to transcend one’s environment as well as to stay connected to one’s humanity.
“The creative spirit exists in all of us; Echols’ visit, I hope, will remind us about its importance as he talks about the role creativity played in his survival and the ways writing became a lifeline to maintaining sanity.”
She said while many writers have visited UCA as artists in residence to discuss writing as a means of self-expression, none have used it as a means of survival.
Bolter said this could be the first time Echols has been back to Arkansas since his release. In Fall 2012 when she first talked with Keppler Speakers, which represents Echols, she was told he had not been back.
The West Memphis Three have been the subject of documentary films Paradise Lost and West of Memphis, which were credited with casting doubt upon their guilt.
In Life After Death, Echols, who has a ninth-grade education, wrote nothing about the murder case that gained worldwide attention. Instead, the topic is his pitiful childhoand prison life on death row. Echols started writing while in prison. Copies of his writings are in the memoir.
Just as celebrities such as Johnny Depp and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder have supported Echols’ innocence, others support his literary efforts. According to an Amazon book review, renowned author John Grisham said, “Life After Death is a brilliant, haunting, painful and uplifting narrative of a hopeless childhood, a wrongful conviction, a brutal incarceration and the beginning of a new life.”
Jordan King, a UCA senior creative writing major, said he was looking forward to this residency.
“I think this particular speaker will be interesting just because of his past and his work,” he said.
All audience members will be scanned with a metal-detecting wand before entering Reynolds Performance Hall. No bags, purses or backpacks will be allowed, nor will cameras or video recording of any type.
The Artist in Residence program is funded by UCA’s arts fee and is administered by the College of Fine Arts and Communication. For more information about the program, call the Office of the Dean, College of Fine Arts and Communication, at (501) 450-3293 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication includes the Departments of Art, Communication, Mass Communication and Theatre, Music and Writing. The college’s primary mission is the preparation of the next generation of artists, educators and communicators. For more information about CFAC, visit www.uca.edu/cfac or call (501) 450-3293.