Davis Dunavin | KBIA

Davis Dunavin

Student Producer

Davis Dunavin grew up in the bootheel of Missouri and worked for the Southeast Missourian and Off! Magazine before moving to New York City in 2006, where he worked as a freelance writer and a bookstore clerk. He's a Masters student in Journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and served as a Convergence Journalism teaching assistant at KBIA before launching the Word Missouri project in August. He lives in Columbia with his wife Elizabeth, coincidentally also a bookstore clerk and organizer of the Cold Reading poetry series at Get Lost Bookshop in downtown Columbia. When he's not there, he can sometimes be found leading a double life as a street musician.

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Last week marked the 176th birthday of the man who many feel defined American literature. Since his 1910 death, the city of Hannibal in northeastern Missouri has become a mecca for those who appreciate Mark Twain's work - one of the few places in the world that center on literary tourism. But it's still a city - and a small town in Missouri, at that. As part of Word Missouri, a series examining Missouri's literary heritage, KBIA's Davis Dunavin went to Hannibal to explore how aficionados, experts, tourists and residents live in the shadow of Twain.

It's well-known that Twain wrote extensively about the real people and places he found growing up in Hannibal, and many of Tom Sawyer's experiences were his experiences. As a companion piece to the Word Missouri feature Hannibal: living in the shadow of Twain, I traveled to three places that make appearances in his books to see how they've changed in the nearly two centuries since Twain's boyhood here. Click for photos and sound from each place. (Mark Twain re-enactor Jim Waddell provides Twain's voice.)

Davis Dunavin / KBIA

November is National Novel-Writing Month. (NaNoWriMo for short.) It’s a cultural phenomenon, spread virally through blogs and forums, in which amateur writers, experts and everyone in between are challenged to write a complete novel over the course of a month. A lot of people take on this task solo, but a group in Columbia bands together every year to write novels alongside each other. Here’s their story.

Missouri native Bridget Bufford's second novel Cemetery Bird has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Bufford speaks frankly about her upbringing in Missouri, writing drug-addicted characters and why it's so hard to run away from the Midwest.

Courtesy of the author

Last week Word Missouri told the story of a group of bookstores in St. Louis supporting each other through events like bookstore tours and literary speed dating. These events aren’t only good for booksellers – they also benefit local authors who write in niche genres and don’t have the support of an academic setting or a big-name publisher. Fortunately, the realm of social media is good to genre writers. 

Davis Dunavin / KBIA

In Missouri, like everywhere else, hundreds of under-the-radar bookstores struggle to stay above water in an age of Amazon and E-readers. Earlier this year a group of independent bookstores in St. Louis forgot about looking at each other as competitors and banded together. Their goal is to promote each other while keeping an eye on threats to the bookstore industry.

Poet Marc McKee received his MFA from the University of Houston and his PhD from the University of Missouri, where he lives with his wife, Camellia Cosgray. He is the author of What Apocalypse? (2008). McKee will celebrate the release of his new full-length book of poetry, Fuse, 7 pm Saturday at the Columbia Art League with Melissa Range.

The history of St. Louis’s Central West End is steeped in literature. The area is tied to four of America’s most famous writers: T. S. Eliot, Tennessee Williams, Kate Chopin and William S. Burroughs. But until recently, the neighborhood had no official tributes to the literary greats.

Expert commentary (in red) by Dr. Roy Fox, Professor of English Education at the University of Missouri-Columbia

Listen to the companion piece to this infographic: “In Republic, book challenges raise the question, ‘What should kids read?’”


When Republic High School in southwest Missouri removed two novels from its curriculum and library in July, it drew national attention and launched a conversation about what books are acceptable for Missouri students.