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VOL. 129 | NO. 178 | Friday, September 12, 2014

Authors, Readers Converge for Book Festival

By Andy Meek

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Earlier this year, interest in the first Mid-South Book Festival, scheduled to take place later this month, began to reach what seemed like a fever pitch, according to Literacy Mid-South executive director Kevin Dean.

“It was almost like a runaway train,” Dean said about public reaction to the book festival, presented by Literacy Mid-South and Homewood Suites, which kicks off Sept. 25 and runs through Sept. 28. “So many people were calling, and we actually didn’t have enough space for all the authors coming on board, because everybody we asked said yes. So we ended up expanding the festival to four days.”

“We thought this thing would start small and be really a local event. ... Looking at everything, we’re very excited.”

–Kevin Dean
Literacy Mid-South

In perhaps the biggest testament to how the event’s been received so far – even before the inaugural festival has actually begun – Dean said he’s already working on plans for next year’s return of the event. At press time, for example, he was close to signing a lease for space for next year’s festival.

It’s also fitting that the book organization is hosting something as major as a book festival drawing national authors this year, since 2014 marks Literacy Mid-South’s 40th anniversary.

With authors flying in from around the country, panel discussions, a dedicated “foodie” day, poetry and short-story writing seminars, and roving performance artists, the festival’s first go-round should include something for everyone. Dean said between 40 and 50 authors are coming, and they include Daniel Wallace, author of “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions”; Lisa Patton, author of “Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter”; Janice Kearney, Bill Clinton’s personal memoirist; and Mark Greaney, author of “The Gray Man” series, among other writers.

Sunday, Sept. 28, will be a day for foodies at the book festival. Dean said that day will be packed with cookbook authors, related book signings, cooking demonstrations and more.

Special guests at the festival, which is free and open to the public, will include Emma French Connolly, founder of WriteMemphis; Heather Dobbins, founder of River City Scribes; WMC-TV 5 news anchor Anna Marie Hartman; and Homewood Suites’ mascot Lewis the Duck, to name a few.

A large number of vendors also will be on hand. Those will include Tennessee Shakespeare Co., Screwpulp, Sallyanne’s Mobile Ice Cream Diner, Republic Coffee, Burke’s Books and The Booksellers at Laurelwood. Authors including Steve Bradshaw, Jennifer J. Hayes, Camille Kendall, Dr. Mary C. McDonald, Glinda McKinney and Pamela Whinnery will also be selling their books in the festival’s “Author Hall.”

“We thought this thing would start small and be really a local event,” Dean said. “We ended up on some national blogs, though, and several cities started promoting our festival, including Houston. Looking at everything, we’re very excited. It’s crazy around here at the moment.”

The festival is funded in part by a grant from South Arts, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission, in addition to presenting sponsor Homewood Suites, book festival supporters Kathy Thurmond-Edwards of State Farm, and The Booksellers at Laurelwood. Media sponsors include The Daily News, WKNO, Justine Magazine, 4Memphis Magazine and The Commercial Appeal.

The festival also is getting support from Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, which is the author presentation room sponsor. Burke’s Books is the author reception sponsor, MLGW is sponsoring a children’s area and Brister Street is the stage sponsor. “Friends of the book festival” include State Systems Inc., Marx-Bensdorf Realtors and Harry Freeman, and Whole Foods has come on board as an in-kind sponsor.

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