The Southern Festival of Books, an annual extravaganza of the written word, brings readers, writers, musicians, and publishers together for a weekend’s worth of events. Among the over 250 authors participating in the signings, readings and lectures to be held in Downtown Nashville October 12-14th are best-sellers like Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger, Goosebumps creator R.L. Stine and Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl.
If Bissinger’s sports journalism, Stine’s ubiquitous children’s books or Flynn’s it-girl fiction aren’t your thing, the Southern Festival offers up a host of recently-published Southern chefs, musicians, professors, librarians and lawyers. The Bluegrass State is particularly well-represented in this twelfth annual event. In fact, the Kentucky reader attending Saturday’s lectures is forced to choose between the concurrently scheduled talks by Silas House and Chris Offutt, while Sunday attendees must choose between beloved writers George Ella Lyon and Bobbie Ann Mason. Those are some hard choices to make.
We’ve compiled a list of several Southern Festival presentations of particular interest to the Kentucky reader to help you navigate this weekend’s Music City madness.
Friday October 12
3:00-4:00 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Library Auditorium. A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of American Popular Music.
Berea-based essayist, activist and musician Jason Howard is a busy guy. His essays on mountaintop removal are everywhere, including an op-ed piece that was recently published in the New York Times. He’s even in a band with friend and literary collaborator Silas House. Howard will be discussing his University Press of Kentucky book A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of American Popular Music along with singer, writer and Ashland native Naomi Judd.
Saturday October 13
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Legislative Plaza Room 31. Leave it on the Field: Culture, Politics and SEC Football.
This talk by James Madison University Professor Inman Majors promises to be a can’t-miss event for any SEC football fan.
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Nashville Public Library Special Collections Room. Home to Us: Six stories of Saving the Land.
Kentucky-bred journalist and non-fiction author John Egerton is the recipient of the 1995 Robert Kennedy Book Award. Cadiz native Egerton has been writing about food, Southern issues and social justice for five decades.
12:00-1:00 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Conference Room 1B. Our Feet May Leave, But Not Our Hearts: Stories of Home and Place.
Acclaimed Eastern Kentucky author Silas House is equally well-known for fiction such as The Coal Tattoo, his music journalism for the Roots and Americana bible No Depression and his activism in the fight against mountaintop removal. The Laurel County native paints an accurate portrait of modern Appalachia in his fiction; his talk on the subject is sure to be captivating.
12:00-1:30 p.m., War Memorial Auditorium, Grit Lit: A Rough Southern Reader
Centre College alumnus Brian Carpenter, a prolific Southern journalist, will be presenting from the anthology of which he is the co-editor. Grit Lit explores the tougher side of Southern writing, which its publisher, The University of South Carolina Press deems “not…moonlight and magnolia but moonshine and Marlboros.” Among the panel is Grit Lit contributor and Kentucky literary hero Chris Offutt, the Ole Miss professor, author, and screenplay writer (True Blood, Weeds, Treme).
12:00-1:30 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Special Collection Room. Zooming In: Poems of Seeing the Eternal in the Everyday.
Poet Kate Buckley is an alumna of Transylvania and UK and the winner of the James Hearst Poetry Prize. The Spaulding Unversity MFA candidate’s talk on poetry will focus on finding the poetic in the prosaic.
1:00-2:00 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Conference Room II. To Live and To Leave – Paranormal and Steampunk Novels
Bethany Griffin is a Louisville-based high school English Teacher. Her fiction, evocative of Poe, is the basis for her talk on genre exploration.
3:00-4:00 p.m., Legislative Plaza, Room 30. By The Sweat of Her Brow: Modern Women Poets
Lexington author George Ella Lyon is universally acclaimed as one of Kentucky’s literary treasures. Her work spans across age group and genre; here, she’ll be presenting on the unique voices of female poets.
3:00- 4:00 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Conference Room II. Sanctuary: Portraits of Rescued Farm Animals.
Sharon Lee Hart, Photography professor at the University of Kentucky, founded the Farm Animal Sanctuary Project to portray animals who’d been rescued from abusive and extreme situations. Her photographs of refugees from cockfights, slaughterhouses and testing facilities are uplifting and truly stunning.
12:00-1:30 p.m., Nashville Public Library Grand Reading Room, Creating Our Own Realities- Young People Making Sense of Their World.
George Ella Lyon’s fiction for young readers is loved across the Commonwealth. She has written thirty-five children’s or young adult books.
12:00-1:00 p.m., Nashville Public Library Special Collections Room, Cadence and Rhythm: Two Poets.
Wanda Fries is a Somerset-based author, poet and Breadloaf scholar whose work has appeared in The New Southerner and Appalachian Heritage. She’ll be presenting on the structure of poetry.
12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m., Legislative Plaza, Room 12. An Artist and a Blue Beret: Young Heroines in War Zones.
Bobbie Ann Mason’s beloved fiction such as In Country and Shiloh and Other Stories has earned her an American Book Award, a PEN/Faulkner Award and a seat as writer-in-residence at the University of Kentucky. Mason, a Graves County native, will be drawing from her latest work, The Girl in the Blue Beret, for this talk.
2:00-3:00 p.m., Legislative Plaza, Room 31. Navigating the Past and Finding Forgiveness: Two Novels.
EKU professor and writer Nancy Jensen is the author of several stories and essays. She’ll be speaking on the development of her recently-published first novel, The Sisters.
The Southern Festival of Books offers visitors many opportunities to explore Kentucky’s rich literary heritage. Whether you prefer poetry, a good story, or mountain-inspired music, it’s worth the trip down I-65 this weekend.