Cover To Cover is the anchor program for GPB’s literary coverage. Cover To Cover features a collection of distinctive Southern voices interviewing Georgia writers, Southern writers, and writers dealing with the South. The GPB Southern Lit Cadre will provide you with a varied, weekly glimpse at fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, and even the occasional ‘old school’ nod to Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The 2007 Georgia Literary Festival

Regular readers of this blog know that I spent last weekend at the Decatur Book Festival. While writing my blog entries at the festival, I was reminded that another great literary festival is scheduled for the end of this month.

The Georgia Literary Festival describes itself as a “moveable feast,” and since its debut in 1999 has been held in different locations around state “celebrating the state's finest writers at the locations they called home,” as the festival website proclaims.

This year’s festival will be held Friday, September 28 through Sunday, September 30 in Blue Ridge in Fannin County in the North Georgia Mountains.

The honored writer at this year's festival will be the late Appalachian poet and novelist Byron Herbert Reece, born September 14, 1917, near Dahlonega in the North Georgia Mountains. He might have celebrated his 90th birthday this month had he not committed suicide in his office at Young Harris College on June 3, 1958.

Reece (below right) was the author of four collections of poetry and two novels. Although he began to develop a reputation across America, he never really became as well-known as many believe he should have. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his 1950 collection of poems, Bow Down in Jericho; he earned two Guggenheim awards; and he served as writer-in-residence at UCLA, Emory, and Young Harris College.

His first novel, Better a Dinner of Herbs, was published in 1950, followed in 1955 by his second, The Hawk and the Sun. More information about Reece is available on the Byron Herbert Reece Society website.

The festival will feature well-known Georgia authors such as former state Poet Laureate Bettie Sellers, Philip Lee Williams and Amy Blackmarr talking about Reece and their own work. The festival keynote address will be given Saturday morning by former Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, who now serves as President of Young Harris College. Her address is titled “Byron Herbert Reece's Intellectual Home: Young Harris College.”

Past Georgia Literary Festivals have been held in Eatonton, Sparta, Madison, Columbus, Elberton and Macon. The festival was the idea of Dr. Glenn Eskew, a history professor at Georgia State University, who lives in Madison. He organized the first festival in Eatonton in 1999. Direction of the annual event passed to the Georgia Center for the Book in late 2003. (In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I serve on the Advisory Board of the GCB.)

This year’s event will feature author readings and signings, children’s events, a session just for teens featuring poet Dana Wildsmith talking about “Text Messaging as Poetry,” a theater performance, the Byron Herbert Reece literary ramble, a book sale, and much more. (For a full schedule of events, see the festival website.)

The North Georgia Mountains in late September must be one of the most beautiful locations in all of Creation with the leaves on the trees refulgent in their autumnal splendor and the mountain air tinged with freshness and a hint of the winter to come. What better time or place to celebrate the glories of this state’s literary culture?

I will certainly be spending the weekend in Blue Ridge and invite you to do the same. Come share in the annual celebration of Georgia words and wordsmiths.

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