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Mid-South Book Festival gathers book lovers and writers.



It's that time of year again, book lovers. Time to climb off the sofa, turn off your reading lamp, put down your cheaters, and slip from the cozy warmth of your favorite coffee shop. But don't leave your books behind. Bring them with you to the Mid-South Book Festival.

This year's festival takes place over five days beginning Wednesday, September 7th and should be every bit as exciting as last year's, an affair that saw 80 authors and nearly 5,000 attendees. It was a great showing for an event in only its second year of existence.

For this, its third year, there are close to 100 authors and speakers, including Phyllis Dixon (Down Home Blues), book editor George Hodgman, Joshua Hood (Warning Order), and Ed Tarkington (Only Love Can Break Your Heart). Sure to attract a large audience is Lauren Groff, author of the wildly popular novel Fates and Furies, a finalist for the National Book Award and Amazon's pick for Best Book of the Year. She'll be in conversation with author and festival chair Courtney Miller Santo Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on the main stage at Playhouse on the Square.

Lauren Groff
  • Lauren Groff

In addition to Groff, one of the panels Santo is most excited about is Making Memphis, which includes writers with a local connection who work in the genres of poetry, nonfiction, thrillers, and speculative fiction. "One of the themes the committee and I talked about was really being more inclusive in the types of writers and genre of writers that are coming, and acknowledging that people read for all kinds of reasons and it'd be best to really be broad in bringing people in," Santo said. "We have one of the premier editors of science fiction, Sheree Thomas. We have a couple of poets on the panel as well as Josh Hood, who writes military thrillers. I'm always saying that Memphis is a storyteller's town. I'm very excited to see people come together and talk about storytelling."

Saturday is full of panel discussions at Playhouse on the Square and across the street at Circuit Playhouse. These include: The Word (Memphis' longest-running open mic event that features a live band), Echoes of History (three writers discuss their stories of war and why they wrote them), Crowd Control (influential bloggers discuss how to stand out among the online crowd), and Impossible Language (selections from the ongoing poetry reading series), among many others.

Prior to Saturday, Literacy Summit 2016 will be held on Wednesday, September 7th. Literacy Mid-South is in the business of improving people's lives through improving literacy rates, and the summit brings together "nonprofit and government agencies, community advocates, volunteers, and parents to network, develop new skills, and share promising practices." The featured speaker will be Yolie Flores with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. There is a $10 registration fee for this event.

Friday night, in the Event Room at Playhouse, will be Words Matter, a collaboration that begins with a literary contribution from a writer before a team of artists and performers molds those words into their own creation. Visual artists, musicians, dancers, actors, and filmmakers express their creativity through the author's language. Tickets for this event are $25 in advance and $40 at the door.

Sunday sees the inaugural Student Writers Conference, meant to help young writers age 12 to 17 grow and succeed in their craft. Registration fee is $10 with scholarships available as needed.

This year's festivities promise to outshine those before it, and the future of the festival is bright. Santo talks of spinning it into its own nonprofit and hosting an even greater diversity of presenters and attendees. "We'd like to keep it open and inclusive, and we're talking to our community about what it's needing," she said. "My craving with being an author is to have good stories to tell, and that's the center of the Mid-South and Memphis for me — the idea of storytelling."

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