Premier literary festival coming to Golden Isles

From the The Brunswick News

Sharon Flores is always a busy woman. But these days her schedule is more packed than usual.

After all, big things are brewing, and Flores, ever the community leader, is involved in organizing a massive event - the Georgia Literary Festival - in November.

The Georgia Literary Festival is one of the premier book events in the state and, come fall, it will take place for the first time in its 14-year history in Glynn County.

For three days, some of the nation's most popular authors with Georgia ties - including the new United State poet laureate - will be in the Golden Isles to talk about their books and craft.

As co-chair of the festival steering committee, Flores and co-chair C.H. Leavy IV, president of The Brunswick News, are responsible for arranging the numerous aspects of the event.

"We are coordinating the members of the steering committee who are working on all facets of the festival, including school outreach, in-home dinners with the authors, breakfast with the authors, volunteer recruitment and corporate sponsorships," Flores said.

Of course, Flores and Leavy aren't doing it alone. Far from it. A wide swath of the community is involved.

The festival, Nov. 9 through 11, is being presented collectively by College of Coastal Georgia, the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Jekyll Island Authority. Other groups involved include Golden Isles Arts and Humanities Association, United Way of Coastal Georgia, the St. Simons Island Literary Guild and the Girl Scouts.

The statewide literary festival, sponsored by the Georgia Center for the Book and the Georgia Humanities Council, was created to celebrate exceptional writing in a different part of the state every year. To do that, a full day of free programs will be held Nov. 10 at the Jekyll Island Convention Center. Additional activities Nov. 9 and 11 at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, the Ritz Theatre and in private homes are designed to encourage visitors to spend more time in the Golden Isles.

A plan for inviting visiting authors into homes for breakfast or dinner gatherings is new to the festival. Flores says it will serve to further put the community's generosity on display.

"It is a community-wide series of locally hosted benefit dinners, offering a unique opportunity for smaller groups of attendees to meet and interact with some of the more than 30 talented authors who will be featured at this year's festival," she said.

Proceeds from Nov. 9 and 11 functions that require tickets will go to Baby Steps Initiative, an early literacy project of Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation in Brunswick.

Through fundraising events attached to the festival and the festival, in general, including the free Nov. 10 events that are the heart of it, participants will be able to chat with well-known writers like Atlanta-based Mary Kay Andrews, author of "The Fixer Upper," and Steve Berry, whose newest book is "The Columbus Affair."

Newer local authors, including June Hall McCash, Jack McDevitt and Pamela Bauer Mueller, will also make appearances, as will authors from other regions of the state.

The authors will speak on a variety of topics, including fiction, poetry, children's literature, history, coastal wildlife and Southern cooking. Some authors will pop into schools to share their craft with children. The new United States poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey, an Emory University professor, will be the festival's keynote speaker.

While the festival will be a chance to introduce the community to authors, it will also be a time to acquaint visitors with the Golden Isles.

Jones Hooks, executive director of the Jekyll Island Authority, is looking forward to showcasing the changes taking place at the state park, where the new Jekyll Island Convention Center will be the festival's primary venue. Other locations will include the Ritz Theatre, downtown, and tours of St. Simons Island related to the works of the late author Eugenia Price.

Hooks sees all of this as a chance to let the entire community shine.

"Obviously, this is going to be a great opportunity for regional citizens to enjoy hearing from the various writers in attendance, as well as having an opportunity to actually meet the writers. But, also, since this is a statewide event, from our perspective, we are hoping many folks outside of our immediate region will decide that November is a great time to take a mini-vacation and come to the coast for this program," Hooks said.

Valerie Hepburn, College of Coastal Georgia president, has a similar view.

"I think this is a great opportunity to bring people from all over the state and the region to our area with cultural tourism. It will be a different reason to come to the area. It will be a great chance for them to see the new Jekyll Island Convention Center, the Ritz in downtown Brunswick, as well as St. Simons Island," she said.

Overall, Hepburn says that this type of community venture will be something that is seen more frequently in the future - to the benefit of all involved.

"I really think this represents what I hope will be our stock in trade for the Golden Isles, long-term. We work as a community," she said. "It really represents the way that we all try to do business together. We are all stronger when we work together."

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Release Date: 6/18/2012
Source: The Brunswick News

By LINDSEY ADKISON