The Southern Festival of Books is really something to be proud of – one of the best in the country – and I’ll be running a post a day from now through the Festival to let you know what’s lined up. Please check in for a tidbit or teaser each day!
The Festival runs October 9-11 and features 287 authors, at least 8 food trucks, panel discussions, readings, dramatic literary performances, music, dogs and kids in abundance at Legislative Plaza. There are plenty of opportunities to chat with authors and browse. It’s all free – until you buy a book of course.
Some of the names you’ll recognize include Greg Iles, Paul Theroux, Geraldine Brooks, Lauren Groff, Rick Yancey, Fiona Ritchie, Claire Vaye Watkins, David Maraniss, Rebecca Wells, Pat Conroy, and Ron Rash.
In the next 10 days, I’ll spotlight some debut authors and hometown heroes as well.
Serenity Gerbman, who’s in charge, answered some important questions about the Festival…
How does the Southern Festival of Books compare to other book festivals around the country? How is it distinctive and special?
Our event creates a really intimate environment and opportunity for interaction between readers and writers, which is the core of the event. We hear a lot from authors and attendees that the Southern Festival of Books feels unique and special in that way.
This is the 27th annual SFB. When and where was the first one held? What has changed most over the years?
The first Festival was held right where it is still held, on Legislative Plaza! The core program of the Festival has changed little. We have added a themed track every year in partnership with the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt, which allows us to explore a particular topic in more depth. We have also added the Authors in the Round dinner, which is both a wonderful, signature event for Nashville and a vital fundraiser for the Festival. Grace Awh and Laura Tidwell are co-chairs of this year’s dinner.
What do authors say about the SFB?
For me, the most important thing they say in their post-event surveys is that their experience was a smooth one. Authors and publishers are contributing a great deal of expense and time to be part of the Festival, and we want their time at the Festival to be worthwhile, productive and logistically well-organized. It makes them want to come back, and they share with other authors that we know what we’re doing! Beyond that, we hear often that the Festival feels like an annual family reunion for a lot of writers, that they look forward to seeing one another there and having a little down time from touring.
How do you decide which authors are invited to attend the SFB?
This is a year-round process, and authors are recruited in several ways. An author can submit his or her book for consideration, and a committee meets to review submissions. Publishers send us authors that they’d like to have on the program. And we go to New York to meet with publishers, review catalogs, and make requests for authors who will be on tour.
What is the worst thing that’s ever happened at a SFB?
Tornado conditions that forced us to close the Plaza for a short time and move everyone downstairs into Legislative Plaza. Fortunately, the danger passed quickly and we were able to carry on!
Is it a disaster when it rains?
Light rain or sprinkles affect the event surprisingly little. People come out with their umbrellas and take it in stride. Really heavy rain is terrible for the exhibitors, stage performers, and food vendors. That’s the worst weather concern. Indoor sessions continue to be well-attended even with rain.
Will there be food trucks?
Absolutely! We’re proud to have some of Nashville’s finest trucks onsite, including:
Crepe A’ Diem
Slow & Low
Bare Naked Bagel
Can I bring my dog?
Dogs are welcome on the Legislative Plaza, where exhibitors, book sales, headquarters, performance stages, and author signing are located. They are not allowed in the Legislative Plaza or Nashville Public Library where sessions take place.
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Serenity Gerbman is Director of the Literature and Language Program at Humanities Tennessee. I’ll feature more about Serenity – and a guest post by her – tomorrow!
Serenity Gerbman is an organizational marvel, and the success and heritage of SFB is living proof. We Nashvillians are incredibly fortunate to have this literary cavalcade extended to us, year after year–and moreover, free of charge. Thank you, Humanities Tennessee.