The 2015 Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival (AJC DBF) Presented by DeKalb Medical will celebrate its 10th annual event when it kicks off on Friday, providing an opportunity to look back at some milestones that have led to its growth into the largest independent book festival in the United States.
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, a great friend of the AJC DBF and the festival’s 2012 keynote speaker, has composed a poem to mark the 10th annual event titled, “Meditation at Decatur Square,” a form of “occasional poetry.” She will read it at the 8 p.m. Keynote event at Emory University’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts (1700 N. Decatur Road). The Keynote event, which features feminist writers Erica Jong and Roxane Gay, sold out in a matter of hours when tickets were released in early August.
AJC DBF Executive Director Daren Wang said he finds great gratification in the quality programming that the festival has provided in conjunction with its growth over the years. He said he was humbled that Trethewey would use the forum of the AJC DBF to deliver a new poem.
“I’ve wanted to ask Natasha Trethewey to write a poem for the festival for years, but never had the nerve,” Wang said. “When we hit year 10, I knew it was now or never. To have her open this festival with this poem—I wouldn’t have dreamt it ten years ago.”
The first AJC DBF featured 125 authors, a number that has increased by nearly five-fold. Here is a look at some memorable moments from the first decade of AJC DBF:
- 2007: Keynote speaker Charles Frazier, the author of Cold Mountain, insisted that Cherokee Indian dancers, wearing traditional dress that dated to 1762, accompany his appearance. The troupe performed on the Agnes Scott College quadrangle. This performance spurred AJC DBF to emphasis the presence of the arts in future festivals.
- 2008: The third festival introduces the first Teen and Young Adult Stage—The Escape Stage hosted by Several Dancers Core, was the inaugural incarnation—featuring Rich Tommaso, Joshilyn Jackson and Harry Potter Acoustic Rock.
- 2009: Singers, including Caroline Herring, Kate Campbell, Claire Holley and five-time Grammy winner Mary Chapin Carpenter, performed a musical tribute to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eudora Welty. Other musicians included Patterson Hood, Peter Case, Tommy Womack, Shaun Mullins, Rodney Crowell and Marshall Chapman.
- 2013: AJC DBF launches art | DBF, which has included such high-profile Atlanta institutions as the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta Opera, Theatrical Outfit and Alliance Theatre Contemporary. art | DBF also has featured up-and-coming groups such as staibdance, Beautiful in Every Shade, Guerilla Haiku Movement and Soul Food Cypher.
In its first decade, the AJC DBF also has supported a number of initiatives during the course of the entire year to promote reading and authors throughout Atlanta. Here are a number of those that have made a lasting impact:
- 365 | DBF: Through this program, the AJC DBF has grown its year-round presence with six events each year around Atlanta. Those events have included ones with Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed Yunus, Grammy winner Roseanne Cash and Pulitzer Prize-winner Dave Barry. 365 | DBF also hosted the 100th anniversary celebration of the Atlanta Writers Club.
- On the Same Page: The goal of this comprehensive community reading program, which serves families and schools around the Atlanta area, is to foster a community of readers by bringing people together around the same book. The AJC DBF ranks among the group’s partners.
- Literacy Partnerships: The AJC DBF partners with the United Way of DeKalb County and Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers, among others, to provide books to early learners in at-risk neighborhoods. AJC DBF also works with the Decatur Education Foundation and City Schools of Decatur to organize field trips to children’s books events on Friday during the festival weekend. Through these partnerships, AJC DBF has distributed thousands of books.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival Presented by DeKalb Medical (AJC DBF) is the largest independent book festival in the country. Over Labor Day weekend (Sept. 4–6) tens of thousands from metro Atlanta and beyond will share the historic Decatur Square with world-class authors, illustrators, editors, publishers and booksellers for a weekend filled with literature, music, food and fun. For more information, visit decaturbookfestival.com,“like” Decatur Book Festival on Facebook or follow @DBookFestival on Twitter.