The 2016 Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival Presented by DeKalb Medical (DBF) successfully concluded its 11th annual event this past weekend with a return to its Southern roots.
For the second consecutive year, emotion marked the Keynote event at Emory University’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts — as did more than a little humor — as family and friends of late Southern literary icon Pat Conroy honored his life and his work. In 2015, the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States Natasha Trethewey performed her breath-taking “Meditation at Decatur Square,” which references her mother’s murder, prior to a charged debate about feminism between Keynote speakers Erica Jong and Roxane Gay.
Conroy, who died of pancreatic cancer in March, was a mainstay at DBF over the years.
“Pat’s sudden passing was a shock to all of us,” DBF Founding Executive Director Daren Wang said. “His physical presence at the festival created a void this year but he will always have a lasting legacy at DBF. This year’s Keynote event ensured that we will have fond new memories of Pat.”
Conroy’s wife, Cassandra King Conroy, his daughter Melissa Conroy, Pulitzer Prize-winner Rick Bragg, award-winning novelist Ron Rash and journalist Bronwen Dickey were the speakers for the Keynote event. Trethewey continued her participation in DBF during a panel discussion that included three Georgia Pulitzer Prize winners, with journalist and Civil Rights historian Hank Klibanoff and AJC cartoonist Mike Luckovich representing the others.
Other Southern writers at the festival included Thomas Mullen, Patrick Phillips, Kevin Young, Terry Kay and Carol Anderson. In all, DBF was comprised of more than 600 writers, 21 stages and 16 tracks.
“This year’s line-up included a number of local and regional authors who are or becoming important voices,” DBF Programming Director Julie Wilson said. “The festival helped to shine a light on those writers for readers who might not have been familiar with them. We see it as a vital part of our mission to provide that forum.”
Earlier this year, DBF created the Decatur Writers Studio (DWS), whose goal is to serve both established and aspiring writers. DWS offers workshop-style creative writing classes led by instructors, including some of the area’s most accomplished authors.
“The Decatur Writers Studio has helped to make the Decatur Book Festival more of a year-round organization,” Wang said. “With the festival returning to its roots and with the creation of DWS, DBF took another important step as an enterprise in ensconcing itself in the Southern literary scene.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival Presented by DeKalb Medical (DBF) is the largest independent book festival in the country. Over Labor Day weekend tens of thousands from metro Atlanta and beyond 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.