Sneak Preview: Southern Festival of Books 2018

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All photos in this post courtesy of the Southern Festival of Books.

What a glorious thing: to live in a city where every year, authors, readers, libraries, bookshops, musicians, artists, and literary citizens of all stripes come together to throw a weekend-long party that’s all about the love of the written word. Here’s a sampling of what you can look forward to at the 30th annual Southern Festival of Books, coming up in Nashville next weekend — Friday through Sunday, October 12-14, 2018.

Expect a broader variety of authors and books than ever before. Serenity Gerbman, director of literature and language programs for Humanities Tennessee, spends much of her year planning the free, three-day festival with fellow Humanities Tennessee staffers and volunteers. Her favorite part? The energy: “When we have an author that I know people are excited about, I try to sneak in the back door just for that first minute or so when the author walks out on stage and the audience cheers. It’s a great feeling to be immersed in that joy.”

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Literary Legends and Rising Stars
Make sure to wear comfortable shoes for the autograph lines and get ready to make friends with other super-fans if you want to meet authors such as Celeste Ng, Lorrie Moore, Charles Frazier, Tayari Jones, and Supreme Court justice and author Sonia Sotomayor. Perhaps you love the books of Silas House, Jamie Quatro, Lou Berney, BA Shapiro, Lee Conell, or Hannah Pittard? Or maybe you follow authors with local connections, such as Inman Majors, JT Ellison, Jeremy Finley, or Ariel Lawhon? If you’re interested in books on parenting, take your pick of several sessions, including a discussion of Parenthood in the Age of Fear with Kim Brooks. Whatever your thing — novels, poetry, history, memoir, fantasy, topical issues — you’ve got plenty to choose from. Here’s the whole list of authors, followed by the full schedule.

For reviews, interviews, and more great local coverage of this year’s Festival authors, click around Humanities Tennessee’s Chapter 16 site, too.

A Feast for Body and Mind
Don’t forget to rest: Grab a drink in the Yazoo beer garden, or a snack or meal at one of many gourmet food trucks, then take a seat to enjoy what’s playing on the outdoor music stage. (Speaking of food: Don’t miss cookbook authors and food writers including Perre Magness, Cynthia Graubart, Anne Byrn, Jennifer Brulé, and more in the Festival lineup!)

Fun for All Ages
This year’s program includes oodles of opportunities for star-struck young readers to meet their favorite authors, plus more activities for little ones, middle grade readers, and teens than in past years. Gerbman says, “We’re most excited about our expanded children’s area! In partnership with Watkins College of Art, we’re going to have hands-on, interactive and creative activities for children of all ages throughout the weekend. In addition to performances and character costumes, there will be a space for creative collaborations, printmaking, art, writing and exploring words through various media.” Young adult book lovers won’t want to miss sessions with L.L. McKinney, Laura Sebastian, Alex London, Jen Doll, Meg Leder, and several more YA authors.

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Parnassians Everywhere
Stop by the big striped tent in the center of the action to say hello! As a presenting sponsor and official bookseller of the Southern Festival of Books, Parnassus will offer books by festival authors for sale on-site. You’ll also see some of our staffers wearing other hats around the event:

  • Friday, 3 p.m. — NPL Auditorium — River Jordan, bookseller and author (Praying for Strangers), will join fellow writers Susan Cushman (Southern Writers on Writing) and Niles M. Reddick (Reading the Coffee Grounds) for a conversation hosted by Lee Smith (Dimestore).
  • Saturday, 9 a.m. — NPL Auditorium — Mary Laura Philpott will moderate the Women’s National Book Association’s popular annual event, Coffee with Authors. This year’s panel includes Rebecca Makkai (The Great Believers), Alexander Chee (How to Write an Autobiographical Novel), Wayétu Moore (She Would Be King), and Abigail DeWitt (News of Our Loved Ones). Like all festival events, attendance at this one is FREE and open to the public, but reservations are recommended if you want to make sure you get a seat. RSVP here.
  • Saturday, 11 a.m. — NPL Auditorium — Kathy Schultenover will host a discussion with Luís Alberto Urrea (The House of Broken Angels).
  • Sunday, 12 noon — NPL Special Collections Room — Steve Haruch will present People Only Die of Love in Movies: Film Writing by Jim Ridley.
  • Sunday, 12 noon — NPL Auditorium — Mary Laura Philpott will moderate the PBS Great American Read panel, featuring book critic Ron Charles of the Washington Post; Joelle Herr, our fellow Nashvillian bookseller from The Bookshop; and authors Bernice McFadden (Praise Song for the Butterflies) and James Mustich (1,000 Books to Read Before You Die).
  • On that note: Make sure to stop by Nashville Public Television’s Great American Read booth on Legislative Plaza! You can vote for your favorite novel, hop in the photo booth, and collect posters, bookmarks and pins — plus register for a chance to win a Great American Read-themed gift basket. The NPT crew will also be around the festival all weekend, shooting new episodes of A Word on Words.
  • Meanwhile, back in Green Hills: The main Parnassus Books shop is OPEN for business all weekend, too. So if you’re visiting Nashville for Festival weekend, be sure to take a little detour for a visit. Our staff in the store look forward to welcoming you!

Apps, Rides, and Other Traffic Hacks
Create your custom festival schedule and stay on top of who’s where by downloading the Southern Festival of Books app for iPhone or Android. Find maps and parking information here; but also consider riding worry-free in a Lyft. (New to Lyft? Get $5 off two rides at this link or download the Lyft app and enter code PARNASSUS18. Already have Lyft? Save 15% off two rides to or from the festival with code PARNASSUS1012.) Gerbman also suggests, “If you’re not staying downtown, which can be expensive these days, look up the Music City Circuit, a free bus service that goes among downtown and favorite tourist destinations.”

One Last Tip
“Signed books make great holiday presents,” Gerbman says. Stock up.