This Saturday from 9am until 5pm, you are invited to celebrate our published writers at The Mississippi Book Festival, held on the lawn of the State Capitol in downtown Jackson! Today, Executive Director, Holly Lange, shares more about this incredible event!
Tell us the history behind the event. Who was involved and why is this event so important for Mississippi?
“A small group began meeting informally in the spring of 2013 to explore the possibility of launching a book festival in Mississippi. It was hatched over lunch between Jere Nash and Leila Salisbury (with the University Press of Mississippi), gained enthusiastic support from John Evans at Lemuria, and given initial support and funding from Malcolm White with MDA’s tourism office. The initial group came together at Lemuria and included Leila Salisbury & Steve Yates with the University Press of Mississippi, Traci Carr from the Mississippi Library Commission, Diane Williams of the Mississippi Arts Commission, Mari Irby with Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Sarah McCullough and Mary Margaret White from MDA’s tourism office, along with Peyton Prospere, Emily Gatlin, John Evans, and Jere Nash. From there, the planning effort expanded with the creation of an official Board of Directors and an Advisory Board, the hiring of Holly Lange as executive director, and associating with the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson to handle all accounting and financial responsibilities.”
This is the first Festival. Why did you choose the Capitol as the location?
“The location of the Mississippi Book Festival is critical to its success. We believe hosting the Festival at the State Capitol makes it our state book festival, not the Jackson Book Festival or the Tupelo Book Festival. This location will serve as an architectural backdrop to some of the region’s finest authors.”
The MS Book Festival is a non-profit organization. Where does any money earned go? How does it support literature and the state?
“The money we raise simply pays for festival expenses. Eventually we hope to make a profit and establish a grant program that will support statewide literacy efforts.”
Outline the actual event for us. Which authors will be there, and what can guests expect? Are there any can't-miss moments?
“We have over 80 authors participating in official panels, as well as 50 plus self-published authors and 3 independent booksellers selling books. We have exhibits and programming by the Mississippi Children’s Museum, the Mississippi Library Commission, the Library of Congress. John Grisham will kick-off the event on the south steps of the State Capitol at 10:00 a.m. and his panel will be held at 3:00 p.m. at Galloway Methodist Church, adjacent to the Capitol complex. In addition to panel discussions inside the Capitol, the Mississippi Library Commission will have a 3-D printer experience for kids of all ages on the 2nd floor of the Capitol. On the lawn, various non-profits and foundations will have tents promoting their organizations. On Mississippi Street, there will be rows of tents, under which independent bookstores, self-published authors, book organizations and other vendors will be selling goods. We will have a stage with live music throughout the day and, hopefully, a food truck presence. The Welty Foundation is involved in almost every aspect, and offered the use the Welty House and Visitors Center for a VIP reception the evening before the festival. The William F. Winter Building will serve as the backdrop for an author-only breakfast Saturday morning, where guests can get a sneak peak on the progress of the two new museums going up in downtown Jackson. There is so much information to share that we send everyone to our website, www.msbookfestival.com for the most up-to-date information!”
What do you hope this festival will achieve?
“To recognize authors and the books they produce and to celebrate literacy, writing, reading, and our cultural heritage. Mississippi is home to an astounding number of published writers and its time we had a statewide event that recognizes their craft and connects them with their readers, while creating interest in reading and literacy.”
Many great authors are native Mississippians. Why do you think our state has produced such a large number of incredible writers?
“To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.” William Faulkner
“As with many Southern Writers, I believe that the special quality of the land itself indelibly shapes the people who dwell upon it.” ― Willie Morris, The Courting of Marcus Dupree
What an inspiring event! Holly adds, “The festival is free and open to the public! We want everyone to come celebrate at our own Literary Lawn Party!” For more information, please visit the Mississippi Book Festival Website here, or their Facebook page here!