With nearly 500 authors, interactive activities and the Atlanta Opera performing the Brer Rabbit story, the Sixth Annual AJC Decatur Book Festival has something for everyone, according to festival founder Daren Wang.
“Actually, there are closer to three or four things for everybody,” Wang said.
The festival, which this year is Sept. 2-4, brought approximately 80,000 people to the city last Labor Day weekend and Wang said that this year festival goers will have more to look forward to.
Notable authors include Howard Wasdin, author of Seal Team Six, a book about the elite Navy Seal squad responsible for killing Osama Bin Laden; and Karen Russell, who wrote the book Swamplandia about a failing alligator theme park in the Everglades.
Local author Blake Butler will also be at the festival. In the New York Times Book Review, Joseph Salvatore described Butler’s most recent novel, There Is No Year, as “a thing of such strange beauty that digging for answers of your own will yield the rewards that only well-made art can provide.”
“We’re really excited about how many of Atlanta’s cultural institutions are kind of pivoting off of the festival and getting the word out. The Theatrical Outfit has a big presence and the Georgia Shakespeare Theatre, the Center for Puppetry Arts and the Atlanta Opera,” Wang said.
Wang, who also runs the literary magazine Verb and the syndicated radio show The Spoken Word, said that one of his favorite events begins on Friday morning before the festival even starts.
“We do a program with United Way and work with them to distribute thousands of books to kids that don’t have any books,” Wang said.
In some cases, the children are as young as 3 or 4 years old and Wang said that the book they receive might be the first book they have ever had
“Just seeing how excited they are is a great way for us to start the festival,” Wang said.
For new Program Director Terra Elan McVoy, author of young adult novels Pure, After the Kiss and The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, awaiting the festival is something she equates to a child eagerly anticipating a birthday or Christmas.
“I am extremely excited for the weekend, mostly because it’s my first time as program director, but mainly because we have such an incredible lineup,” McVoy said.
McVoy, who has been involved with the festival since day one, said that she began as the children’s programming director and then later moved to assistant programming director. This year, McVoy said, she had a lot to look forward to, especially the keynote address.
“It’s going to be two authors in collaborative form and it’s also a family friendly book that young people can enjoy but adults can read as well,” McVoy said of keynote speakers Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis, authors of the new book Wildwood.
Some might be more familiar with Meloy as the front man for the indie-rock group The Decemberists and Ellis as the illustrator of books such as The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket and The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.
McVoy also said that there will be several discussion panels she knew would be fascinating, including the “Not your Father’s Fiction” panel, where experimental fiction writers Jesse Ball, Blake Butler and Adam Ross will talk about their books and the role they play in creating a new contemporary literary cannon.
There will also be a lot of interactive booths such as “Draw Your Own Library,” which McVoy said allows festival attendees to stop by and draw their favorite book into an interactive library.
Laura Straub, co-founder of VouchedATL, a company that promotes small press literature through readings, interviews and selling small press selections at literary events, will be sharing a booth at the festival with WINK, a project-based writing workshop in Atlanta that partners with teachers and kids to instigate creative and accurate writing in young authors.
“This is my first time having a booth at the festival. It’s wonderful to have so many authors, publishers and books being represented in one place,” Straub said.
Throughout the festival their booth will feature activities for young and old.
“We will be having authors and WINK’s tutors visiting throughout the day, which will give attendees that opportunity to interact with the people behind the books we will be carrying,” Straub said.
Local literary talents are expected to come by their booth throughout the festival.
“We will be reading poems/flash pieces for $1. So, even if an attendee doesn’t have enough cash to purchase a book that they were eyeing, they can hear great work for some pocket change,” Straub said.
The festival will close on Sunday night with a drum circle in the Decatur Square at 6 p.m.
“I’m really looking forward to spending a couple days with people who write and love words as much as I do,” Straub said.