Category: Mississippi Book Festival

Celebrating the books of Mississippi

By Clara Martin. Special to the Clarion-Ledger Sunday print edition (August 13).

For the past two years, on a sweltering Saturday in the middle of August, the booksellers of Lemuria have gathered outside of the Mississippi State Capitol at the crack of dawn to unpack boxes of books. For the third year in a row, these booksellers will be there with their sleeves rolled up, filled with anticipation. Because one day of the year, the most exciting literary event in the state will take place in the heart of Jackson on the steps of the Capitol. It is a place where people of all faiths, political leanings, and races join together in the celebration of one thing; books.

When you think of Mississippi’s literary history, there are the heavy weights: Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Margaret Walker Alexander, and Richard Wright. But what the Mississippi Book Festival celebrates is the growth and continuation of literature in the state. The festival shows Mississippi as a hub that is rich in literary culture that is constantly evolving.

John Evans is the owner of Lemuria Books, the independent bookstore in Jackson that has been open since 1975. He is a big supporter of the festival and has long-term goals for the festival’s growth in the state. Evans say, “the Book Fest is the most important thing to happen in Mississippi now, and for the next couple of years. It benefits the tourist business, and will attract out-of-towners. It’s a landmark event. Hopefully, it [the festival] will be an event to mark a literary trail marker in the next couple of years. I think the Mississippi Book Festival proves the need for a literary trail.”

When I asked the director of the Mississippi Book Festival, Holly Lange, what the festival means to her, this is what she said: “What I love most about the book festival is the magic it creates: thousands of Mississippians have the chance to meet their favorite writers, participate in some pretty special national exhibits, and support our local authors and independent bookstores.”

It’s true. It really is magic to pull together the authors and the panels. This year’s lineup is phenomenal. Carla Hayden, the first woman and first African American to lead the Library of Congress, will be there to kickoff the whole event–she was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress on September 14, 2016.

Whatever your preference and taste in books, there is a panel for you. Maybe you are interested in Art in Mississippi, with artists William Dunlap and H.C. Porter Or maybe you’ll join Two Cooks in the Kitchen with John Currence (his restaurant, Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford, has a wait-line of several hours on the weekend) and Vivian Howard, star of the PBS television show A Chef’s Life. If mysteries are your thing, then join Otto Penzler, Mysterious Press president and CEO and owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. Discover some amazing debuts with moderator Richard Grant, author of Dispatches from Pluto. Join Mark Bowden in discussion with a Vietnam veteran as he discusses his book Hue 1968 that follows the turning point of the Vietnam War. Ron Rash, Richard Ford, and Greg Iles will also be in attendance, just to name a few.

If you have young kids, then the Kidnote is the way to go, with Candace Fleming, author of over 30 books for children, and illustrator Eric Rohmann, who is also a Caldecott Medalist. Their latest joint project is the adorable picture book Bulldozer Helps Out. Other great events for kids include the big tent of Kids Corner, which will feature an early Saturday morning surprise guest reading of Ezra Jack Keats’ classic–Snowy Day–and a free Popsicle to beat the summer heat. Join a group of star middle grade authors who all have their roots in Mississippi. Meet Angie Thomas, the Jackson native whose book The Hate U Give has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for 22 weeks and counting. Thomas’s young adult novel is a powerful look at race in modern America.

So, what are you waiting for? Rain or shine, the Lemuria crew will be at the Mississippi Book Festival bright and early on Saturday, August 19, slinging books and wearing some custom made shades. Join us, and the rest of Mississippi, for a day in August that is fun for the whole family, free to the public, and all about books. Visit for information on author, panel times, and other events.

ill be there ms book fest

Mississippi Book Festival Q & A with Holly Lange

It’s that time of year again! The 3rd Annual Mississippi Book Festival is this Saturday at the Mississippi State Capitol from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we are PUMPED! We asked Mississippi Book Festival Executive Director Holly Lange to give us the scoop on what people can expect from this year and how they can best enjoy this literary lawn party.


What do people who are new to the Book Festival need to know?

The panels are held inside air-conditioned rooms, and everything is FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC! The website has a PLAN YOUR VISIT tab that will be very helpful in mapping out panel times and locations. We strongly recommend you come with an itinerary for the day and maybe a back-up panel or two picked out in case one of the rooms is full. Everything in the Old Supreme Court Room will be aired live and also re-broadcast in the future on C-SPAN.

How should people dress? What should they bring?

It’s August and, no shocker here, HOT! Dress for warm weather. We do not allow chairs, tents, coolers, etc. We will provide plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and the lawns at the Capitol provide lovely shade.

How has the Book Festival grown since the first year?

By the numbers, we doubled our attendance from the first to second year. We never know how many people will actually attend, but we expect to exceed last year’s number.

What are you excited about for this year?

I love everything about the festival! Everyone is so enthusiastic about participating. The Library of Congress is not only bringing an exhibit, but they are also bringing the actual Librarian of Congress (Dr. Carla Hayden)! One of the highlights, though, is to attend the kids’ programs. Nothing is more heartwarming than watching young readers squeal with glee during a good storytelling session or when meeting their favorite author.

Any fun memories from the Book Fest so far?

I have many great memories. I think the most vivid was when we hosted the luncheon the first year at Hal and Mal’s. I stopped moving and right in front of me were John Grisham, Greg Iles, and John Evans seated at a table, and Ellen Gilchrist had her arms around all of them. I realized how much talent was in the room. The breadth and depth of our own writers overwhelmed me. Fortunately, the photographer was right beside me and got the shot. That’s a lot of literary love in one photo.

first book fest festival

Besides the author panels, what else can people look forward to?

We have two great musical acts this year! Malaco Gospel singer Darrell Luster and also the fabulous stage band, No Strings, with some special guests, will perform. There will be many food trucks and lots of lawn seating. We have a Kids Corner with a special guest reader at 10:45 a.m. and free popsicles for all the kids there. The exhibitors and booksellers are going to put their best faces forward. It promises to be a full day, inside and out.

What about activities for children?

Kids and teenagers will be the center of attention in lots of ways this year! Our Kids Corner will have interactive exhibits from the Mississippi Children’s Museum. Children’s authors Candace Fleming and Caldecott medalist Eric Rohmann and First Lady Deborah Bryant will share their books. Discussion panels composed of over 20 authors will focus on early childhood literacy, illustration, and young and middle grade readers, and we will recognize the Magnolia Book Award Winners. There will also be a Family Storytelling Room inside the Capitol with acclaimed storytellers from across the state, and the Youth Media Project will feature teenagers using digital technology to produce multimedia projects and share their own stories.

How does the Book Festival support local authors?

We encourage participation from local authors in many ways. Some are official panelists, some serve as moderators, some are featured in Authors Alley, and others serve as volunteers.

Why should people come out to the Book Festival?

Books connect us in so many ways. It is always refreshing to me, personally, to discover a friend or neighbor who enjoys the same author or book I have read. It gives us something in common and bonds us. Imagine 7,500 people excited about the same thing and happy to be celebrating it? With the current political climate, the book festival is a welcome respite.

Why is it important to have events like the Book Festivalin Mississippi?

Mississippi falls to the bottom of many lists. We feel like we owe it to our community and our state to highlight and celebrate one of the things we do best. Say what you will about Mississippi, but no one can argue with the quality and quantity of writers we produce.

Any other Book Festival events that are happening this weekend?

There is so much excitement to share all weekend! Bookfriends of the University Press of Mississippi are kicking off the weekend with a Mississippi Bicentennial and Mississippi Encyclopedia party at Cathead Distillery . Fischer Galleries is hosting events both Thursday and Friday nights. The MississippiMuseum of Art is having themed events all weekend, including a movie night and a special menu by Nick Wallace. Saturday night is the Willie Morris After-party featuring Thacker Mountain Radio. We are very appreciative of all the public support for the festival.

What about merchandise?

Our official artist this year is the fabulous H.C. Porter. Her image, “L.C. Ulmer” appears on the commemorative poster, print, and t-shirt. Merchandise will be for sale in the center of the festival.

Anything else we need to know about this year’s MS BookFestival?

It is FREE and open to the public. No tickets are required. There is lots of public parking in the Woolfolk Building downtown. Join us for another great Literary Lawn Party!

Check out for more info! We can’t wait to see you there!

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