The largest independent book festival in the nation kicks off in Decatur, Georgia, August 31. Officially titled The Atlanta Journal Constitution Decatur Book Festival, the event takes place each Labor Day weekend at venues in and around Decatur’s downtown square. More than 300 authors come to town for the free, public event, giving readings, talks and participating in panel discussions. This year’s festival runs through September 2, and with three days, hundreds of authors and more than 20 locations and stages for events, planning an itinerary could get daunting. Here are a few not-to-miss highlights for this year’s festival:
- Keynote speaker and U.S. Poet Laureate for 2012-2013 Natasha Trethewey‘s (pictured) keynote address at Emory University on August 31 is already sold out, but she’ll be signing copies of her new book, “THRALL” on Saturday from 2-3 p.m. at the AJC Tent.
- The festival’s Southern Issues Track on September 1-2 delves into the the many thought-provoking characteristics and nuances of Southern culture, literature and life, starting at 10 a.m. at the old courthouse with a Flannery O’Connor-inspired panel titled “The Christ Haunted South” that will include Susan Rebecca White, Joshilyn Jackson and Patti Callahan Henry.
- You can bring home a piece of the book fest by participating in the Little Free Libraries Silent Auction. We’ll be talking more about the book lending trend of Little Free Libraries next week, but this year the festival will silent auction 12 mini libraries decorated by Atlanta artists on the square. Even if you can’t attend and see them in person, you can still bid here.
- Book the Brick is your chance to bid on the opportunity to spend an hour with your favorite author during the festival. Winning bidders also get a free drink and signed copy of the author’s book. See who’s participating here, but we suggest bidding on John T. Edge or Michael Morris.
- Want to hone your writing skills during the weekend? Attend workshops on August 31 during the festival’s free Writer’s Conference. Check the schedule of offerings here. We suggest the one with “Wallflower in Bloom” author Claire Cook.
Last but not least are authors not to miss during the weekend:
- “Man in the Blue Moon” author Michael Morris on Saturday at 10 a.m. in Ballroom B of the conference center OR Baratunde Thurston on “How to Be Black” on the Sanctuary Stage OR Meg Cabot on the Sanctuary Stage
- Mary Kay Andrews on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. on the Presbyterian Sanctuary Stage
- “The River Witch” author Kimberly Brock on Saturday at 1 p.m. on the Local Prose Stage
- “Arcadia” author Lauren Groff on Saturday at 1:45 on the Eddie’s Attic Stage
- “Ghost on Black Mountain” Ann Hite on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. on the Local Prose Stage
- “Butterfly in the Typewriter” author Cory MacLauchlin on Saturday at 3 p.m. on the City Hall Stage
- Julie E. Bloemeke on Saturday at 4:15 p.m. on the Local Poetry Stage OR “A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty” author Joshilyn Jackson on the Presbyterian Sanctuary Stage OR “The Night Circus” author Erin Morgenstern on the Sanctuary Stage
- “Sea Change” author Karen White at 2 p.m. on Sunday on the Local Prose Stage
- John T. Edge and Angie Mosier on “The Truck Food Cookbook” on Sunday at 3:45 p.m. at the Decatur Library