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Literary Friday

Twitter Chat From 2-3 CST

Join us this afternoon for our second Literary Friday Twitter chat, using the hashtag #southernlit. We’ll be chatting about reading material related to this week’s travel story on Gee’s Bend, Alabama and other literary destinations that offer the thrill of visiting real-life places from books. Not to leave out the Facebookers, we’ll also be posting a discussion question there at 2 p.m.

Upcoming chats include one in mid-May coinciding with our review of Cory MacLauchlin’s new book about John Kennedy Toole, “Butterfly in the Typewriter” and several on summer reading with some very special guests hosts to be announced soon.

Reading Up on Gee’s Bend 

This week’s travel story, “The Future of Gee’s Bend,” sparked several comments about reading material related to the area. We’ve heard about Irene Latham’s book, “Leaving Gee’s Bend,” set in 1932 and inspired by the rich quilting history of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. In it, the fictional character of Ludelphia sews even though she’s blind in one eye but is forced to leave her home to get medicine for her mother in Camden. There, she discovers a world of fancy houses, cars and soda pop – and wonders if she’ll ever see Gee’s Bend again.

Other books on Gee’s Bend focus on its quilts. Tinwood Books published two books on the area’s tradition of quiltmaking, “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend” and “Gee’s Bend: The Women and Their Quilts,” in conjunction with the museum exhibit several years ago. William Arnett, the art collector who discovered the women and their quilts in 2002, also has a book “Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt,” and children’s book “Stitchin’ and Pullin’” tells the story of Baby Girl, who’s called to the quilting frame and learns much more than just how to sew.

Inside the App: Literary Tours

Sure, our app includes writers’ home and museums, but we also have a section on related tours. Fans of “The Color Purple” can see sites related to author Alice Walker’s life in Eatonton, Georgia; Charleston’s “South of Broad” walking tour highlights streets and sites featured in Pat Conroy’s 1999 best-selling book; “The Help” Tour in Greenwood, Mississippi, lists 15 sites from the movie version of the book, along with places like The Alluvian Hotel and Delta Bistro where the cast and crew hung out; and the section wouldn’t be complete without Monroeville, Alabama’s walking tour, which brings to life Harper Lee’s Maycomb from “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Do you have a favorite real-life literary destination? Or maybe a favorite setting from a book that you wish really existed?

Gaines Literary Award

Entries are being accepted through April 30 for the sixth-annual Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. With a $10,000 cash prize, the award is meant to inspire and recognize excellence among rising African-American writers and to honor Gaines as one of the nation’s most celebrated authors. The Louisiana native’s critically acclaimed novel “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” was adapted into a made-for-TV movie in 1974 and received nine Emmy Awards. His 1993 book, “A Lesson Before Dying,” won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Gaines is a creative-writing instructor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and the Ernest J. Gaines Center (included in our app) on campus is named for him.

Award entries will be judged by a panel of professional writers and academics, who will announce a winner later in the year. Past winners are Dinaw Mengestu (pictured with Gaines) for “How to Read the Air, Ravi Howard for “Like Trees Walking” and Olympia Vernon for “A Killing in this Town.”

Visit  www.ernestjgainesaward.org for info and criteria on entering.

In Theaters

Nicholas Sparks fans can watch “The Lucky One,” starring Zac Efron and Blythe Danner, come to life in theaters this weekend. And opening next weekend is “The Raven,” with John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe during the last days of his life, pursuing a serial killer whose murders mirror scenes from the author’s work. For more movies about or set in the South coming to the big screen (with trailers), read our “The South on Screen” story.

New in Southern Voice

National Poetry Month continues through April 30, so don’t forget to visit our Poetry section, where we’ve been posting a Southern poem a day. Yesterday’s spoken word poem by Tennessee’s Kory Wells, accompanied on banjo by her daughter, was a high point.

New in fiction is “Rural Retreat,” a story about what it’s like to return to small town life after you’ve been away by Virginian Angela Spires.

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