HomeCultureThe 2023 Southern Literary Festival is Coming to Middle Tennessee April 20-23!

The 2023 Southern Literary Festival is Coming to Middle Tennessee April 20-23!

Read on to learn about this festival’s history that began with first keynote speaker Robert Penn Warren and get this year’s highlights.


The Southern Literary Festival (SLF) was formed to curate an appreciation of Southern writers and their works and has since expanded to encompass a diversified spectrum of ideas and creators in Southern culture. Undergraduate writers are largely focused on through festival events to encourage growth in upcoming and aspiring writers, and the promotion of community through Southern writing is a significant goal within each festival.


The first Southern Literary Festival was held in 1937 at Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi, home of the festival’s founder and first keynote speaker Robert Penn Warren (All The King’s Men). The initial 10 Southern member colleges have now doubled in number, including this year’s host school Middle Tennessee State University. Since its founding, the festival has only been suspended on two occassions—World War II and the COVID-19 pandemic—illustrating the longevity and significance of celebrating Southern literature.

Initially created to aid undergraduate writers and bring attention to Southern literature, the festival has since grown its inclusion of works and authors to highlight the South’s rich diversity. Notable authorial participants have included Eudora Welty, Shelby Foote, Katherine Anne Porter, John Gould Fletcher, Flannery O’Connor, Robert Penn Warren, Frances Mayes and Natasha Trethewey.

Schedule Highlights

The 2023 Southern Literary Festival is being held on April 20-23 at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

This year’s keynote speaker is Maragret Renkl, author of Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss and Graceland, At Last: Notes on Hope and Heart. Renkl will deliver her address from 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, in the Keathley University Center theatre, with a book signing to follow.

A plenary address will be delivered by Destiny Birdsong, author of Nobody’s Magic and Negotiations: Poems. Birdsong will speak from 7-9 p.m. on Friday, April 21, in the Keathley University theatre, also with a book signing to follow.

Breakout session leaders include Fred Arroyo, Claudia Barnett, Ezekiel Black, Jennifer Chesak, Christian Anton Gerard, Karen B. Golightly, Mike James, C. Kay “Andy” Landis, Jane Marcellus, Cameron L. Mitchell, Candie Moonshower, Katie A. Nelson, Julian R. Vaca and Amie Whittemore. A book fair will also take place on April 21 and 22 in the Keathley University Center.

Breakout session attendance is limited to the students of member schools; however, both the plenary and keynote addresses are free and open to the public.

You can find the full festival schedule here.

Returning the Lanter
All My Grandmothers