Mississippi’s literary legacy is honored each summer as enthusiasts converge on the Capitol to enjoy a summer soirée.
Mississippi has an unrivaled passion for literature. A love of books runs deep through our veins, and our people, history, and landscape have stories just begging to be told.
“Growing up in Jackson meant, among other things, that literature was in the air,” says author Richard Ford. “And what that means is there was a kind of general license in Jackson that you could declare yourself as a writer…because here was this wonderful writer, who lived over on Pinehurst Street, who everybody knew about, who published stories in The New Yorker. You kind of knew that Eudora Welty was a writer. So, before I ever wrote a word, before I ever knew her, before I ever read a word of hers, there was already conferred upon me and others…that being a writer was possible.”
The thrill of reading and writing led a group of literary advocates to create the Mississippi Book Festival. Launched in August 2015, the inaugural “literary lawn party” ushered thousands of visitors to the heart of downtown Jackson. Relaxing on the lush grounds beneath the Mississippi State Capitol, book enthusiasts gathered to connect with their favorite contemporary authors directly.
The event was a success, and this year marks the fourth annual festival. “Every year is different. It is very important to us that the festival grows organically,” says Holly Lange, executive director of the Mississippi Book Festival. “The only thing we ‘have’ to do, in my opinion, is hold it at the State Capitol. Thanks to our generous friends at Galloway United Methodist Church, we’ve been able to expand our footprint. The suspense of ‘who is coming this year’ is part of the fun!”
August 18, 2018, promises to be spectacular. Guests will enjoy book signings, enriching panel discussions, delicious fare, live music, and Capitol tours. “The docents give wonderful tours, and the architecture adds a visual to the historic significance of gathering so many of our best authors under one dome,” says Lange. After enjoying unique exhibits in the rotunda of the Capitol, visitors can mingle with self-published writers along Author’s Alley.
This year’s festival is welcoming an impressive group of speakers. “I’m not sure when any Mississippian will have the opportunity to see Sir Salman Rushdie again in our state, so I would put that high on the list of must-dos,” smiles Lange. “Jesmyn Ward is ruling the literary world, and we are thrilled she is joining the festival again. Rick Bragg and Julia Reed are always entertaining in the most heartfelt way. And it wouldn’t be interesting without a dynamic political conversation. We are honored that Jon Meacham is joining us again, and bringing his good friend, Karl Rove. There is truly something for everyone, and often more!”
The Mississippi Book Festival is open to the public and offers free admission. Visitors will interact with hundreds of national, regional and local authors, attend book signings and leave the Capitol with an engaged mind and an armload of books. Children and teens are encouraged to visit the festival Kids Corner and Creativity Center, where their imaginations will be fueled, and a zest for reading ignited.
“We all share a love of books and are united by our admiration for authors and characters. When you realize someone you barely know loves the same book as you, there is an instant connection,” says Lange. “That connection is the seed for building community, and the Mississippi Book Festival celebrates our great state’s literary community.”
For more information, visit msbookfestival.com