HOMEGROWN: A Writers‘ Exchange is not just an event; it’s a celebration of literature, creativity, and the power of storytelling. With more than 500 attendees expected, including local college and high school students, the festival promises to be a literary feast for the mind and soul.
- by Anne Pitre
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The Mississippi Gulf Coast is set to come alive with the vibrant energy of words and stories as the Homegrown Literary Arts Festival returns for its second run on Saturday, January 27, 2024. Organized by the Hancock County Library System in collaboration with the Harrison County Library System, this free event promises to be a literary extravaganza featuring over 20 accomplished authors, insightful panels, and a special focus on “The Art of the Cookbook.”
The festival boasts an impressive lineup of authors, each with a unique background and story to share. From a former taxi driver to the son of a Baptist preacher, the diversity of experiences adds a dynamic flavor to the event. Among the featured authors are a New Orleans chef who transformed into an attorney and started a farm, a resident of the batture on the Mississippi River, and a TV director with an Emmy award to his credit.
These authors, hailing not only from Mississippi but also from New Orleans and beyond, will converge at the Hancock Performing Arts Center in the Kiln to engage with the audience for live, in-person sessions. The event’s centerpiece is the six topical author panels, each running for 80 minutes and featuring three or four authors. The discussions will delve into aspects of inspiration, the writing process, and insights into their recent literary works.
Adding a delicious dimension to the festival, a special session titled “The Art of the Cookbook” will be moderated by Carol Puckett Palmer, co-host of Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s DEEP SOUTH DINING food program. Four top chefs, including James Beard award winners, will share their culinary expertise and experiences. Attendees can expect an enriching exploration of the creative process behind cookbook creation, with opportunities for interaction and Q&A.
Featured Authors and Their Works
John Brdecka, executive director of the local library system, expressed enthusiasm about the festival’s return, declaring it to be “bigger and better than ever.” The collaboration with the Harrison County Library System has resulted in what is anticipated to be the largest literary event ever held in Coastal Mississippi.
Kevin Cole, the PR and marketing lead for the library system, highlighted the Library Foundation of Hancock County’s crucial support, as well as a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council. This support has allowed the inclusion of a special live on-stage session featuring MPB-TV’s host, Marshal Ramsey, and acclaimed fiction author Michael Farris Smith.
The festival’s diverse panels cover a range of genres and topics. From memoirs to adult fiction, short stories, essays, and non-fiction, there’s something for every literary taste. A standout panel, “Truth Tellers,” features journalist and author Ellen Ann Fentress, whose memoir, “The Steps We Take,” has garnered attention for its exploration of Southern reckoning.
Additionally, the event offers “by appointment only” pitch sessions, providing emerging writers the opportunity to meet with representatives from regional publishing companies. This includes the University Press of Mississippi, the Texas Review Press, and Pelican Press, opening doors for potential publishing opportunities and professional feedback.
Recognizing the importance of nurturing young literary minds, the festival includes special creative writing sessions for young adults. With sessions on writing, creative writing, and screenplays, young attendees will have the chance to explore and expand their literary horizons.
To attend this literary extravaganza, registration is available online through the EVENTbrite ticketing service. For those who wish to make it a full-day experience, an optional box lunch is available. Volunteer opportunities are also open for those interested in contributing to the success of the event.
In a world where stories have the power to connect, inspire, and transform, the HOMEGROWN Literary Arts Festival stands as a testament to the richness of human experience. With its diverse lineup of authors, engaging panels, and a focus on culinary delights, this festival is not just an occasion for book lovers but a celebration of the art of storytelling in all its forms. Join the festivities and immerse yourself in the world of words on January 27, 2024 – a day that promises to be etched in the literary history of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
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