The Center for Southern Literary Arts will host the inaugural Memphis Literary Arts Festival this Saturday (June 16th), from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The festival includes panel discussions around a wide variety of topics, and a street fair.
Zandria F. Robinson, Alice Faye Duncan, and Jamey Hatley joined us for Checking on the Arts.
Darel Snodgrass: Zandria Robinson and Jamey Hatley, you two are the founders of the Center for Southern Literary Arts. How did this group come about?
Zandria Robinson: We were despaired by some of the changes that were happening in the literary scene here. Novel. (the book store) had not come back yet. The Mid-South Book Festival was going on hiatus, indefinitely. We, as writers and folks from the city, wanted to fill in the gap a little bit. And, hopefully, inspire other folks to build other kinds of organizations that focus on literary arts too.
Snodgrass: What all is happening at the festival?
Robinson: It kicks off with a benefit dinner Friday night, at Premiere Palace. There will be special guests, including Kiese Laymon, Andrea Morales, and Adia Victoria.
Then, the next day is the festival. From 9 to 5, we are going to have a street fair, with all kinds of vendors, publishers, authors and food trucks. Simultaneously, with the street fair, there are a number of panels.
There will be a Memphis Jazz Lunch, featuring Ekpe Abioto & the Afrikan Jazz Ensemble. These are some of the most dynamic and legendary jazz artists from the city. If nothing else, come for that.
Afterward, there is an after party with Siphne Aaye, the DJ.
Snodgrass: Jamey Hatley, you’re one of the founders and organizers of this group. In terms of the panels and the things that people can go to, what's on the schedule?
Jamey Hatley: I have so many hats, you can’t see them on the radio. I am a founder but really the story of who I am is on one of the panels that I am doing. The panel that I am featured on is the Oxford American panel. It was their hundredth issue. I am sharing space on that panel with Crystal Wilkinson.
Putting my moderating hat on, I am moderating a panel where Ekpe Abioto, Courtney Alexander, and Arthur Flowers are going to be speaking.
Snodgrass: Children's book author Alice Faye Duncan is here. What are you going to bring to us in the festival?
Alice Duncan: My panel is called the Future Has a Past: Writing Historical Fiction, for children and adults. Along with me, I will be with Ravi Howard who is the author of Driving The King, which is historical fiction about Nat King Cole and the segregated South, specifically the state of Alabama.
Ravi and I are going to talk about things that writers who want to write for children or adults can do to actually break into print. I guess a subtopic might be five roads to publishing.
This is something for the community. Something they are starving for.
Snodgrass: We have not talked about the Edge District, where the festival is being held. This is a new district for the town and some may not be familiar with it.
Robinson: We love the Edge District. People will know where Sun Studio is, which is the mouth of the Edge District. But, for us, the Edge was attractive because not only have we spent a lot of time in that community because the old Hatiloo Theater was there, but it had this rich history of both musical production, artistry, theater, and cars. So, this intersection of art and industry says so much about Memphis. And, the Edge is exemplary of that kind of intersection.
Hatley: We plan to continue this festival in the Edge District to bring attention to that small sliver of space where so much magical culture was created and we want to contribute to continuing that legacy there.
Tickets for Friday, June 15th, benefit dinner: $85 - $250
Tickets for the Memphis Literary Arts Festival and all panel discussions: Free
For more information and a full schedule, visit the Southern Literary Arts website at southernliteraryarts.org.