Mississippi is known as one of the nation’s literary capitals, so it should come as no surprise that the Mississippi Book Festival brings such a big stable of literary talent each year. The event has even more offerings for its third installment, which takes place tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 19, at the State Capitol (400 High St.), but with that expansion comes an added difficulty in deciding what to do.
Nearly every hour from the festival’s start at 9 a.m. to its end at 5 p.m. will feature five or six panels and signing events to choose from. Between book vendors, live entertainment, capitol tours and other activities, attendees may have difficulty deciding just what they would like to do in a given time. To narrow it down, we chose two options for each hour. Of course, if neither of the options is up your alley, feel free to go off-book.
The “Things Like the Truth” panel starts at 9:30 a.m. in room 113 in the capitol. Guest authors, journalists and essayists will examine the topic of truth in writing. The panelists will include columnist Sid Salter, author of “Jack Cristil: Voice of the MSU Bulldogs”; “Shifting Interludes: Selected Essays” writer Jack Bales; “Thacker Mountain Radio” host and author of “The Statue and the Fury” Jim Dees; editorial cartoonist Marshall Ramsey, who wrote “Drawing the Line”; and National Book Award-winning author Ellen Gilchrist, whose memoir, “Things Like the Truth: Out of My Later Years,” inspired the panel’s title.
The “Eudora Welty’s Legacy” panel will also take place at 9:30 a.m. across the street from the capitol in The Foundry at Galloway United Methodist Church (305 N. Congress St.). Welty scholar Suzanne Marrs will moderate the discussion on the late Mississippi writing icon. The panel will feature W. Ralph Eubanks, author of “The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South"; Harriet Pollack, who wrote “Eudora Welty’s Fiction and Photography: The Body of the Other Woman”; Millsaps College Assistant Professor of English Michael Pickard; and Tougaloo College Assistant Professor of English Ebony Lumumba, who is the wife of Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.
The next round of panels will begin at 10:45 a.m. In room 201H at the capitol, Matthew Guinn, author of “The Scribe,” will moderate the “Historical Fiction” panel, which features “The River of Kings” author Taylor Brown, “The Hidden Light of Northern Fires” author Daren Wang, “The Legend of the Albino Farm” writer Steve Yates and Tim Gautreax, who wrote a short-story collection called “Signals: New and Selected Stories.”
Just a few doors down in room 201A, “The Mississippi Book of Quotations” author David Crews will be moderating the “Stories from the South” panel at 10:45 a.m. The panel features renowned short-story writers such as Michael Knight, author of “Eveningland”; “American Housewife” writer Helen Ellis; “We Come to Our Senses” writer Odie Lindsey; and Mary Miller, author of “Always Happy Hour.”
If you aren’t too hungry once it hits noon, the next event may get you there. In room 201H, “Face-to-Face with Vivian Howard” will allow fans to take photos with the Peabody Award-winning chef and star of PBS’s “A Chef’s Life.” Howard will also sign copies of her latest book, “Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South.”
If food literature doesn’t fit your palate, the “Rising Stars in Young Adult” panel, which takes place in the Galloway sanctuary at noon, just might. The panel includes several up-and-coming authors, including “Everything That Makes You” writer Moriah McStay; Shalanda Stanley, who is the author of “Drowning Is Inevitable”; “Between Two Skies” author Joanne O’Sullivan; and Angie Thomas, author of “The Hate U Give,” which is soon to be a motion picture.
At 1:30 p.m., festivalgoers will find out the answer to the question, “What do people who work in the book industry actually read?” “The Reading Stack” panel, which will be in room 201H at the state capitol, will feature a panel of sales managers for Random House, HarperCollins Publishers and Penguin Books discussing what they’re currently reading. The guests will also make suggestions about some interesting titles to check out.
In the Galloway fellowship center at 1:30 p.m., attendees can delve into another important part of the state’s past and present culture with “Celebrating Our Roots: A Tribute to Mississippi’s Musical Heritage.” The panel will include “Hidden History of Mississippi Blues” author Roger Stolle; “We Are the music Makers” author Timothy Duffy; Jimmi Mayes of “The Amazing Jimmy Mayes: Sideman to the Stars”; Tom Piazza, who wrote “The Southern Journey of Alan Lomax: Words, Photographs and Music”; and “I’m Just Dead, I’m Not Gone” author Mary Lindsay Dickinson, who is the wife of the late Jim Dickinson.
For something cool—and a bit of a break—swing by the Creativity Center on Congress Street at 2:30 p.m. to check out the Youth Media Project event. Several young Mississippians who participated in the project's summer session will be sharing stories that they wrote over the course of the program.
Back in room 201A at the capitol, Charline McCord will moderate a panel on “A Year in Mississippi” at 2:45 p.m. Each season, the project collects 10 essays from Mississippi authors, who write on significant events in the state as well as elements of the culture, from our history to our arts contributions. The panel will feature essayists JoAnne Prichard Morris, Seetha Srinivasan, Diane Williams and Sid Salter.
For “The Enduring Mystery with Otto Penzler,” which takes place at 2:45 p.m. in room 113 at the capitol, the president and chief executive officer of Mysterious Press in New York City will host a panel featuring several prominent mystery writers. The panelists will include “Before He Finds Her” author Michael Kardo; Lachlan Smith, who wrote “Panther’s Prey”; “The Empire of Night” author Robert Olen Butler; and Tom Franklin, the author of “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.”
During the final block of panels, which begins at 4 p.m., “Dispatches from Pluto” author Richard Grant will moderate “First Fiction: The Discovery of the Debut” in room 113 at the capitol. Successful first-time authors will discuss their work and the process of getting published. The panelists will include “The Barrowfields” author Phillip Lewis; “The Animators” author Kayla Rae Whitaker; “The Talented Ribkins” author Ladee Hubbard; and “Chanelle Benz,” writer of “The Man Who Shout Out My Eye Is Dead.”
If nonfiction is more your area of interest, Robert Luckett, director of the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University, will be moderating the “Southern History” panel at 4 p.m. in the old Supreme Court room at the capitol. Authors such as Adrienne Berard, Patricia Michelle Boyett, Otis Sanford and Grif Stockley will talk about the historical events at the center of their latest books.
The Mississippi Book Festival is Saturday, Aug. 19, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For a full schedule of events, visit msbookfestival.com.