UNION — USC Union will host its third annual Upcountry Literary Festival on Friday and Saturday, featuring a wide variety of presentations throughout both days.
The festival was first held in 2011, in an effort to showcase and feature national, regional and local authors, poets, and musicians with an emphasis on southern literature and culture. This year’s event will feature more than 20 authors and presenters during the free, two-day event held on the USC Union campus.
Daily activities will include presentations, readings, book signings, discussion panels related to topics of literary interest and musical performances. While many of the attending authors draw their literary influences from their experiences in the Carolinas and other southern states, there will also be a wide spectrum of areas of interest ranging from children’s topics to music.
Chief organizer of the festival — Professor Randy Ivey — said those who are interested in attending should be prepared for a relaxed atmosphere.
“It’s not like taking a course or going to a lecture; it’s much more informal than that,” Ivey said. “We have a very ecclectic mix, something for everybody to enjoy.”
The keynote speaker and recipient of this year’s William “Singing Billy” Walker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Southern Letters is novelist and Hendersonville, N.C. native Robert Morgan.
Along with prize winning novels, Morgan has also published many essays, short stories and poems. He utilizes Appalachian culture in both his poetry and style, even though he has lived the majority of his adult life in New York. Morgan is a professor of English and creative writing at Cornell University and currently resides in Ithaca.
The first Walker Award was given last year to author Fred Chappell, and Ivey said Morgan was the natural recipient for this second Walker Award.
“The Walker Award is given to someone whose work reflects the best values of this area,” Ivey said. “He has excelled as a poet, biographer and author in the southern literary tradition.”
Morgan — an Academy Award winner in Literature — is best known for his books, “Gap Creek” and “Boone.” “Gap Creek” is a New York times Bestseller which was an Oprah’s Book Club featured selection in January 2000 and named Book of the Year by the Association of Appalachian Writers. It is about a poor young couple living in the Carolina mountains during the 1900s, the hardships they face and the strength of a young woman who refuses to give up. “Boone,” a national bestseller, comes strongly recommended as it tells the story of Daniel Boone, his complex character and his heroic life.
Another award presented at this year’s festival will be the Tandy R. Willis Award for Most Promising Writer, of which the recipient will be Karen Stokes. Stokes is an archivist with the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston, and some of her works include “South Carolina Civilians in Sherman’s Path: Stories of Courage Amid Civil War Destruction,” “Faith, Valor, and Devotion: The Civil War Letters of William Porcher DuBose,” and “Belles, A Carolina Love Story.”
Storyteller Martha McDonald will also perform a couple of ghost stories on Friday afternoon. Ivey said he met McDonald during a “Tales of Union County” event at Rose Hill Plantation last year.
“She’s very dramatic,” Ivey said. “I was impressed by her work and asked her to come down.”
This year’s festival will again offer something for children as well, as it features children’s author Melinda Long. Long is the author of children’s books such as “How I Became A Pirate,” “Pirates Don’t Change Diapers,” “Twelve Days of Christmas in South Carolina,” “When Papa Snores,” and “Hiccup Snickup.”
Another unique portion of the festival will be the reading of a scene by playwright Lee Lawing called “The Sad Ballad of Purrysburg County,” which will be read by the USCU Players. The Players performed a scene from Lawing’s play “The Porch Gatherers” at last year’s festival, which led to a full production of the play at the university last November.
The musical portion of the festival will begin around 2:50 p.m. Friday as poet/musician Jim Clark presents “The Service of Song.” Ivey said Clark will be receiving an appreciation award for his faithfulness to the festival, as he has been a presenter and audience member at each one. Clark’s presentation will be followed by a “Blues and Bluegrass” segment featuring renowned banjo player Kristin Scott Benson; the newly-formed “Mill Billy Blues” which will include Freddie Vanderford, Brandon Turner and Matthew Knights; and Alan Harrelson, who plays banjo in the band Solid Ground.
Additional information about the festival may be found by visiting www.uscunion.sc.edu and clicking the “Upcountry Literary Festival” tab or by “liking” the USC Union Upcountry Literary Festival Facebook page.
The current line-up for this year’s Upcountry Literary Festival is as follows:
2013 UPCOUNTRY LITERARY FESTIVAL
FRIDAY, MARCH 22
9 a.m. — Introduction and Recognition (Randy Ivey)
9:05 a.m. — Poems from the Dirt Roads of Lexington County (Ray McManus)
9:30 a.m. — Poems from Louisiana (David Middleton)
9:50 a.m. — Memory’s Keep (James Everett Kibler)
10:10 a.m. — “Drinking with the Poets on the Dock” (Tara Powell)
10:30 a.m. — New Voices in Southern Poetry
- Rieppe Moore
- Clark Williams
10:50 a.m. — Break
11 a.m. — The Kudzu Telegraph (John Lane)
11:20 a.m. — A Meteor Shining Brightly (Mauriel Joslyn)
111:40 a.m. — Tandy R. Willis Award for Most Promising Writer
- Karen Stokes
Noon — Lunch break
2 p.m. — Storytelling
- Martha McDonald
2:30 p.m. — “The Sad Ballad of Purrysburg County” (A scene by Lee Lawing, read by the USCU Players)
2:50 p.m. — The Service of Song
- Jim Clark
3:10 p.m. — Bluegrass and Blues
- Kristin Scott Benson
- Mill Billy Blues (Freddie Vanderford, Brandon Turner and Matthew Knights)
- Alan Harrelson
4:30 p.m. — Author signings in the Lobby/Tour of the Dawkins House
SATURDAY, MARCH 23
9 a.m. — Introduction
9:05 a.m. — The Keowee Waltzes
- Introduction by Karen Stokes
- Performed by Lucinda Shields
9:30 a.m. — Children’s Fiction (Melinda Long)
9:50 a.m. — break
10 a.m. — Fiction
- Thomas McConnell
- Randy Ivey
- Brock Adams
11 a.m. — Keynote Address/William “Singing Billy” Walker Award for Lifetime Achievement (Robert Morgan)
Noon — Festival concludes
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.