Decatur Book Fest brings writers en masse

Photo Courtesy of the Decatur Book Festival

Bibliophiles of Atlanta got a special treat this past weekend with the arrival of the ninth annual AJC Decatur Book Festival, the largest independent book festival in the country.

For two days of literature-fueled madness, traffic around Decatur Square was redirected to make way for the flow of ideas on paper.

Booths lining the streets catered to a wide variety of audiences—browsing around, one might find a book of poetry, a spiritual account of a holy woman’s life, a local author supporting her most recent piece of fiction or the latest installment in a fantasy series.

An aspiring author might learn about the local Atlanta Writers Club or learn how to get her work published, while a dramaturgical enthusiast might visit the walkway devoted to the theater to see text not merely read, but acted out in life.

Children readers also found something of interest—one area featured a number of booths dedicated to books and education aimed at igniting a love of learning among the festival’s budding reading public and a children’s stage set whimsical performances offered for the delight of youthful attendees.

The whole square was filled to bursting with artists, authors and publishers united by a desire to feed the curiosities and imaginations of the crowd.

This grand Atlanta tradition began as an idea in 2005, when Daren Wang, while returning from a book festival in Columbia, South Carolina, asked why no such festival existed in Atlanta.

After enlisting the help of fellow litterateur Tom Bell, the two gathered booksellers, authors, media and businesses and after many months of work and organization, drew a crowd of 50,000 to the book festival’s 2006 premier.

Since then, the festival has offered a venue for readers to enjoy art performances, listen to music, meet authors and, of course, buy books.

Among the many organizations attracted by the event was The Institute’s own “Poetry at Tech,” who continued their tradition of reaching out to the broader Atlanta community in addition to members of the university’s student body.

Though Tech might be known primarily as a technical school, “Poetry at Tech” stands as a strong and vibrant part of Tech culture, and has hosted widely acclaimed poets to speak over the years.

Aside from walking around and enjoying the sights, there were also a number of presentations and interviews for those who wanted to get to know the person behind the work.

Fans of a particular author might be able to understand a little more of that author’s philosophy or enjoy the stories – sometimes meaningful, sometimes humorous – that surround the process of literary expression.

Those who enjoy engrossment in alternate worlds, for example, might have seen Lev Grossman, author of the acclaimed Magicians trilogy, reflect on the differences he found between his own life and the lives of the characters in fantasy novels, and on his creation of a world in which magic “can’t make you happy.”

Or, those of a more spiritual bent might have seen Richard Rodriguez, who, in support of his most recent work Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography, spoke about the significance of the desert as a symbol in Christianity and the experience of desolation in spirituality.

And for anyone interested in the lives lived behind the political scene, Jim Clyburn, Assistant Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives from South Carolina, offered stories from his recent autobiography illustrating the lessons he learned from those close to him that led to him becoming one of the major political figures in the nation.

But these few represent just a sampling of the tremendous diversity of literary figures that visited Atlanta throughout the event.

With over 600 authors bringing their words, ideas and experiences to the melting pot, it is no surprise that one could find almost any flavor of magic at this year’s Decatur Book Festival.