Greensboro Bound Literary Festival
Fred Chappell, Lee Smith are among the literary lights who will shine in the Gate City’s celebration of letters
By Brian Lampkin
In 2018, a passel of intrepid volunteers set out to create a major literary festival in Greensboro. Three years later, the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival continues to bring writers and readers together across downtown every third weekend in May.
This year’s Festival runs May 14–17 and once again a slate of more than 60 writers will carry on a conversation with the literature lovers of the Gate City. We can give you a quick sneak peek at the highlights of this year’s gathering but look for a full schedule in next month’s O.Henry.
Our keynote events begin with our opening celebration at the Weatherspoon Art Museum on Thursday, May 14. Premiere selections from the forthcoming film documentary on the life and work of Greensboro’s Fred Chappell will be screened, and a roster of writers will roast Chappell in person. Expect rollicking retorts from both Fred and Susan Chappell to close the evening. Chappell is the most decorated literary figure in Greensboro history (sorry O.Henry), and has won the Bollingen Prize, the T. S. Eliot Prize and was the Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 1997–2002.
Our partnership with the UNCG Libraries brings us the remarkable Nnedi Okorafor as our Friday, May 15, feature event. Okorafor is the author of a series of science fiction, afro-futurist and young adult books, along with a series of Black Panther graphic novels for Marvel. Her awards are too numerous to list, but include a Nebula and a Hugo for her novella Binti, the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel for Akata Warrior and the 2011 World Fantasy Award. This event will be held in the Elliott University Center on the UNCG campus.
Friday, May 15, will debut our first fundraising lunch with Greensboro Bound authors. On the lovely grounds of the Double Oaks Bed & Breakfast, we welcome Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle in conversation. This is a ticketed event and will include a copy of Smith’s new novella Blue Marlin along with lunch supplied by Greensboro chef Kerrie Thomas. For tickets see greensborobound.com. All other Greensboro Bound events are FREE.
The real madness begins in earnest on Saturday morning, May 16. It all starts with a character parade at 9:30 at the Cultural Center (200 N. Davie Street), which will lead to a performance by the OrKIDStra in the Hyers Theatre inside the Cultural Center. And then the authors take the stages! The children’s and young adult line-up includes 2020 Newberry winner Alicia Williams (Genesis Begins Again) the prolific Alan Gratz (Ban This Book, The Brooklyn Nine, The Refugees), Amy Reed (The Nowhere Girls), Scott Reintgen (the Nyxia series) and a dozen more. And don’t forget the noontime tradition of a performance by the Greensboro Opera.
On the adult side, the decisions about what to attend will be difficult as we bring 45 writers to our stages: the Van Dyke Performance Space, Hyers Theatre, Greensboro History Museum, Tanger Center, Triad Stage, International Civil Rights Center & Museum, Scuppernong Books and Harrison Auditorium on the North Carolina A & T Campus. These events will spread cross Saturday and Sunday and will include Casey Cep (whose book The Furious Hours was a personal favorite of 2019), Paris Review editor and author of The Cactus League, Emily Nemens, Democracy in Chains author Nancy MacLean. Also scheduled are panels on prison writing, a panel called “Read Romance; Fight Patriarchy,” and a panel on philanthropy and the arts (sponsored by the Community Foundation and hosted by the Tanger Center). We’ll have 2019 Walt Whitman Award winner and Greensboro native Leah Green here and poet laureates galore: Louisiana, North Carolina and the United States. Yes, our keynote Saturday night event will be former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Collins appearance is at 7 p.m. at the Harrison Auditorium. See greensborobound.com for ticketing information.
Our 2020 Festival concludes on Sunday, May 17, with “A Tribute to Toni Morrison” at 6 p.m. at the Harrison Auditorium. We’ll have the Toni Morrison Society presenting along with long-time Morrison personal assistant John Hoppenthaler, Malaika Adero and a special surprise guest to be announced in these pages next month.
We can’t wait to get it all started. Literally. We’ll have a special prefestival event with Moroccan-American writer Laila Lalami. Lalami’s 2015 novel The Moor’s Account was a Pulitzer and Man Booker finalist, and her 2019 novel The Other Americans was a National Book Award finalist. Lalami will be here to talk about her new book, Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America, which is being released two weeks early just for this important event. Her appearance is sponsored by the UNCG University Libraries and will be held in the EUC Auditorium on April 15 at 11 a.m. Tickets can be located here: lalamidiscussion.eventbrite.com.
Make plans now to attend one of the major literary festivals in the Southeast. And bring your friends and relatives from literature-desperate towns across America. We promise a city-wide conversation Greensboro can be proud of. OH
Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.