Greensboro Bound Carries On

A virtual gathering of the minds 


By Brian Lampkin

If the world were without COVID-19, this May would bring us the fourth annual Greensboro Bound Literary Festival. But, alas, the pandemic led us to cancel the 2020 event.

Like the rest of the world, we’ve learned how to live within the pandemic’s parameters. Thus, Greensboro Bound is ready to present a robust virtual festival this year — let’s call it GB 3.5 — on May 13–16, 2021. We’re bringing 50 writers together to engage in panels and conversations that address our unusual times. Our roster will surprise and thrill you.

The organizing principle of this year’s series of events is “21 Conversations.” The sessions will pair writers from North Carolina with voices from the outside world, if you will. And what an outside world we’re bringing to virtual Greensboro. We can start with cancelled 2020 holdovers — Nnedi Okorafor (Binti: The Complete Trilogy) and Billy Collins (Whale Day: And Other Poems) — who have both agreed to rejoin us in 2021.

Did I promise thrills and chills? How about Roxane Gay! Gay’s feminist voice and intellectual force has made her one of the country’s guiding moral centers. Her bestselling nonfiction work includes Bad Feminist; Hunger; and Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture, and she’ll be highlighting her forthcoming book, Unti on Writing. Roxane will be in conversation with Cynthia Greenlee, who has edited the recently published The Echoing Ida Collection.

Next up is CNN commentator Bakari Sellers representing the “Outside World” team. His memoir, My Vanishing Country, insists upon the value and dignity of rural, Black working-class life in the South. Bakari’s father, Cleveland Sellers, was a presenter at our 2019 festival with his own memoir of the Orangeburg Massacre.

At my age, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to still have heroes and I’m suspicious of the heroic in most of its forms, but I can’t deny the joy inching toward adulation I feel for the work of writer/filmmaker John Sayles. He’ll join us for a conversation on the 1898 Wilmington Race Riots, which was depicted in Sayles’ novel, A Moment in the Sun. We’d love to have a mini-Sayles film retrospective as well, but we’ll need to see how the COVID and vaccine numbers look in May. He did make a movie (Amigo) based upon A Moment in the Sun, so we’d like to show that and, perhaps, some of these great films: Return of the Secaucus Seven, The Brother from Another Planet, Matewan, The Secret of Roan Inish and Lone Star.

We will partner with Greensboro’s historic Magnolia House to bring a conversation with Candacy Taylor, author of The Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America. Whitney Otawka, author of Saltwater Table, will be in conversation with North Carolina chef Ricky Moore, author of Saltbox Seafood Joint Cookbook. Other worldly writers include Sharon Salzberg (Lovingkindness), Kaitlyn Greenidge (Libertie) and Rivers Solomon (Sorrowland).

Not to worry, North Carolina will be well-represented. Ron Rash (who will be in conversation with Billy Collins), John Hart, Allan Gurganus, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, Issac Bailey, Denise Kiernan and Greensboro’s own James Tate Hill will all engage the aforementioned writers. In addition, we’ll have poetry workshops (with Jessica Jacobs and Nickole Brown), romance panels (with Alisha Rai, Rosie Danan, Kianna Alexander and Joanna Lowell) and talks with the editors and authors of two books: Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America and A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South.

All of these conversations will premiere on the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival’s Youtube channel during the festival weekend. Our May Scuppernong Bookshelf column will give you the entire schedule of events with details on how to register. As always, Greensboro Bound events are free. We wish these remarkable writers could be here in person, but we must evolve with these unusual times. Please join us May 13–16 from the comforts of home — and catch a glimpse inside the homes of some of our favorite writers!  OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books. Stay tuned for more information about the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival.

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