Annual book festival unites readers and authors

Since its birth in 2006, the Decatur Book Festival has grown from just an idea into to the largest independent book festival in the nation. The literary pilgrimage for book lovers and the people who write them is held every year over Labor Day weekend in downtown Decatur.

Jack Riggs, a creative writing professor at Georgia Perimeter College and Georgia Author of the Year recipient for his novel When the Finch Rises, said the festival is an important event for people to be a part of.

“You have upward of 70,000 readers coming to Decatur,” he said. “All the authors there are worthy of the time spent with them. It’s just the place to be.”

In 2006 alone, around 50,000 people took part in the Decatur Book Festival. This year, more than 300 authors are scheduled to attend, and all events, including a book market, street fair, food, live music, writing classes and special activities for children and teens, are offered free of charge.

With a plethora of attractions and more than 20 different genres of books to choose from, it’s no tall tale to say that the Decatur Book Festival will have something for everyone.

Amanda C. Gable, author of The Confederate General Rides North, is a graduate student at Georgia State. While she’s finishing up the Creative Writing MFA Program, in addition to her debut novel, Gable’s short stories have appeared in The North American Review, The Crescent Review, Quarry West, Other Voices and other literary publications. She’ll host a panel discussion with fellow southern fiction writer Olivia deBelle Byrd called “The Sweetness (and Sassiness) of Southern Fiction” at the stage at First Baptist Carreker Hall on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

“This will be my second year doing the festival,” she said. “I’m very excited.”

Gable’s first novel, which Atlanta Magazine called an “extraordinary debut,” is about Katherine McConnell, a young war buff who charts famous Civil War sites and monuments during a road trip north with her mother. In the end, McConnell has to make a life-changing decision.

Gable looks forward to talking more about her new book during her panel discussion, but is also excited to attend.

“I love the people and seeing the book collectors,” she said. “I’ve been going [to the festival] since 2006, and that was before I had a book out. I am both a writer and a fan.”

This year’s keynote speaker, Jonathan Franzen, won the 2001 National Book Award for his novel The Corrections. Franzen will host a signing of his latest work, Freedom, on Friday at 8 p.m. at Agnes Scott College’s Presser Hall.

Enoch King is a thirteen-year actor with roles in Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion, Drumline and the biopic The Fighting Temptations. An Atlanta native, King takes part in the event “Adapting the Dunces,” which will be held Saturday starting at 1:45 at Decatur High School.

“I will be acting in a variety of scenes from John Kennedy Toole’s novel, A Confederacy of Dunces,” he explained. “Basically, pulling out different scenes that people may remember and relate to.”

An avid “book nut,” King said he is excited to hunt for new novels and looks forward to meeting other books lovers like himself.

“Books excite me more than anything,” he said. “People should come out, see the show, and pick one up.”