The Mississippi Book Festival bounded past the 7,000 attendance mark for the first time in its four-year history. About 7,600 people flocked to the State Capitol complex on Saturday to hear from 240 authors, buy books, get them signed, hobnob with fellow fans and celebrate the written word. The festival’s 2017 edition drew about 6,400 attendees. The kickoff celebration for the daylong literary lawn party honored Mississippi authors. The first two markers of the new Mississippi Writers Trail, recognizing the work of Pulitzer Prize winner Eudora Welty and two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward, were unveiled to onlookers’ cheers and standing ovations in a poignant ceremony at the festival’s start. Packed crowds squeezed into the sanctuary at Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church to hear moving insights by Ward, the whip-smart exchanges of Jon Meacham and Karl Rowe, and the engaging words of Salman Rushdie as he shared a journey from his Bombay roots to a lunch in London with Eudora Welty. Rick Bragg held listeners in his grip, yanking them along on the wild ride of stories from his Alabama upbringing. Children sat rapt as teen actress/author Quvenzhané Wallis read excerpts from her book series on the Capitol lawn in a session so packed, organizers added another one to accommodate the interest. This year, 200-plus volunteers kept the festival on track, as 160-plus authors tackled a spectrum of topics on 40-plus official panels at the Capitol and Galloway church. An additional 84 authors and artists populated Authors Alley. Music, 14 food trucks and 13 independent book sellers fed a festive appetite for entertainment, sustenance and the written word.
In the Southern Kitchen
Presented by Beard and Riser
James Beard Award winner Martha Foose dishes with some of the South’s most celebrated chefs.
Presented by Lemuria Books
The inside scoop straight from the sales floor about what’s hot, what’s not and everything in-between.
Southern Fiction and Redemption
Presented by University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers and University of Mississippi Department of English
Four contemporary fiction writers discuss characters living life on the margins of today’s South.
Our Nation’s New Melting Pot Cuisine
Presented by Mississippi State University
Southern Foodways Alliance Director John T. Edge and chef, author and Mind of a Chef host Edward Lee discuss flavors and forays into the new melting pot cuisine.
A Conversation with Rick Bragg
Julia Reed Under the (Garden &) Gun
Presented by the Community Foundation for Mississippi
Author/humorist Julia Reed dishes candidly with Garden & Gun’s David DiBenedetto about the magazine’s nuanced or out-loud showcase of the authentic South.
National Civil Rights History
Presented by Louisa Dixon and Jerry Johnson
Moderated by former CBS news correspondent Randall Pinkston, this national civil rights panel gets up close and personal to explore social justice, racial activism and black liberation.
Meet Me in the Middle
Presented by the de Grummond Collection and the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival
A kids’ panel rides a roller-coaster overview of top reads for the middle school set.
Mississippi in the Middle
Presented by the de Grummond Collection, the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival and University of Mississippi MFA Program
Mississippi-rooted middle grade authors discuss how their children’s fiction embodies courage, friendship, mystery and self-discovery.
Presented by Cathead Distillery and Delta Center for Culture and Learning
As diehard fans of and contributors to the history and legacy of Southern music, these panelists will hit a high note with lovers of the South’s authentic music: blues, gospel, folk, rock and more!
Delta Dawn and Dusk
Presented by BKD CPAs & Advisors and Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area
Authors explore real-life stories and the realities of race, economics and sense of place in the Mississippi Delta.