0113 Southern voices
Southern Voices Co-Chair Carrie Steinmehl with author Vanessa Diffenbaugh (The Language of Flowers) in 2012. Photos courtesy Hoover Public Library.
It’s no surprise tickets to the Southern Voices Festival traditionally sell out fast. Previous lineups included names like Rosalynn Carter, Harlan Coben, Pat Conroy, Carl Hiaasen, Frank McCourt, Ann Patchett and Ann Rivers Siddons. For readers and writers, this event at the Hoover Public Library provides an intimate accessibility to the literary world.
In fact, it’s not at all uncommon to see other author guests in the audience as they listen to one of their peers give a keynote address. During last year’s Friday night event, author Scott Turow fielded questions about the creative process from more than one commercially successful writer in the audience. And exchanges like this happen often, for both the budding writers and musicians as well as those established in their field.
Reputation of the event’s success has gotten around, and helped planners recruit top talent for this year’s event, scheduled for Feb. 19-23.
“We met one of this year’s guests, Michel Stone, at the South Carolina book conference,” said Assistant Library Director Amanda Bonner Borden. “Her novel The Iguana Tree explores love and the trials of immigration to the U.S. She has been compared to Steinbeck. When we asked her to come, she said her friend A.J. Mayhew had told her that if she ever got invited to Southern Voices in Hoover that she better say yes.”
Joining Stone for this year’s lineup are other distinguished guests, including Lisa See, who came to the Festival by way of Twitter.
“We’d been hoping to have Lisa for years for the exquisite beauty of her writing,” said Borden, who recruited the author after See contacted her when she saw through Twitter that one of her novels would be discussed at one of the Library’s monthly Book Club meetings. “We watched her interact with the crowd and she was just as charming as her writing indicates.”
Another author and Library staff favorite participating this year is Tayari Jones. Library Director Linda Andrews added that her favorite first line ever written comes from Jones’ novel, Sliver Sparrow.
This year will be the second for author Ron Rash, who first attended Southern Voices in 2002 as a new novelist who at that time was known for his poetry. Library staffers are especially excited to welcome Dorothea Benton-Frank.
“Our patrons have been asking about her for years,” said Borden. “I went to her book signing on a Friday night and begged her to join us. I even name dropped! Friend of the conference, writer and now Birmingham resident Patti Callahan Henry talked her in to joining us.”
Tickets for Southern Voices go on sale Friday, Jan. 11 from 9-11 a.m. by phone (444-7888) and online (southernvoices.info) only. Tickets available after the first two hours will be available at the Box Office, but the Library anticipates a sell-out. Tickets for Friday’s Evening with Lisa See are $35, and for Saturday’s Conference are $40.