I recently came across an article that appeared in Creative Loafing in early 1997. “What’s an oxymoron?” the writer asked, answering his question with this response: “Atlanta’s literary scene.”
I wasn’t here in 1997, so I could only gnash my teeth at the unraveling of details about the absence of any meaningful community of writers around the city 13 years ago. It made for some sad, grim reading.
But it got me to thinking about how we’ve come a very long way since then.
The Georgia Center for the Book came along less than a year after that article appeared. And in 2003, the Center began a project aimed at creating and nurturing an on-going relationship between writers and readers, a place where writers of all stripes from all over – Georgia and beyond – could find their work welcomed and supported.
It was and is called the monthly Festival of Writers, and since 2003 it has brought more than 700 free author events to metro Atlanta for more than 300,000 people. A lot of those writers have been Georgia authors, and a lot of them have come to consider the Center for the Book at the heart of Atlanta’s literary community.
In fact, if you do just a little searching, you’ll find that it’s now Decatur which can legitimately boast of hosting Atlanta’s literary scene. It’s been a friendly convergence. The Center for the Book’s outreach started in 2003; since then, it has presented from a half dozen to a dozen programs each month for seven years, creating an important base for writers and readers that is known and celebrated around the country. In 2006, the Center helped establish and sponsor the Decatur Book Festival, an event now a staple of everyone’s literary calendar, drawing 60,000 people on Labor Day weekends.
The Decatur Arts Festival, one of the most successful, long-running of neighborhood events in Atlanta, has come up with its own list of literary activities. Bookstores in and near Decatur have opened their doors to dozens and dozens of authors participating in their new programming. Book clubs have sprung up to take advantage of the presence of so many writers. Libraries have stepped up their book programs. And, in one of surest signs of success, others outside the area have begun wondering why they have to be left out? In some cases, they’ve already been inspired to begin developing their own literary initiatives.
At the Center for the Book, though, we want more. Our mission is to be the epicenter for Georgia’s literary community. That’s why we have developed this new web site, thanks to our talented, generous partners at Lenz Marketing of Decatur, and why we have been increasing our statewide activities in recent years.
We urge you to take a good look around our home page. You’ll find Georgia’s literary map with helpful, informed biographies of over 150 authors. There’s valuable information about our annual Georgia Literary Festival that brings good writers to different parts of the state each year. There’s a comprehensive listing of our important series, “25 Books All Georgians Should Read,” and you’ll be able to find out more about out two wildly successful statewide programs for students, “Letters About Literature” and “River of Words.”
We’ve all come a long way from 1997, and not just in time. There’s a vibrancy and commitment to the literary life of this state that didn’t seem to exist 13 years ago. There are more writers finding inspiration here, and more opportunities to nurture them. There is a solid band of readers ever-more appreciative of and involved with the literary community.
And there is the Georgia Center for the Book, committed to building, supporting and encouraging all of these developments. With your help.