Jesus, Blue, and a Book Festival too

Mary Ann Neeley - Photo by Marc Parker
Mary Ann Neeley - Photo by Marc Parker

Montgomery, AL – About fifty novelists, poets, playwrights, non-fiction and short story writers took part in the Alabama Book Festival at Old Alabama Town in the Capital City on Saturday.

According to Nancy Anderson, member of the Book Festival planning committee, the event operates smoothly because of volunteers.

“This year we aimed for 150 volunteers, many of whom were here all day, some came in two-hour stretches, some came in for two hours and stayed six,” she said. “People who love books and want to meet authors volunteer to work the festival.”

Ashley Gordon is one of those festival coordinators and has been involved in the program for the past five years.

“I think that all of us who help are committed to the written word, particularly in Alabama where illiteracy is a concern, to make it accessible,” said Gordon. “This is a very family friendly event, it’s free, and it’s fun.”

Book fans from all around the state come to meet with and hear their favorite authors and scholars at this free public event.

Montgomery resident and local radio personality Susan Woody, not only took care of her grandchildren during Saturday’s festivities so that her daughter could assist the authors, but truly enjoys the gathering.

“This is the third one I have attended and my favorite part is listening to the authors read their work,” said Woody.

Mary Ann Neeley, historian, preservationist, author, and former educator, presented her latest endeavor, The Works of Matthew Blue, Montgomery’s First Historian, and the book was available for purchase during the festival.

Neeley has annotated and edited the book to correct errors and clear up inconsistencies as well as add material on early churches, a genealogy of the Blue family, and a Civil War diary by Blue’s sister, Ellen. The tome is definitely a gem for Montgomery history buffs.

Karen Zacharias - Photo by Marc Parker
Karen Zacharias - Photo by Marc Parker

Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide? is a catchy title to say the least, and Columbus, Georgia native Karen Zacharias admits that the novel is tongue-and-cheek.

“I was the writer in residence for the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in 2008 when I sold the book on the title alone,” said Zacharias. “The book is kind of a collaboration of modern day parables about God and money … how people use the name of God as a means to living their own ‘good life.’”

This is the fourth book from the former editorial writer and columnist for the Fayetteville Observer in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Zacharias’ first book, Benched, released in 1997, is about the state of Georgia’s first selected woman judge.

After the Flag Has Been Folded, her second writing, is much more personal to the author and is a memoir focusing on the death of her father who was killed in Vietnam when she was only nine years old.

Zacharias’ third book, also in the form of a question, is Where’s Your Jesus Now? and it examines how fear eclipses faith in frightening times in a collection of anecdotal stories.

Playwright Pearl Cleage shared her new novel, Till You Hear From Me, at the festival as well as announcing the world premiere of her play, The Nacirema Society, featuring television, film, and Broadway star Jasmine Guy.

The Nacirema Society will kick off the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s Silver Anniversary season this coming fall. It is the fifteenth play written by the multi-talented Cleage.

Daniel Wallace - Photo by Marc Parker
Daniel Wallace - Photo by Marc Parker

“I’ve literally been writing all of my life, beginning with plays first and this one took about a year,” she said. “My new book is about a woman who wants to work in the White House but her very radical father keeps messing up her chances by talking bad about the president.”

Other writers featured at this year’s festival included Daniel Wallace (known for his first novel, Big Fish, that was made into a movie by Tim Burton) who read from his latest book, Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician; Ginger Rue who has authored two teen novels, Brand-New Emily and Jump; Rick Bragg, former Pulitzer Prize winner for Feature Writing, with his newly released The Most They Ever Had; and Carolyn Haines, the 2010 recipient of the Harper Lee award with the tenth book in her Sarah Booth Delaney Mississippi Delta mystery series, Bone Appetit.

This year the official sponsor was the Landmark Foundation/Old Alabama Town. Other sponsors were Alabama Public Television, Alabama Library Association, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, New South Books, and Regions Bank, just to name a few.

“We had big names here today and names that were probably less known, but we hope to use this festival to give all of these writers an audience and a chance to meet with the public to tell their stories and to share their books,” said Anderson.

Article by Melissa Parker

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