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2015 AJC Decatur Book Festival | News

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2015 AJC Decatur Book Festival

Every Labor Day weekend, the AJC Decatur Book Festival draws tens of thousands of book lovers to the historic Decatur Square. This year's event will feature new tracks, world-class authors and illustrators, and family-friendly festivities, all with the goal of giving attendees an unparalleled experience.

"In our 10th year, the DBF once again features some of the best and brightest writers of the day," AJC DBF Programming Director Philip Rafshoon said. "This year, we have an unbelievable array of rising literary stars, festival favorites, heroes and literary icons."

The first-ever AJC Decatur Book Festival was held in 2006, and welcomed more than 100 authors and 50,000 visitors to downtown Decatur. The event has only grown since then, becoming "a significant part of the nationwide landscape," according to co-founder and executive director Daren Wang.

One of the festival's most familiar faces debuted in 2009. Bookzilla, official mascot of the AJC DBF, can be seen leading the book parades and roaming the Decatur Square. With his oddly shaped head (which looks remarkably like a book) and his signature cry of "BOOOOOOOOK!" Bookzilla is something of a celebrity in Decatur, and is beloved by residents and visitors both young and old.

The 2015 AJC DBF kicks off Friday, Sept. 4, with both the kidnote and keynote addresses. The fun will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. In addition to talks and appearances by more than 600 writers, the festival will feature performances from Serenbe Playhouse, the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, 7 Stages, Georgia State University, Spelman College and Georgia Perimeter College, among others.

Learn more about the AJC Decatur Book Festival


Author Erica Jong will deliver the AJC Decatur Book Festival keynote address Friday, Sept. 4, at 8 p.m., at Emory University's Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. The event sold out a few hours after tickets became available.

Jong burst onto the literary scene in 1973 with her novel Fear of Flying, which established her as a prominent voice in the sexual and feminist revolutions. She is the author of more than 20 books, including Fear of Dying, a sequel to the novel that made her famous.

Jong, 73, will be accompanied on stage by author Roxane Gay, whose works include essay collection Bad Feminist and novel An Untamed State. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey will also read her new poem, "Meditation at Decatur Square," during the keynote address.

"I've wanted to ask Natasha Trethewey to write a poem for the festival for year, but never had the nerve," Wang said. "When we hit year 10, I knew it was now or never. To have her open this festival with this poem -- I wouldn't have dreamt it 10 years ago."

Trethewey is among the notable American writers who have given the AJC DBF keynote address. Past speakers include Joyce Carol Oates (2014), Rep. John Lewis (2013) and Charles Frazier (2007).

Before Jong, Gay and Trethewey take the stage, Judy Schachner will deliver the "kidnote" address Friday at 5 p.m., at Decatur High School's Performing Arts Center. Schachner is the creator of the Skippyjohn Jones picture books. She will launch a new character, Dewey Bob, during the festival.

Dr. Kent and Amber Brantly: Dr. Kent Brantly, the first American Ebola patient, and wife Amber wrote Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic. Brantly famously contracted the deadly virus while working for Samaritan's Purse in Liberia. He was treated at Emory University Hospital. Called for Life details Dr. Brantly's work in Africa, his illness and the decisions that led to his eventual recovery. AJC Editor Kevin Riley will moderate a discussion with Kent and Amber Brantly Saturday, Sept. 5 at 12:30 p.m., at First Baptist Church of Decatur Sanctuary.

Libba Bray: Bray has authored many popular young adult novels, including Beauty Queens, Going Bovine and the Gemma Doyle Trilogy. She won the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature. Her latest book, Lair of Dreams, is the second installment in her The Diviners series. Bray will appear on the Teen Stage Saturday, Sept. 5 at 12 p.m.

Pat Conroy: Atlanta native Conroy, author of The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, will co-host a discussion with civil rights activist Jonathan Odell on fictionalizing true stories. "All Stories are True, Some Even Happened" will be moderated by Conroy's agent, Marly Rusoff. Conroy and Odell will appear at the First Baptist Decatur Sanctuary Sunday, Sept. 6 at 1:15 p.m.

Cat Cora: The first and only female Iron Chef on Food Network's "Iron Chef America," Cora is now Executive Chef of Bon Appé​tit magazine. In her new memoir, Cooking as Fast as I Can, she reminisces on her Greek upbringing in Mississippi, the solace she found in cooking and the realities of being a lesbian in the Deep South. Cora will appear on the Food & Cooking Stage Saturday, Sept. 5 at 1:45 p.m.

Drew Daywalt: Daywalt is the author of the bestselling children's book The Day the Crayons Quit. He recently published a follow up, The Day the Crayons Came Home. Daywalt will lead the festival's kick-off parade Saturday morning. He will appear on the Children's Stage Saturday, Sept. 5 at 10 a.m.

Josh Levs: Investigative journalist Levs has written a book for the modern dad. All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses -- And How We Can Fix It Together combines Levs' experiences as both a reporter and a father of three to explore the daily struggle with work-life balance and ways to make a change. Levs will appear at Marriott Conference Center B Sunday, Sept. 6 at 5 p.m.

Sara Paretsky: Paretsky, creator of private eye V.I. Warshawski, was named 2011 Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and has also received the Carter Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award from the Crime Writers' Association (U.K.). Brush Back, her latest novel, has V.I. attempting to take down corrupt Chicago politicians while helping an old flame exonerate his murderer mother. Paretsky will appear at the Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary Saturday, Sept. 5 at 1:45 p.m.

Ron Rash: Rash was a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for his novel Serena, which was made into a movie starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. He is also the author of One Foot in Eden, The World Made Straight and short story collection Nothing Gold Can Stay. He will launch his newest novel, Above the Waterfall -- the story of a sheriff battling poverty and meth in a small Appalachian town -- at the AJC DBF. Rash will appear at the Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary Saturday, Sept. 5 at 12:30 p.m.

The 2015 AJC DBF will offer a brand new track. Personal Journeys gathers local, regional and national writers and journalists to offer insights into nonfiction and memoir. It is named for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's long-form narrative feature.

"We love what the Journal-Constitution has done with the Personal Journeys features and we believe that festival-goers who are fans of nonfiction will find these writers and panel discussions engrossing and illuminating," Rafshoon said.

Contributors to the first-ever Personal Journeys track include:

* Elizabeth Alexander, the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University, who wrote "Praise Song for the Day" for President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration. Alexander's memoir, The Light of the World, explores the unexpected journey for meaning and acceptance she took in the wake of her husband's sudden death.

* Alan Gee, an associate professor of English at Georgia College and State University. His essay collection, My Chinese-America, details how Asian-Americans view themselves in modern society.

* Sarah Hepola, the personal essays editor at Salon.com. She wrote Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget about her battle with alcoholism.

Learn more about Personal Journeys

The Atlanta History Center will sponsor a brand new History Track with a variety of discussions on both American and world history topics. Scheduled talks include "Prohibition in America: Temperance, Tiger Kings & White Lightning;" "American Apostles: When Evangelicals Entered the World of Islam;" and "The Year of Fear: Machine Gun Kelly and the Manhunt That Changed the Nation."

Learn more about the History Track


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