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Inaugural Deckle Edge Literary Festival to honor traditions and forge new ground

Note: One Columbia for Arts and History received a South Carolina Arts Commission Quarterly Grant to help support the Deckle Edge Literary Festival. The inaugural Deckle Edge Literary Festival, taking place Feb. 19 – 21 in Columbia, S.C., features readings, book signings, panel presentations, exhibitors, writers’ workshops, activities for children and young adult readers, and a range of other literary events for many interests and all ages. Events take place in or near downtown Columbia, and many events are free. A sample of events: Friday, Feb. 19

  • 1 - 2 p.m.: Top 20 "Outside the Box" Book Marketing Ideas, Shari Stauch, $30 per person, Historic Columbia's Woodrow Wilson Family Home
  • 2 - 3 p.m.: Plotting Strategies for Short Stories, Novels, and Plays, $30 per person, Paula Gail Benson, Historic Columbia's Woodrow Wilson Family Home
  • 7 p.m.: Opening Night Celebration - Concert and Burlesque Show, Columbia Museum of Art, $10
Saturday, Feb. 20
  • 9 - 10 a.m.: S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Workshop for Kids, free, presented by The Watering Hole Poetry Organization, Tapp's Art Center
  • 11 a.m. - noon: Hub City Press Executive Director Betsy Teter moderates a panel of First Novel Prize winners Matt Matthews, James E. McTeer and Susan Tekulve, Columbia Museum of Art
  • 3:30 - 4:30 p.m.: Conversation with Southern Superstar Mary Alice Monroe, Columbia Museum of Art
Sunday, Feb. 21
  • 9 - 10:15 a.m.: Overcoming Creative Anxiety: 5 Steps to Jumpstart Your Writing & Remain Calm, Cassie Premo-Steele, $30 per person, location TBA
  • 1 - 2:30 p.m.: Writing and Healing with Ed Madden, $30 per person, Historic Columbia's Seibels House
  • 3 - 4 p.m.: IndieSC Launch - Calling all indie authors and aspiring writers in S.C! Presentation of free self-publishing platform by the South Carolina State Library, Columbia Museum of Art
View the full schedule online. Read a Free Times article about the festival. While Deckle Edge has its roots in the storied tradition of South Carolina’s literary life, festival organizers are committed to forging new ground and hope to appeal to regional and national audiences while remaining a community-focused effort. Festival partners make up an extensive network of South Carolina literary and cultural organizations, including Richland Library, the University of South Carolina PressHub City Writers Project, the S.C. Center for Children’s Books & LiteracyEd Madden and the Columbia Office of the Poet LaureateSouth Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth, the Low Country Initiative for Literary ArtsJasper Magazine, Richland County schools, and others. Deckle Edge is built on the strong foundation of the South Carolina Book Festival, a project of the Humanities CouncilSC , which announced the festival’s dissolution this past summer. The Humanities CouncilSC is now actively pursuing a variety of year-round statewide literary initiatives and has been supportive of the plans for Deckle Edge as a new literary event to be hosted in Columbia. “The S.C. Book Festival was a tremendous gift to readers and writers in the South, and we’re grateful to the Humanities CouncilSC for sharing their expertise with us as we create something new,” said Deckle Edge co-chair Darien Cavanaugh. “We would not have been able to move so quickly on launching Deckle Edge without their guidance and good will.” In addition to local talent, the festival will highlight a handful of New York Times bestselling authors from the Carolinas, beloved favorites from past S.C. Book Festivals, and many voices not previously heard from at South Carolina literary events. “This is Columbia’s literary festival,” said Deckle Edge co-chair Annie Boiter-Jolley, “but it’s also joining the larger conversation about literature of and in the South. We look forward to sharing our vision with writers and readers, and to hearing from them as to what Deckle Edge might become in future years.” Via: Deckle Edge Literary Festival

Lowcountry literary group offers new programs for writers and prisoners

Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts partners with the South Carolina Arts Commission to produce the Region Three Poetry Out Loud finals. From the Charleston City Paper:
When poets Marjory Wentworth and Carol Ann Davis founded the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts (LILA) 10 years ago, they wanted to do more than just host book signings and poetry readings. They wanted to create an organization that would nurture Charleston's literary culture in every sense — supporting writers, reaching out to readers, and sharing the written word with Charleston's larger community. Initially, Wentworth and Davis envisioned doing that by setting up a community writing center with workshops and literary events for the general public and quiet writing space for working poets and writers. Although the writing center never materialized, LILA has had a broad influence on the local artistic and educational community. The group sends poets into local schools to work with students, hosts workshops with experienced writers, and, of course, presents plenty of book signings and poetry readings. They've even worked with local authors to offer literary tours in Europe. This year, however, things are a little different. For one thing, LILA has hired its first executive director, Deborah Bernard, who is also the group's first paid employee (albeit part-time for now). "I am thrilled about our new executive director," Wentworth says. "She is a lifesaver, and she's already moving the organization in new directions." Bernard is a former writing and history teacher who moved to Charleston in early 2013. "After we moved, I began to look for ways to serve the community," Bernard says. "[Author and LILA board member] Mary Ann Henry introduced me to LILA. I joined the board, but we then saw that I could serve them better as executive director." Bernard officially took her post as leader of the organization in July and is working on tightening the nuts and bolts of the group, with the goal of expanding LILA's fundraising capacity. "Right now we're working on doing some strategic planning and applying for 501(c)3 status," she says. "We have some great vision priorities in place. We're looking at financial resources, and as we continue to establish our goals, we'll be in a better place to know what kind of fundraising we want." At the same time, Bernard remains deeply committed to LILA's programming. Starting in September, the organization launched two new programs that are reaching into different communities. The first is a series of writing groups for local writers covering all genres, from sci-fi and romance to non-fiction and journalism. Held monthly beginning in September, the groups are open to all writers, novice and professional, who want to connect with other wordsmiths and are looking for constructive feedback on their work. The second is an educational initiative at the Leeds Avenue Pre-Release Center, a state Department of Corrections facility that helps prisoners prepare for re-integration into society through work training, rehabilitation, and education. LILA is hosting two separate writing classes, one on nonfiction called "Writing Your Own Life Story" and another on poetry. LILA has offered poetry classes at the Pre-Release Center before, so there was already something of a working relationship between the two entities. That first poetry program was instituted several years ago by LILA co-founder Davis (Davis, who taught at the College of Charleston, moved to Connecticut in 2012). These classes, however, were organized by Henry, who's relatively new to the LILA board — she's only been a member since March. She wanted to find a way to expand LILA's reach into an underserved community. "The idea of starting another program for inmates seemed natural," she says. She got in touch with the center's warden, Mildred Hudson, who was enthusiastic about the program and put Henry in touch with her volunteer coordinator, Doris Edwards. Over the next couple of months, Edwards and Henry worked to put the classes in place, tapping journalist (and longtime City Paper columnist) Will Moredock and poet Richard Garcia as teachers. Moredock, who's known for his writing on politics, poverty, and race, has some experience with the prison system — he has corresponded with an inmate on death row since 1984. Since then, he's worked with the inmate, John, on his writing skills. Moredock also used to teach at the College of Charleston, so between the two experiences, he says, he felt comfortable agreeing to teach the class. The first session took place Sept. 16 with six students. "These are not hardened criminals," Moredock says. "I don't know what they're in for, but most of them — maybe all of them — work jobs during the day and report back to the Pre-Release Center and spend the night." His goal for the class is pretty simple: help his students deal with whatever issues they might have rattling around in their heads. "We all have our demons and our burdens, and some people drink, some people go to church, some people go to shrinks, and some people write," Moredock says. "If this is going to help them, they will have spent their time well and so will I." Henry, as the program organizer, sees things from a broader standpoint. "As a writing teacher, I know what can happen when an emerging writer first discovers his or her voice. They connect with something authentic within themselves," she says. "Once a writer makes that connection, no amount of poverty or legal or cultural issues can take it away ... Writing can be restorative. It's not for everyone. But if you're essentially wired to connect to the world — to interpret the world — through written expression, small miracles can happen," she says. Henry hopes that at least some of the students will continue to write once they leave the class and prison behind and remain involved with LILA as civilian men and women. It's that kind of hope which reveals an integral element of LILA's belief system: the literary arts belong to everyone, from the scholar to the casual reader to the disenfranchised. Davis and Wentworth always envisioned LILA as offering writing programs related to social justice, Wentworth says, and Henry feels similarly. "I think that each of us has a responsibility to take whatever talent we have and share it with the world in some way," she says. "I believe it's part of what we're supposed to be doing, you know, rather than just taking up oxygen."

Nine high school students advance to state Poetry Out Loud finals

Congratulations to the finalists in South Carolina's 2012-2013 Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest! All nine students advance to the March 16 state finals to compete for South Carolina's spot in the Poetry Out Loud national finals and a shot at a $20,000 scholarship. Region 1: Upstate

  • Ashley Kiley, Crescent High School, Anderson County
  • Ashley Tisdale, Spartanburg Day School, Spartanburg County
  • Justin Fox, Spartanburg High School, Spartanburg County
Region 2: Midlands
  • Brandon Ellison, Ridge View High School, Richland County
  • Kynnedi McManus, Strom Thurmond High School, Edgefield County
  • Jada Daniels, Westwood High School, Richland County
Region 3: Lowcountry
  • Sarah Moody, Ashley Hall, Charleston County
  • Katherine Murchison, Charleston County School of the Arts, Charleston County
  • Whitaker Gannon, Hilton Head Preparatory, Beaufort County
Students participated in one of three regional competitions held in Spartanburg, Sumter, and Charleston Jan. 12-13. The state finals will be held March 16 at the Columbia Museum of Art, and the state champion will compete in the national finals April 29-30 in Washington, D.C. Poetry Out Loud, a program created in 2005 by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, builds on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement. Students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage while gaining an appreciation of poetry. Last year more than 365,000 students nationwide competed. The winner received a $20,000 scholarship. The South Carolina Arts Commission works with several partners to produce Poetry Out Loud in South Carolina: the Columbia Museum of Art, the South Carolina Department of Education, South Carolina ETV Radio's “Speaking of Schools” Program with Doug Keel, Hub City Writers Project (Upstate) the Sumter County Cultural Commission and the University of South Carolina Sumter Division of Arts and Letters (Midlands), and the College of Charleston School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts (Lowcountry). For more information, visit the South Carolina Arts Commission's website, the national Poetry Out Loud website, or contact Frances Kablick Keel.