You’re no stranger to the fact that keeping up with Durham’s accolades could easily be a full-time job. But our city’s biggest accomplishment comes not in the national recognition of our food culture, the praise for our area’s livability, or even our rising fame as a destination town.
Our best quality is what has led to each of these accomplishments: nobody loves Durham like Durhamites. We are ferocious supporters of one another. We sing the praises of local chefs, local farms, local boutiques, and local bookstores … which leads me to an area we’ve yet to fully celebrate: our thriving literary ecosystem.
The number of writers, illustrators, bloggers, book clubs, and even small presses that call our area home is astounding. Yet, in a city that thrives on festivals and celebrations, we haven’t come together as a town to honor our literary culture. Until now.
On May 15-17, an impressive cross section of our area’s literary minds and bookish professionals will converge on Downtown for the Read Local Book Festival, presented by Light Messages Publishing and Durham Public Library. The motive is simple: we want to raise money for Durham Library Foundation while celebrating our literary ecosystem.
The principles of a healthy ecosystem are fairly universal. To thrive, an ecosystem needs diversity with each member fulfilling a specific role. And our area’s literary ecosystem is no different. That’s why at Read Local, you’ll find self-published authors like Felicia Jamison and Leah Ward alongside emerging authors such as Elizabeth Hein, Carl Nordgren, and Samantha Bryant and household names like Jaki Shelton Greene, Monica Byrne, and Dasan Ahanu. You’ll also find your favorite local booksellers, up-and-coming illustrators, and several small presses.
In addition to a diverse population, the ecosystem depends on its environment for nourishment and space. That’s where you come in. Read Local gives the space, but we need you to provide the nourishment. These talented artists need readers to feed their creativity and encourage them to keep on in what is a deeply personal, vulnerable vocation.
You’ll have the opportunity to see some of our most talented cookbook authors and chefs at work with live demos and samples at the kick-off Cookbook Rodeo hosted by Beltline Station on Friday.
You’ll combine our city’s two favorite pastimes on Saturday evening – reading and eating – with the multi-course Buffet of Authors events hosted at The Pit, Basan, and Little Dipper. (Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance for this event, so reserve yours online at readlocalnc.org.)
You’ll dive into learning with two workshops on Saturday morning – one for adults and one for children – at Durham County’s Main Library.
You’ll immerse yourself at Sunday’s pinnacle event: the free Exhibitor Fair at Durham Central Park, where more than 60 writers, booksellers, publishers, and other bookish professionals will line up to get to know you. Highlights include panel discussions, a Downtown Stage, a raffle, books for sale, and, of course, food trucks – it wouldn’t be a Durham event without them.
The festivities wrap up at Motorco on Sunday evening with Writers in the Ring, a no-holds-barred competitive writing event where the audience cheers and jeers sentence by sentence.
What started as a simple idea over a year ago has brought together some of area’s brightest literary minds in a beautiful celebration. But I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, we do live in Durham.
Elizabeth Turnbull is the senior editor at Light Messages Publishing and the chair of the Read Local Book Festival.
For more info
For details about the three-day festival, go to www.readlocalnc.org/festival/