New Greensboro literary festival isn't your traditional book fest

Nikki Giovanni is the keynote speaker of the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival, which is May 18-20 in downtown Greensboro.
Nikki Giovanni is the keynote speaker of the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival, which is May 18-20 in downtown Greensboro.

"Greensboro Bound: A Literary Festival" is a book lover's dream event.

More than 80 writers will be featured May 18-20 at venues in downtown Greensboro, including novelist Naima Coster; fiction writer and essayist Carmen Maria Machado; children’s book author John Claude Bemis; motivational speaker and bestselling author Daniel H. Pink; and food historian John T. Edge.

Poet and activist Nikki Giovanni will be the keynote speaker.

Greensboro Bound offers about 50 events — readings, panel discussions and craft workshops for children and adults. All events are free, but the Giovanni event is now closed because the venue is at capacity.

Organizers have invited a broad spectrum of participants: undocumented, Muslim, Latinx, LGBTQ, and transgender/gender fluid writers.

“The unofficial theme is why writers matter at this moment in American history," says Deonna Kelli Sayed, a festival coordinator and a Muslim author. "We are a critical moment where it is difficult to have a challenging conversation about identity, citizenship and being and mattering as a nation. We wanted to be diverse and inclusive but not for the sake of tokenism but because diversity is the American reality.”

North Carolina and South Carolina presses, including Unicorn Press of Greensboro, Bull City Press of Durham, Hub City Press of Spartanburg, S.C. and Press 53 of Winston-Salem, also will be featured.

“We’re not the traditional Southern literary festival," says Steve Mitchell, a festival author and member of the organizing committee. "We’re not focused only on Southern writers and books. We are trying to showcase some authors who wouldn’t necessary be showcased at a festival.”

Here are some more festival highlights:

​Carmen Maria Machado, author of “Her Body and Other Parties: Stories,” and finalist for the National Book Award, will have a reading at 2 p.m. May 19.

​A conversation with Greensboro author Michael Parker and Hillsborough author Lee Smith on May 19 at 10 a.m.

Parker is the author of six novels, including “Hello Down There,” “Virginia Lovers,” and “If You Want Me To Stay.” Smith is the author of the memoir, “Dimestore: A Writer’s Life,” along with several novels including “On Agate Hill,” and “The Last Girls.”

​Another interesting conversation to listen in on is author and journalist Beth Macy, who writes about the opioid crisis in her upcoming book, “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America,” talking about reporting from the economic margins of rural America.

​Meanwhile Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, author of “Cenzontle,” and “Children of the Land,” will discuss how hard it is for undocumented poets to receive grant money because of their immigration status.

Mitchell, the co-owner of Scuppernong Books, an independent bookstore in Greensboro, says the festival came to fruition after a customer who had moved from Miami said Greensboro needed a book festival. By mid-2017, a committee of readers, writers, community organizers and business leaders became the nonprofit Greensboro Literary Organization.

“We picked a date and started moving towards that," Mitchell said. "We raised more than $100,000 because one of our commitments was everything be free."

In addition to all the literary events, there will be an opera composed by Guilford County fourth grader Lilly Leach performed by UNC-G staff; a puppet show by author Daniel Wallace and llamas for children to pet at the library.

“We want to create an environment that is joyful,” Sayed says. “That’s how you build community when you are pushing back from a climate of fear.”

Bridgette A. Lacy is a freelance writer. Reach her at


For information about Greensboro Bound: A Literary Festival, go to