The air inside the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center was intoxicating Saturday as people moved about the South Carolina Book Festival. Authors and fans mingled amongst each other with a level of enthusiasm and support that unmatched at any such festival in the country. I sat down with Marjory Wentworth, South Carolina’s Poet Laureate to chat about this special weekend and asked her a few questions about what makes this event so special.
Q: Why do you love coming back to the South Carolina Book Festival each year?
I love seeing a lot of friends whom I don’t get to see otherwise, like Jackie Cooper, who is a wonderful journalist and writer, and Ron Rash, who is wonderful, and so many other writers who participate each year. It’s like a an annual reunion.
Q: What is it that makes this festival special or unique?
There are so many fantastic writers in South Carolina in all genres — look at the national scene — we have National Book Award winners, New York Times best sellers … Pat Conroy is one of the country’s great writers and such a generous spirit. It’s a wonderful group who loves to support one another. Anyone can come meet writers and talk to them. [This event] reaches a lot of people. It’s a wonderful showcase for writers and for the people of this state.
Whenever other [from out of state] writers come in for the festival, they can’t believe everything that goes on here. Everybody wants to be invited to the South Carolina Book Festival. It’s fun, incredibly well done, and flawless thanks to South Carolina Humanities Council
assistant director Paula Watkins.
Q: Do you feel that South Carolina has a special sense of storytelling?
It really is a Southern thing, isn’t it? It’s a good thing. South Carolina has so much material that has to do with history and family. There are many different styles, but if you look at the sweep of poems, there’s a passion for the history and landscape that is present. I once worked with a composer from Omaha during the Spoleto Festival
and he kept saying, “Everything is so old here!” It really rubs off on you, and it’s a great thing to work with as a creative person.
Q: Today you are reading on a panel of authors who contributed to “Literary Dogs and Their South Carolina Writers.” Can you tell me about that collaboration and other work you have done with fellow South Carolinians?
A: I’ve known Betsey Teter and John Lane of Hub City Press for a long time. We’ve had a great time with this book. Christopher Dickey, James Dickey’s son who is a prolific journalist, contributed to the book. He came [from Paris] to one of the readings and brought his dog, which was so much fun. Ron Rash contributed an essay about his dog, who has bitten eight people!
I’ve also worked with other South Carolina writers on “Seeking,”
also on “Seven Strong.”
I also have an essay in “State of the Heart,”
which I’ll be speaking about today.
Q: So, South Carolina really has a special community of writers, then?
Poets and writers just can’t get over it. If you have a book come out, everybody has a party for you. It’s so wonderful and supportive, and I don’t see that as much in other states. It’s a wonderful community here.
There is still time to attend the South Carolina Book Festival, as it runs through Sunday, May 19, at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center
. All events are free. For more information, please visit scbookfestival.org