Chapel Hill was the center of literary activity this weekend with the libraries of UNC, Duke, NCSU, NCCU, and the NC State Library hosting the biennial NC Literary Festival on the campus of UNC. Four days with 63 sessions, usually a panel of 2-3 writers, three keynotes by nationally known writers, two days of children’s programs, and three entertainment events drew hundreds of people in the beautiful fall sunshine to shop in the bookseller’s tents and to sit in the multiple sessions. The keynote sessions in Memorial Hall were sell-outs.
I haven’t seen anything of this scope outside of the folk life festival that the Smithsonian sponsors on the National Mall in DC. The crowds were larger, the events were better organized, and the enthusiasm was greater than any previous literary festival that I have attended. I was struck by the wide range in ages, backgrounds, and interests not only of the writers who came from all over the country, but also by the families and children and the really holiday atmosphere of the place. I didn’t think you could draw this big a crowd or energy outside of an ACC football game.
The festival was well advertised and attended, and since all of the events were free the long list of sponsors obviously had to pony up some big bucks to put on this big shebang — the tents alone must have cost a fortune. I only had time to attend a few sessions and money only to buy one book, but I think I was in the minority. A lot of writers live in North Carolina or are from North Carolina or write about North Carolina.