Mississippi Book Festival

Mississippi’s Literary Lawn Party

On August 21 I will again be a panelist at the Mississippi Book Festival in my hometown, Jackson, Mississippi. This will be my third time, and it’s always a fabulous event. Don’t you love the artwork (above) for this year’s poster done by Mississippi artist Adrienne Brown-David. I’ve ordered a print to frame.

“Familiar Voices”

I’m always curious about how the panels are put together by the amazing festival committee each year, and the titles they come up with for each panel. Each of the authors on the panel are from Mississippi, so I guess that’s what makes our voices “familiar,” but our characters are pretty diverse. The common thread seems to be how the characters (fictional in two of the books and real in one) reach across the cultural divide in times of need, or because of shared interests, like literature and music. Each book features African American and White characters.

Marshall Ramsey, Moderator

I’m so excited that Marshall Ramsey will be the moderator for our panel. As editor-at-large for Mississippi Today, Marshall interviews people from many walks of life, sharing Mississippi’s multi-cultural quilt of people in the literary, political, athletic, and artistic arenas. I was honored to be interviewed by Marshall on May 26. You can watch the interview here. Marshall is also an award-winning cartoonist, a cancer survivor, and a marathon runner!

Johnnie Bernhard

How serendipitous that Johnnie Bernhard and I have been placed on this panel together! Why? We first met at the inaugural Mississippi Book Festival in 2017, where were on a panel together. We had an immediate friendship, which has only grown closer since then. In 2020 I invited Johnnie to be on a panel I was moderating for the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Professionals) Conference in San Antonio, and we had a great time together there.  Johnnie asked me to write a blurb for her latest book, Sisters of the Undertow. Here’s the blurb:

Johnnie Bernhard has woven a vivid cautionary tale in Sisters of the Undertow, combining the beautiful language of literary fiction with a page-turning narrative. Following a family’s story in Houston from the 1960s to 2005, she delivers the “lucky” and “unlucky” plights of a gifted girl and her special needs sister. Bernhard delivers on a deeply researched novel, writing with authority about the broken characters who face bullying, sexual assault, PTSD, homelessness, and limited intellectual capacities. She weaves complicated spiritual issues throughout the story, challenging her readers to examine their own views.

William H. Morris, Jr.

I met Bill Morris in Oxford a number of years ago when he was signing his first book, Ole Miss at Oxford. What I didn’t realize then was that this successful Mississippi businessman knew my father, Bill Johnson, because they were both in the insurance business. (Just had to slip in that “the South is a small world” story.)

So when I learned that we would be on this panel together, I immediately checked out his recent book, This Magic Moment. What a fascinating story of friendships forged, again, across the racial divide, and lasting to and beyond the grave for the African American musicians with whom Bill became friends. I can’t wait to hear Bill talk about this book during our panel!

John and Mary Margaret

If you follow my blog, you already know all about my latest book John and Mary Margaret. But if you’re new here, here’s a short blurb about the book:

John and Mary Margaret is a rare insider’s look into the white privilege bubble of a young girl growing up in Jackson, Mississippi and participating in sorority life on the Ole Miss campus in the late 1960s. But it’s also a candid portrayal of a young Black boy from Memphis who follows his dream to study law at the predominantly white university. What happens when their shared love for literature blossoms into an ill-fated romance? Spanning five decades of historical civil rights events in Mississippi and Memphis, John and Mary Margaret’s story will challenge the status quo and give us another opportunity to examine our history and our hearts.

Examining Our History and Our Hearts

So that’s what we are going to do on this panel at the Mississippi Book Festival on August 21: examine our history and our hearts. And tell some great stories in the process. Please join us! If you can’t make it to Jackson for the Festival, check the festival website later. C-Span records some of the events, and hopefully our panel will be archived.