Patrick Conroy said it perfectly, “I had a blast!” Over 11,000 Savannah Book Festival visitors also had a blast as they smashed all previous attendance records over the course of the 5-day event that marked the 5th anniversary of the Festival held February 15-19, 2012.
Brad Thor kicked off bibliophile-thon 2012 at a dinner for 200 people on Wednesday, February 15. Walter Isaacson discussed Steve Jobs on Thursday filling 1,100 seats at the Trustees Theater and Pat Conroy dazzled 900 visitors in a packed Trinity Methodist Church and adjacent tent with his side-splitting keynote on Friday evening. Then on Saturday February18 – main Festival day – over 40 authors from around the country spoke at six venues in Telfair Square. On Sunday, in the aftermath of a lightening and thunder storm, Stephen King thrilled a sold-out crowd with his warm, honest and richly informative talk—deliciously laced with humor.
In an encore performance, one of Savannah’s finest, with sirens and lights flashing, pursued King’s get-away car successfully pulling it over for a hand-off of King’s forgotten scoops of ice cream named in his honor I Scream, from the Leopold’s Ice Cream team.
It takes a village—and more—to deliver a spectacular Festival of this magnitude. The components in a partnership of creativity, excellence and execution for Savannah Book Festival 2012 included:
- Savannah Book Festival Board of Directors
- Executive Director Robin Gold
- Over 150 volunteers
- The City of Savannah Department of Cultural Affairs
- The Telfair Museum
- Jepson Center for the Arts
- Trinity Methodist Church
- Sponsors and Supporters
- Media Links including Comcast’s C-SPAN/Book TV
- Blue Voyage Productions
Many others helped weave the Festival’s magic by managing the extensive logistics required to transport over 11,000 people to a place where they could surely lose themselves in books.
The artistically rich venues were the ideal place for the display of Mollie Wright’s original oil painting which encapsulated the Festival’s theme: a Southern gentleman in a suit and hat standing in front of Savannah’s gorgeous Forsyth Park Fountain with his nose in a book. This donated painting raised $1,600 at the silent auction and the artist’s generosity will help keep the Festival free and open to the public in future years.
Comments and Perspectives:
“Love that everything is right there in one place; Love that there are so many local food vendors; Love how well-organized everything and everyone is. Already looking forward to next year.”
Marc Schultz, Southern Correspondent, Editor of the PW Tip Sheet, Publishers Weekly.
“The Savannah Book Festival was even more than we had anticipated when we invited our daughter and husband to drive from St. Louis to attend. To see and hear Pat Conroy, Stephen King, Brad Thor and others was exceeded only by the discovery that one of the speakers we were to hear was Greg Myre, who I had coached in Little League forty years ago. I had lost track of his progress as a foreign correspondent throughout the world, and had no idea that he was now a famous author and a guest speaker at the Book Festival. It was a delightful week for all who attended and one that Savannah has every reason to be proud of. And even more reason to be proud of my former shortstop, a young Greg Myre.”
Ken McKinley, Savannah, GA.
“The Savannah Book Festival is the epitome of southern hospitality. Authors are made to feel like royalty. As Pat Conroy put it, in the South you either become a ‘storyteller or a preacher’. What was clear to us is that Savannah is filled not just with stories and storytellers, but most importantly readers. As an author, it was pure heaven.”
Jennifer Griffin, co-author with Greg Myer of This Burning Land.
“Thank you for letting me be part of the SBF this year. I had a wonderful time and experience. I’ve worked and volunteered at numerous functions/activities. The organization and running of this event was A++. I do hope you’ll keep me in mind for next year as would love to be part of the SBF again.”
Jackie Boylan, Volunteer
Book sales earned a 76% increase over last year due to the great selection of authors and the number of visitors. The Follett Higher Education Group handled the organized and efficient book displays and sales. Howard Taylor, vice president of Eastern Retail Operations congratulated Robin Gold and Stephanie Duttenhaver:
“As you know I travel the East every week visiting over 450 college campuses and see a lot of great events, but the Savannah Book Festival is so special and like NO other. You both and your entire committee should be so proud of what you have built. Keep up the great work and please let me know how we can help make 2013 even bigger and better.”
Twenty of this year’s guest authors participated in the Festival’s community outreach program, SBF@School, sending these prominent authors into public and private high schools, colleges and universities to inspire students. Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation donated funds to supply books for SBF@School.
A Festival volunteer who watched author Craig Johnson interact with Jenkins High School students said, “This guy is the real deal. Anyone who can hold about 70 high school students attention for an hour is the consummate storyteller.” Craig Johnson wrote the Sheriff Longmire crime thrillers. A&E begins production in March for 10 episodes based on Johnson’s novels.
Among other SBF@School speakers: Stephen King thrilled students from Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah State University and Georgia Southern University. Karl Marlantes, author of What It’s Like to Go to War, spoke at Savannah Christian Academy, and Charles Faudree visited Savannah College of Art & Design.
Our visiting authors and their messages exemplify the transformative power of words, story and books. In Stephen King’s 11/22/63, protagonist Jake Epping of Lisbon Falls, Maine reads his GED student’s harrowing essay—it is Jake’s watershed moment—his “… life turning on a dime.”
11/22/63 is a watershed moment in history. We all have individual and collective watershed moments that completely alter our paths and destinies. Books and stories let us experience other lives—walk in someone else’s shoes and be inside his or her head. Readers grow in the process harvesting the diversity of the human experience.
“Books are the prism through which we view ourselves and the world,” wrote Dr. Mark Murphy, a Savannah physician and writer, in a recent commentary in the Savannah Morning News.
Karl Marlantes takes readers to Vietnam and puts us into combat boots in What it is Like To Go To War. It is a call to understand the psychological and spiritual damage to our soldiers and to inspire action in efforts to meet their needs.
Amy Hatvany tackles the emotional underbelly of alcoholism in Best Kept Secret and sends her readers crawling deep inside the pain and angst of the addicted. Hatvany has met people for whom her book has been a watershed moment. Her reading from her latest book Outside the Lines riveted her Neises Auditorium audience.
During the Festival’s five days of events, it is likely there were transformative moments for many—maybe even new paths and destinies initiated.
The book is definitely not dead—and in SBF President Stephanie Duttenhaver’s words at Stephen King’s talk, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Savannah Book Festival has hit the big time.”
The Savannah Book Festival Inc. is an independent, non-profit corporation led by a volunteer board of directors. It is committed to remaining free and open to the public and to celebrating the written word. For more information, please contact Executive Director Robin Gold at (912) 598 4040, email@example.com or visit www.savannahbookfestival.org.