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Alum Holly Lange Heads Up Second Annual Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson

by Web on August 18, 2016

Holly Lange grew to appreciate Mississippi’s sense of place and its rich literary heritage as a student at Millsaps College.

Lange, B.A. 1991, volunteered at the first Texas Book Festival in 1995 and years later pushed to organize a similar event in Mississippi.

Lange joined with John Evans, owner of Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson, and other literacy advocates in 2013 to establish the nonprofit that produces the Mississippi Book Festival. Jean Medley, B.A. 1968, a Millsaps trustee, and Scott Naugle, M.L.S. 1999, are among members of the festival’s board of directors.

The Mississippi Book Festival became a reality last year and was an overwhelming success. The one-day event featured 103 authors in 22 panel discussions, plus 60 self-published authors and 15 exhibitors. The festival attracted 3,700 attendees and 200 volunteers, and untold numbers watched live on C-SPAN.

“Officials from C-SPAN told me they’d never been to a book festival where every room was filled with people wall to wall,” recalled Lange, a professional event planner, fundraiser, and community volunteer who also serves as executive director of the Mississippi Book Festival.

Lange is gearing up for the second Mississippi Book Festival, scheduled Aug. 20 from 9 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. at the Mississippi State Capitol. The event is free and open to the public.

The festival will feature over 150 authors in more than 30 panel discussions, live interviews, and book signings. Authors featured on panels have had a book published within the last calendar year.

An Authors Alley where more than 70 authors and artists will sell their recent books, a Kids Corner with children’s activities, and exhibits from the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Learning Lab, the Mississippi Library Commission, the Center for the Book, and the Mississippi Department of Education will also be part of the festival. So will tours of the Old Capitol, which was recently renovated.

Millsaps College will be an exhibitor in support of the festival.

Dr. Rob Pearigen, president of Millsaps College, will lead “A Conversation with Richard Ford,” which is sponsored by Mississippi Humanities Council as part of the Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative.  That conversation is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. in Room 113 of the State Capitol.

Authors who will be featured on panels who have ties to Millsaps are Kiese Laymon, who attended Millsaps in the mid-1990s; John Griffin Jones, who attended Millsaps in the mid-1970s; John Hailman, B.A. 1965; Joseph Reiff, B.A. 1976; Ellen Gilchrist, B.A. 1967; Jim Woodrick, B.A. 1985; and Taylor Kitchings, who attended in the mid-1970s. Betsy Bradley, B.A. 1984, and Scott Naugle, M.L.S. 1999, will serve as moderators for two panels.

W. Ralph Eubanks, the Eudora Welty Professor of Southern Studies at Millsaps College, will serve as moderator for a panel featuring authors who have written about civil rights history, and he will also be a member of the panel of authors that will discuss “The Mississippi Experience.”

Jon Meacham, presidential history, Pulitzer Prize recipient, and a friend of the College, will join former U.S. Senator Trent Lott on a panel about “The Presidential Year.” Meacham spoke at Millsaps in 2010 during the inauguration of Pearigen as president.

Elee Reeves, B.B.A. 1997 and M.B.A. 2001, will introduce children’s author Kate DiCamillo, and Reeves’ daughters will pass out DiCamillo’s books during a special event for 750 third graders that is in conjunction with the festival.

“Mississippi has contributed so much to American literature, and it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate the accomplishments of our state’s authors,” Lange said. “The festival will be jam-packed with much to do for participants of all ages.”

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