Staff Picks: Word of South Festival

by Southeast Review staff

word of south

Tallahassee’s second annual Word of South Festival is a celebration of literature and music and the connections between the two. At this festival, which is being held this weekend, April 8-10, in Cascades Park, you’ll find musicians who write books, authors who write about music, and combined performances by musicians and authors. Don’t miss out on this unique literary event! To help you decide what to see and do at Word of South this weekend, a few of our staff members have suggested events to attend  (in some cases, more than one). You can also access the full Word of South Festival schedule here.


Hector Mojena, Business and Promotions Manager: A Conversation with 2016 FL Book Award Winners
Saturday, 12:15pm3:15pm, Korean War Memorial Stage

Sit in on a “A Conversation with 2016 FL Book Award Winners,” and hear addresses from Bruce Thomason, Susan Cerulean, Andres Andreu, and FSU’s own Brandi George (Brandi is also a former editor of The Southeast Review!). They’ll be sharing their own approaches to writing fiction and nonfiction, as well advice for those looking to enter into the competitive world of publishing.


Kelsey Satalino, Assistant Online Editor: Diane Roberts
Saturday, 1:30pm–2:45pm, Korean War Memorial Stage

If you haven’t read Diane Roberts’ latest book, Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America (2015), you’re missing out on a hilarious and thought-provoking look at American football culture from a die-hard football fan. To give you a taste of Roberts’ humorous yet incisive writing, she at one point describes football as “a bad boyfriend: you hate that he’s so right wing, his table manners embarrass you, and you don’t want your mother to meet him, but damn, he’s so fine and makes you feel so good (when he isn’t making you feel so bad), you just can’t help yourself.” Tell me you don’t want to pick that book up right now. (If you do, you’re lying.) She’s also one of FSU’s own Professors of Creative Writing and Literature. Roberts’ writing will grip you right away, so you won’t want to miss the chance to hear her read this weekend. Can’t wait until Saturday? In the meantime, you can read SER’s interview with Roberts here.


Ramsey Mathews, Assistant Production Editor: Rob Roberge
Saturday, 2:30pm–3:45pm, Edison Innovation Hall Stage

One of my first writing classes a dozen years ago was with Rob Roberge. His fiction blends personal tragedy, love, alcoholism, loss, criminal behavior, addiction, redemption, and recovery. This sounds like your life. Right? Need someone to talk to? Rob is great one-on-one. Drop by and have a chat.


Eric Schlich, Creative Nonfiction Editor & Production Editor: Lauren Groff
Saturday, 3:45pm4:45pm, Edison Biergarten Stage

Lauren Groff’s latest, Fates and Furies, is a novel about a marriage of secrets. Groff’s previous novels, The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia, are hard acts to follow and F&F does not disappoint. If you have a chance to read the book before coming to hear Groff read, it would be well worth it. The novel’s structure is unique: it hinges in the middle, featuring a significant shift in perspective from Fates (the husband, Lotto) to Furies (the wife, Mathilde) with the comments of a Greek chorus sprinkled in both parts. Although much of the book takes place in New York, Groff currently lives in Gainesville, and Florida makes its appearance: Lotto’s childhood takes place in Hamlin, Florida, and his mother, Antoinette, performs as one of the mermaids at Weeki Wachee.


Emily Faison, Online Editor: Ravi Howard
Saturday, 4:00pm–5:00pm, Edison Innovation Hall Stage

Ravi Howard’s fictionalized histories, Like Trees, Walking and Driving the King, vividly bring the 1981 lynching of an American Black teenager and the life of Nat King Cole into the contemporary moment. With the authority of a historian and the razor-sharp authenticity of a storyteller, Howard makes the tumult of racial tensions, violence, and even celebrity accessible, but not easy. Heartbreaking, empowering, and incredibly important, Howard’s work both evokes and provokes. You won’t want to miss Ravi Howard.


Maari Carter,Assistant Poetry Editor: Erin Belieu
Saturday, 5:006:00pm, Figg Bridge Stage

Into the world came a soul named Erin Belieu, author of four collections of poetry, all from Copper Canyon Press: Infanta (1995), One Above & One Below (2000), Black Box (2006), and Slant Six (2014).  She is the director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University, but forever a Nebraskian loyalist- though, Nebraska keeps trying to break up with her. Belieu’s poems have appeared in numerous magazines, including The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and Tin House, among many more. Along with the poet Cate Marvin, she founded VIDA, a national literary organization dedicated to bringing attention to gender bias in literary publishing. Belieu will be appearing with the Wilmington, NC based band Fatesealer on the Figg Bridge Stage at the Word of South Festival in Cascades Park at 5:00 pm on Saturday April 9th. It’s an event you won’t want to miss.


Erin Hoover: Editor in Chief: Erin Belieu / Fatesealer
Saturday, 5:006:00pm, Figg Bridge Stage

How else could you possibly want to spend your Saturday evening? Dwight Garner, in his New York Times review of poet Erin Belieu’s most recent poetry collection, Slant Six, called Belieu “a comedian of the human spirit.” Fatesealer, meanwhile, has been compared to Sonic Youth and Shellac, which everyone knows are very good bands.  I have no idea how Belieu and Fatesealer plan to combine forces, but this promises to be one incredible hour that Cascades Park will never forget.  This also happens to be the only event at Word of South featuring a member of our masthead—Keith Kopka, our poetry editor, plays bass for Fatesealer.  


Keith Kopka: Poetry Editor: Fatesealer
Saturday, 5:00pm6:00pm, Figg Bridge Stage

So I’m not just saying that you should go see Fatesealer because I am the bass player in this particular band, but I also figured that it would be dishonest not to mention this fact up front. I think we’re pretty good. Plus, who doesn’t like to root for an underdog? See you there!


Emily Faison, Online Editor: Brenda Shaughnessy
Sunday, 1:45pm–3:00pm, Edison Innovation Hall Stage

With maternal badassery, Shaughnessy contemplates the strangeness of family with lines like “I’ll go anywhere to leave you but come with me.” Both yearning for and rejecting intimacy, Shaughnessy’s poems associate motherhood with “what I used to call / possibilities” and ask for sisters that are no more than “alternate me’s, all the ways / I could have gone.” Equally constricting and liberating, Brenda Shaughnessy’s poetry will leave you feeling somewhat upside-down, breathless and exhilarated.


Eric Schlich, Creative Nonfiction Editor & Production Editor: Adam Johnson
Sunday, 3:15pm–4:00pm, Edison Biergarten Stage

If you pass up the chance to see the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master’s Son, you’re plain crazy. Adam Johnson’s recent collection of stories, Fortune Smiles, winner of the National Book Award, does not shy away from difficult subject matter. The hardest-to-read (and therefore most rewarding) stories in Fortune Smiles craft empathy not for victims, but offenders: a dead-beat dad in the wake of Katrina (“Hurricanes Anonymous”), a pedophile resisting temptation (“Dark Meadow”), and a Stasi prison warden grappling with guilt (“George Orwell Was a Friend of Mine”). These stories make the reader feel uncomfortable in the best possible way. After all, no one is the villain in their own story.