Erica Jong, author of ‘Fear of Flying’ will keynote Decatur Book Festival

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt June 15, 2015
Photo: Jonathan Phillips  Sadie Walker thumbs through a section of children's books during the AJC Decatur Book Festival on Saturday, August 30, 2014.

Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Sadie Walker thumbs through a section of children’s books during the AJC Decatur Book Festival on Saturday, August 30, 2014.

This story has been updated. 

Erica Jong will be the keynote speaker for the 10th annual Decatur Book Festival, organizers announced Monday.

Jong is best known for her book “Fear of Flying,” published in 1973. Jong will participate in a conversation with modern feminist author Roxane Gay, festival organizers said. Jong will be in town to promote her new book, “Fear of Dying,” a sequel to “Fear of Flying.”

According to the Decatur Book Festival, “Jong became a pillar of the sexual revolution and a hero to millions with the publication of ‘Fear of Flying.’ Now 73, she has written more than 20 books, including 10 works of fiction.”

“What a pairing — to have these two literary giants together is going to be a real treat,” DBF Executive Director Daren Wang said in a press release. “It’s hard to overstate her impact, not just on the literary world, but on American culture. More than 40 years have passed since she changed the way we looked at sex and what it means to be a modern woman. Erica Jong opened up a whole new world and Roxane Gay is charting the territory.”

The 10th annual Decatur Book Festival begins on Friday, Sept. 4 and will end on Sunday, Sept. 6.

This year’s festival them is “Read Different,” a campaign to encourage people to read books that are outside of their comfort zone. Like mysteries? Read science fiction. Like science fiction? Read historical nonfiction.

“What I know is we have gotten ourselves into a rut,” Wang said at the DBF launch party on June 15. “We read books that are just like the last books we read.”

He encouraged attendees to, “Try something new.”

“Try something you didn’t like five years ago, but might like now,” Wang said.

Here is the full press release about this year’s festival:

June 15, 2015 (Atlanta) — Novelist Erica Jong, whose ground-breaking book Fear of Flying blew conventionalthinking about women, marriage and sexuality out of the water when it was published in 1973, will be the featured keynote speaker at the 2015 Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival Presented by DeKalb Medical (AJC DBF) from Sept. 4-6, 2015.

Jong will kick off the 10th annual festival on Friday, Sept. 4, at 8 p.m. at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts at Emory University. Provocative author and essayist Roxane Gay will join her on stage in an interview.

Jong became a pillar of the sexual revolution and a hero to millions with the publication of Fear of Flying. Now 73, she has written more than 20 books, including 10 works of fiction. She comes to the AJC DBF for the launch of her new novel Fear of Dying, a sequel to Fear of Flying that is a hilarious, unsparingly honest and heart-wrenching story about what happens when one woman steps reluctantly into the afternoon of life. She questions what it really takes to be human and female in the 21st century.

AJC DBF Executive Director Daren Wang is honored to have Jong as the keynote speaker.

“What a pairing — to have these two literary giants together is going to be a real treat,” Wang said. “It’s hard to overstate her impact, not just on the literary world, but on American culture. More than 40 years have passed since she changed the way we looked at sex and what it means to be a modern woman. Erica Jong opened up a whole new world and Roxane Gay is charting the territory. With the publication of her collection Bad Feminist and her novel An Untamed State, Time Magazine labeled 2014 as ‘The Year of Roxane Gay.’ Having these two powerhouse thinkers and writers together will create a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

AJC DBF Programming Director Philip Rafshoon is proud of the outstanding lineup.

“In our 10th year, the DBF once again features some of the best and brightest writers of the day, enabling our festival-goers to have fresh and relevant experiences,” Rafshoon said. “With the great support of publishers, authors and our own community, we have been able to create another high-powered and unique lineup. This year, we have an unbelievable array of rising literary stars, festival favorites, heroes and literary icons.”

This year’s featured kidnote author will be Judy Schachner, creator of the beloved Skippyjon Jones picture books.The New York Times has referred to Schachner as “something like the James Joyce for the elementary school set,” as her stream-of-consciousness style invites the reader into the head of Skippy, a cat who thinks he is a Chihuahua. She launches a new character and picture book at this year’s festival with Dewey Bob, the story of a young raccoon who fancies himself a collector until he realizes his collection is missing something important — a friend. The kidnote address will move this year to Decatur High School’s Performing Arts Center and will begin at 5 p.m. onFriday, Sept. 4.

Following the keynote and kidnote addresses, the festival kicks off in earnest on Saturday, Sept. 5, with a children’s parade on the Decatur Square led by Drew Daywalt, author of the best-selling picture book, The Day the Crayons Quit. Parade participants are invited to dress as their favorite color from the crayon box. Events and author presentations will continue in downtown Decatur throughout the weekend. A second children’s parade will startSunday’s festivities, led by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser, co-creators of the popular Fancy Nancy series. Participants are invited to dress their fanciest and actors from Synchronicity Theatre’s fall presentation ofFancy Nancy, The Musical! will join them.

Author highlights for the 2015 AJC DBF include:

Ron Rash is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award finalist novel Serena, in addition to other prize-winning novels including One Foot in Eden, The World Made Straight and the short story collection Nothing Gold Can Stay. He launches his latest novel, Above the Waterfall, at the AJC DBF. In this poetic and haunting tale, a small-town sheriff nearing retirement battles daily with meth-addicted locals and rural poverty in a tight-knit Appalachian town full of secrets.

New York Times best-selling author Sara Paretsky has been credited with transforming the mystery through the creation of her female private eye, V.I. Warshawski. The Mystery Writers of America named her Grand Master in 2011 and she received the Cartier Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award from Great Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association. In Brush Back, the dogged sleuth confronts crooked Chicago politicians and uncovers buried family secrets.

ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s No. 1 national best-selling novels include Let the Church Say Amen, I Know I’ve Been Changed and Say Amen, Again. In 2012, she received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for fiction. The movie version of Let The Church Say Amen will premiere on BET Aug. 30. Her new bookMama’s Boy deals with some of the most pressing social issues facing the United States. During a scuffle with three black youths, a white police officer is fatally shot and the accused boy’s heart-broken mother must find the faith and courage to save her son.

Cat Cora made television history on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” as the first female Iron Chef. Shortly thereafter, she became Executive Chef of Bon Appétit. She comes to the AJC DBF to launch Cooking as Fast As I Can, her remarkably candid memoir on Southern life, Greek heritage and same sex marriage. She reveals coming-of-age experiences related to early childhood sexual abuse, her solace found in cooking and the realities of life as a lesbian in the Deep South.

Festival favorite Pat Conroy is back at the AJC DBF but this time, someone is writing about him. Conroy is the best-selling author of The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides and South of Broad. In Understanding Pat Conroy,Catherine Seltzer sketches Conroy’s biography and explores each of his major works. As editor-at-large of Story River Books, Conroy also brings several of his authors to the festival and will moderate two panels.

Noted science fiction author Samuel Delany’s work has won multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted him in 2002 and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America named him Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master in 2013. His novels include Nova, Dhalgren, The Fall of the Towers, Babel-17 and The Einstein Intersection; and also the four-volume fantasy series Return to Nevèrÿon. Hebrings A, B, C: Three Short Novels, an omnibus volume of the first three novels of his career, along with a new foreword and afterword.

Atlanta Chef Kevin Gillespie was named one of Mother Nature Network’s “40 Chefs Under 40” and Gillespie also earned semifinalist status for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award for three consecutive years. The owner of the highly acclaimed Gunshow in Atlanta has plans to open his second restaurant,Revival, in Decatur in 2015. In Pure Pork Awesomeness, he shares his unbounded passion for pork in 100 unique recipes with global flavors.

Christopher Moore has authored 15 satirical novels, including Lamb, Fool, Sacré Bleu and A Dirty Job. He will bring his newest work, Secondhand Souls, to the AJC DBF. It is a delightfully funny sequel to A Dirty Job. In San Francisco, the souls of the dead are mysteriously disappearing and it has something to do with a big orange bridge. To get to the bottom of this abomination, a motley crew of heroes will band together and prepare for the coming battle for the very soul of humankind.

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright and teacher. She was recently named a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, as well as the inaugural Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University. In 2009, she composed and delivered “Praise Song for the Day” for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. She comes to the AJC DBF for her highly praised book Light of the World, a memoir of her marriage and the sudden death of her husband.

Kent and Amber Brantly moved to Liberia in 2013 to provide medical care for people in great need. Less than a year later, Kent contracted the deadly Ebola virus, receiving the diagnosis just days after his family had returned to Texas. Called for Life tells the riveting story of Kent and Amber’s call to serve their neighbors, as well as Kent’s fight for life against Ebola and eventual triumph at Emory University Hospital, where he was the first person to be treated for the disease in the United States.

Kevin Henkes is the author and illustrator of nearly 50 critically acclaimed and award-winning picture books, beginning reader books and novels. He won the Caldecott Medal for Kitten’s First Full Moon and Newbery Honors for the middle-grade novels The Year of Billy Miller and Olive’s Ocean. He returns to the festival to launch his newest picture book, Waiting, a story of friendship and patience.

Matt de la Peña began a career as a Children’s and Young Adult (YA) author with the intent to help “young readers acquire experience with complex emotions like empathy and sensitivity.” He is the award-winning author of many novels including Ball Don’t Lie and We Were Here. This year, he shares two new books: Last Stop on Market Street, a picture book depicting a grandparent and grandchild’s shared view of a stroll through the city, and The Hunted,the follow-up to his action-packed survival story, The Living.

Libba Bray is the popular and best-selling author of many YA novels including The Gemma Doyle Trilogy, Beauty Queens and the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Going Bovine. She returns to the AJC DBF with her new book Lair of Dreams, the follow up to The Diviners, which Entertainment Weekly called an “ambitious series-starter, deftly evoking the exuberance of 1920s city life and the evil lurking beneath it.”

The AJC DBF continues to offer new and diverse programming every year. Highlights include:

Springer Mountain Cooking Stage moves to the heart of the festival

AJC DBF’s Cooking Stage moves front and center with its new location at the corner of Ponce de Leon and Clairemont Avenues. The diverse roster of food and cooking talents include area favorites Kevin Gillespie,Nathalie Dupree, Cynthia Graubart, Virginia Willis, Rebecca Lang, Hugh Acheson and Steven Satterfield.Dora Charles, the former chef at Savannah’s legendary Lady & Sons, will perform demonstrations from her first cookbook, which is launching at the festival. Media sensation Maangchi demos from her new book, Real Korean Cooking, and rising star Leanne Brown shows how you can eat well on $4 a day with Good and Cheap. Mark Essig and Barry Estabrook talk about the history of pork and the current climate of the commercial pork industry. Also new this year is the Georgia Grown Culinary Village, which will surround the Springer Mountain Cooking Stage, where visitors can peruse locally grown foods and artisan products from local organizations.

Personal Journeys Track

This track will provide a forum for authors and festival-goers to discuss their personal journeys through shared experiences. Blending memoirs with works of narrative nonfiction, attendees can see the wonder of recovery, transformation and redemption in Dangerous When Wet by Jamie Brickhouse, Blackout by Sarah Hepola andBarefoot to Avalon by David Payne. James Edward Mills’ The Adventure Gap provides unique perspectives on race and how it affected his personal experiences; Barton Swaim provides a peek inside the spin room of the modern politician in The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics; and Rita Gabis explores the complicated truth of her grandfather’s past in A Guest Shooters’ Banquet: My Grandfather’s SS Past, My Jewish Family, a Search for the Truth.

History Track, sponsored by the Atlanta History Center

History has always proved a popular genre at the AJC DCF and this year it is bigger and better with a new History Track, sponsored by the Atlanta History Center. Attendees will hear discussions on topics ranging from the Revolutionary War to the U.S. space program. Margaret Lazarus Dean explores the end of the Space Race.Fordlandia author Greg Grandin brings us his new history of one of the most influential foreign policy architects of the past 50 years in Kissinger’s Shadow. Award-winning journalist Pamela Newkirk reveals a little-known episode in American history when an African man was used in a human zoo exhibit in Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga.

Roxane Gay Track, sponsored by Mailchimp

2015 marks the second year the AJC DBF has offered an author-curated track. This year, Gay, the provocative novelist, essayist, champion Scrabble player and loyally followed thought leader, has chosen a dynamic group of authors who will participate in lively, stimulating discussions on topics ranging from social and economic justice to global relations. Hear rising stars James Hannaham and Angela Flournoy explore social justice and discuss their respective new titles, Delicious Foods and The Turner House. Award-winning author Daniel José Older will moderate a panel of frank discussions about publishing for people of color and include talents such as Saeed Jones. Popular novelist Randa Jarrar moderates a panel including some of the newest female voices in publishing, including Mari Naomi and Kristin Valdez Quade. And, of course, Gay herself will discuss her best sellers.

Festival-goers will be able to write a novel with Memory Makes Us, a project launched in 2013 by if:book Australia, a company that explores new forms of digital literature. Bring your memory to the tent on the MARTA plaza and watch as best-selling authors type it out on a vintage typewriter and integrate it into an ongoing story. Watch as a novel takes shape. Every keystroke will be displayed on video monitors and online as the work builds throughout the day.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival Presented by DeKalb Medical (AJC DBF) is the largest independent book festival in the country. Over Labor Day weekend (Sept. 4-6) tens of thousands from metro Atlanta and beyond will share the historic Decatur Square with world-class authors, illustrators, editors, publishers and booksellers for a weekend filled with literature, music, food and fun. For more information,,“ like” Decatur Book Festival on Facebook or follow @DBookFestival on Twitter.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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