First Annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival

In October 2015, more than a thousand people participated in the Pat Conroy at 70 Festival celebrating a milestone birthday and honoring the iconic southern writer in his hometown of Beaufort. The event was a once-in-a-lifetime gift to the community and to the author himself, who passed away from pancreatic cancer just months later. The immersive festival model proved to be so successful the organizers are continuing it as an annual event and now calling it the Pat Conroy Literary Festival. Under the leadership of Jonathan Haupt, director of the University of South Carolina Press and Conroy’s partner in the Story River Books fiction imprint, and in partnership with USCB professor of English and author Ellen Malphrus and Bonnie Hargrove, director of the USCB Center for the Arts, the inaugural Conroy Literary Festival will be held October 20–23. Details and the festival’s expansive lists of events, presenters, partners and sponsors can now be found at

“Each year the festival will highlight a different theme from Pat Conroy’s writing life,” Haupt explained. “The 2016 festival theme is ‘Place as Character and Muse in Southern Literature.’ It’s a welcoming concept reflected in all of this year’s programs, and it is also a chance to honor our host city of Beaufort and the iconic Carolina Lowcountry, which served as Pat’s beloved home and inspiration.”

Cassandra King editedExtending the remarkable conversations and experiences that began at the Pat Conroy at 70 festival, the new literary festival will include appearances by more than 40 writers and performers in a series of conversations and special events tied to Conroy’s legacy and to the theme of place. The presenters include best-selling southern writers Ron Rash, Dorothea Benton Frank, Mary Alice Monroe and Jill McCorkle; cookbook writers Nathalie Dupree and Sallie Ann Robinson; a pantheon of Conroy’s Story River Books authors including Katherine Clark, Elizabeth Cox, Carla Damron, Ellen Malphrus, Ray McManus, Michele Moore, Mark Powell, Bernie Schein, Maggie Schein and John Warley; Lowcountry superstars and local favorites Josephine Humphreys, Marjory Wentworth, Nicole Seitz, Roger Pinckney, Larry Rowland, Margaret Shinn Evans and James McTeer II and many more.
A series of festival programs will highlight the work of Ron Rash, whom Conroy called one of the finest novelists writing today, including a performance of Barbara Bates Smith’s one-woman show “A Rash of Stories;” a screening of the feature film The World Made Straight and the comic short “Yard of the Month;” an interview with the author; and a discussion by four accomplished literary scholars. In addition to Smith’s “Rash of Stories,” the festival will feature a second live performance, “Sounds of the Cigar Factory,” adapted from Michele Moore’s Story River Books novel The Cigar Factory, directed by Jeff Evans, and starring Ron Daise alongside and all-local cast. The dramatic reading has previously been performed at the Piccolo Spoleto festival.

The festival will include a special lunch event each day, with pairings of best-selling writers in conversation on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, and on Saturday, a video screening of the incredible Conroy family panel from the Conroy at 70 festival. In addition, photographer Rob McDonald’s exhibition “Carolina Writers at Home” will be on display at the USCB Center for the Arts throughout the festival, featuring images of many of the presenters, including Jill McCorkle, Josephine Humphreys, Roger Pinckney and Cassandra King with Pat Conroy.

The true highlight of the inaugural Conroy Literary Festival experience will be Saturday evening’s closing event, the launch of A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life, the new collection of nonfiction pieces by Conroy himself to be presented at the festival by Cassandra King in conversation with Ellen Malphrus. This program also serves as a fundraiser for the new Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort. “What an absolute honor is it for the Conroy Literary Festival to be able to share Pat’s new book with his friends and fans before its available anywhere else,” Haupt said. The publication date for A Lowcountry Heart is October 25, the Tuesday following the festival and the day before what would have been Conroy’s 71st birthday.

The Pat Conroy Literary Festival is a collaboration between the University of South Carolina Press and USC Beaufort with additional organizational support from Historic Beaufort Foundation, the Pat Conroy Literary Center, and USC Libraries. For additional details, including a full list of donors, presenters, and schedule and ticket information, visit

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