Southern literature: More than just tweed and elbow patches

Local authors have been added to Hometown Reads. (Photo: Staff)

Authored By seanphippster

Since 1952, the Southern Literature Alliance has served as a bellwether for enrichment educational programs and ambassadors for all things involving literature in the South.

Though successful, the organization is now seeking to revitalize the image of tweed blazers, elbow patches and highbrow academia.

The addition of several programs under the South Bound label aims to engage young-minded individuals who enjoy learning about and bonding over literature-but in a casual, stuffy-free environment.

The first South Bound program will be Books & Brews at Heaven and Ale Jan. 13 at 6 p.m., which invites literature fans to bring a favorite book from home, write a note about that book to a future reader, have a beer and pick up another book to take home.

Rhett Reeves, new programs director at Southern Lit Alliance, said one of her goals for 2015 is to engage a new audience of literature lovers through these social-oriented events.

“It’s about bringing people out of the woodwork to talk about literature in a casual way, because I feel like there’s a sort of misconception that literature is kind of highbrow or academic,” Reeves said.

Reeves has been working with English teachers at both Baylor and McCallie schools on ways to engage readers so they don’t feel like they’re in a classroom.

The Books & Brews event is the first of many events in the works for 2015. Others could include an open mic night for local writers and book club meetings at bars and coffee shops. Reeves also plans to heighten the social media aspect of the alliance with more interactivity.

Another example: The alliance’s book club plans to meet and talk about Ron Rash’s novel “Serena” Feb. 17.

The annual Celebration of Southern Literature-April 16-19-will include South Bound elements for a younger audience. The South Bound Soirée will include a panel discussion on “today’s South as a lifestyle” with Roger Hodge, Lookout Mountain author Jamie Quatro and music by Clyde Edgerton.

Tickets for the event are on sale here. More programs are expected to be announced soon.

“It’s nothing intimidating or academic,” Reeves said. “I really just want it to be social and inviting. [Chattanooga] is such a cool place to be involved in something like this. It would be great to have a sort of team spirit behind this. Ideally, I’d like for this program to be as much about the social events and programs as about the outreach.”

If your literature synapses are firing, you can find more information and get involved in Southern Lit Alliance and South Bound events on Facebook.