Planning a literary festival around a single author -- no matter how beloved -- can be a tricky thing.
Which is why when planners sat down to brainstorm the upcoming "Pat Conroy at 70" literary festival, they wanted to make sure the three-day event was as much about those who were attending as the author himself.
"We really went at this trying to come up with a series of programs that would be a gift to Pat as well as his readers and the attendees," said festival co-chair Jonathan Haupt.
Haupt, who is also the director of the University of South Carolina Press -- the festival's organizing body along with other partnering organizations -- said many of the event's guest panelists are writers or artists who have either been influenced by Conroy or who have been directly mentored by the bestselling novelist.
In fact, more than a third of the program's guest speakers will come from Conroy's relatively new imprint USC Press' Story River Books, launched in 2013.
In addition, several artists including Wendell Minor, Jonathan Green, Jonathan Hannah and Conroy's daughter, Melissa, a children's book author and visual artist, are expected to be part of the lineup as well.
"..The visual arts have been very important to Pat," Haupt said. "He has a significant collection of S.C. artists in his home."
And for those who may be a little star struck, anticipate a few actors to make an appearance such as Michael O'Keefe, who is scheduled to speak as part of the festival's "Conroy on Film" panel discussion.
At the heart of it all, however, may be the town of Beaufort itself.
"One thing to emphasize is how well Beaufort is represented," said Haupt. Many of the festival's events are scheduled to take place on the historic University of South Carolina Beaufort campus as well as in and around Conroy's adopted hometown.
"I think of it as his literary muse," Haupt said. "It's not just his home. It's been his inspiration for everything he has done since."
If You Go
"Pat Conroy at 70" will celebrate the writing life of the best-selling author with a variety of events, including poetry readings, panel discussions and luncheons, Oct. 29-31.
The majority of events will be held at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for the Arts, 805 Carteret St., Beaufort, with other activities planned for venues in and around Beaufort.
Highlights from the three-day festival include a screening of "The Great Santini" followed by a panel discussion featuring Conroy and actor Michael O'Keefe, and an opening reception and book signing on Thursday.
In addition, the festival will feature a gallery talk at the Verdier House, a book signing with participating authors and artists, a family roundtable featuring all of Conroy's "favorite siblings" and a birthday party to cap off the event on Saturday.
An all-weekend pass can be purchased for $200, but day passes are also available.
For more information, call the USC Beaufort Center for the Arts' box office at (843) 521-4145 or visit www.patconroyat70.com.
Ellen Malphrus Book Launch
Pat Conroy will make a guest appearance at the upcoming book launch for author Ellen Malphrus. The event will be from 4-6 p.m. Oct. 16, at the Heyward House, 70 Boundary St., Bluffton.
A co-chair of the "Pat Conroy at 70" festival, Malphrus teaches at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.
Her debut novel, "Untying the Moon" by USC Press' Story River Books will be available at the event.
For details visit www.ellenmalphrus.com.
Follow reporter Mindy Lucas at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.
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