A popular, long-running author series which brings national award-winning writers along with debut novelists to the Lowcountry every fall kicks off this week.
Organized by the University of South Carolina Beaufort, the "Lunch with Author" series has grown in popularity over the years because it provides an intimate lunchtime setting as the backdrop for meeting the writers, many of whom are New York Times best-selling authors.
"It feels like you're making a good friend," said Bonnie Hargrove, director for USC Beaufort Center for the Arts.
The series is so popular, particularly with those on its mailing list, that the first event featuring Ron Rash has already sold out.
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However, fans of Rash -- whose books "Serena" and "The World Made Straight" were adapted and recently released as movies -- won't be disappointed for long.
Rash will join a panel discussion of authors and artists from 4:10 to 5:15 p.m. on Friday as part of the "Pat Conroy at 70" literary festival, which also begins this week.
Those who attend the luncheons not only enjoy the series' intimate setting but tend to use the program as a sort of stand-in for a book club, often attending as part of a group, Hargrove said.
"People will try to bone up on the books, but they will also wait and read them after the event once they have the background on the book," she said.
The luncheons usually last about an hour and a half and take place at a variety of restaurants and venues across Beaufort County, an added bonus since many boast top notch chefs, Hargrove said.
"The other thing I like is you get to meet new people," she said. "If you love to read then you're with your people and you end up talking about other books."
The "Lunch With Author" series continues with Mary Alice Monroe and Patti Callahan Henry from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday Oct. 30, at the Beaufort Holiday Inn & Suites, 2225 Boundary St.
Lowcountry novelist Cassandra King will introduce the two.
Other authors in the series include:
*Peter Golden -- an award-winning journalist, novelist, biographer, historian and author of new novel, "Wherever There is Light," will appear at Sea Pines Country Club, on Hilton Head Island, Nov. 18
*Allegra Jordan -- a former book reviewer for USA Today, graduate of Harvard Business School, and author of "The End of Innocence," will appear at the Country Club of Hilton Head, Dec. 10
*Barb Schmidt -- an international speaker, spiritual mentor and author of "The Practice" will appear at the Dataw Club Carolina Room, in Beaufort, Jan. 13
*Johnathon Barrett -- author of the funny and poignant memoir "Rise and Shine!" will appear at Sea Pines Country Club, on Hilton Head, Feb. 17
*Laura Lane McNeal -- a New Orleans native and author of debut novel "Dollbaby" will appear at the Hampton Hall Clubhouse, in Bluffton, March 10
*Karen White -- New York Times best-selling writer and author of "Sound of Glass" will appear at Sea Pines Country Club, in Hilton Head, April 27
All luncheons are $42. The events fill up fast. For registration and tickets, visit www.uscbcenterforthearts.com.
Follow reporter Mindy Lucas at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.