A Celebration of Writers


The be-all-end-all gathering of Jacksonville's literary minds. The JaxbyJax Literary Arts Festival is setting up to be an event that shan't be missed by the many beloved bibliophiles throughout the Northeast Florida community.

Set to take place across 13 venues throughout Riverside, JaxbyJax is celebrating the written talents of 28 of Jacksonville's best writers, along with a showcasing of local student writers.

All sorts of literature, ranging from novel excerpts to poetry and everything in between, will be on display and imparted to the listening audiences as a new writer will hit the stage every half-hour at each venue. With free admission (no tickets), there's nothing preventing the audience from floating among the sites as the event progresses.

Apart from being simply a showcase for eloquently written words, founder of JaxbyJax and writer Tim Gilmore says it serves as a way to "introduce Jacksonville to its own literary voice." As Gilmore puts it, the strength of Jacksonville's literary arts culture has long been underestimated and the area itself has been "perceived as a blue-collar town without many artistic and educational possibilities." Now, as Jacksonville's writers have started to come to terms with their city's past and current affairs, a true freedom to draw from and "hold a mirror to" the city has been realized-call it a literary system of checks and balances. JaxbyJax is shining a light on those dark recesses that are often forgotten, ignored or overlooked.

A featured writer at this year's JaxbyJax and Folio Weekly alum Tricia Booker says she hopes to bring a new perspective, as well as entertain. Booker's reading will focus on the decision to get a service dog for their son who suffers from an attachment disorder that is related to his adoption. "I would love for people to walk away from the event with a better appreciation for how dogs can help us with our emotional and mental well-being, as well as a more compassionate way of thinking about mental illness."
Booker stresses that this discovery of new perspectives that's inherent in literature is especially important. "I'm desperately afraid we're becoming an aliterate society-we know how to read but choose not to," says Booker. "We're getting information in tweets and headlines, and so we lose context. Without reading, and immersing ourselves in history, imaginary worlds, contrary characters, and other ways of thinking, we lose the ability to understand anything other than our own damn opinions."

In regard to the current state of the literary world, Bill Ectric, another featured JxJ writer, says he doesn't believe it's shrinking or growing. "I think it's holding steady. It's out there just as much as it always has been, and it's up to people to tap into it. Obviously it is changing to more digital formats, but it's going strong," says Ectric. As Ectric's friend and fellow writer Jeff VanderMeer-author of Annihilation, which has been adapted to the screen and set for release in 2018-pointed out, even though we don't really need them anymore, we still have horsedrawn buggies just because we like them. As with books, even though we don't need a physical copy of every single book we want to read-i.e., Kindles, Nooks, etc.-it's still a comfort to have them. And who's to say what need really means? You may not necessarily need that extra pat of butter on your waffles, but aren't they better with than without?

JaxbyJax starts with a 1:30-2:30 p.m. Student Showcase at Il Desco on Park Street on Saturday, Nov. 11. The featured writers, including Babs Colaciello, Thony Aiuppy, Liz Gibson, Abel Harding, Terri Youmans Grimm and Howard Denson, begin their rounds at 3 p.m. and carry on through 5:30 p.m.; the main event and reception at CoRK Arts District wrap it all up at 9 p.m. A complete list of this year's featured writers, venues and the detailed schedule can be found at fscj.edu/jaxbyjax.

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