The Southern Festival of Books is the South's premier celebration of the written word, and this year marks its 31st anniversary. The three-day event, running Friday, Oct. 11 - Sunday, Oct. 13, brings together more than 200 authors and thousands of book lovers. Humanities Tennessee presents the festival, which has gained national attention for assembling award-winning children's and young adult authors.

The festival has numerous events taking place at War Memorial Plaza (301 Sixth Ave. N., Nashville) and Nashville Public Library (615 Church St., Nashville). Sixty exhibitors will be on site along with three entertainment stages featuring music, theater, spoken word, poetry and a children's area with authors, musicians, crafts, performers and costumed characters.

FUN FOR KIDS AT THE FEST

The Southern Festival of Books places a particular spotlight on kids and youth. In fact, it's one of the festival's main priorities.

"Engaging with young readers and getting them excited about the arts has long been a focus of the festival," says Serenity Gerbman, director of literature and language programs at Humanities Tennessee. "The weekend provides activities for youth of all ages to engage with their favorite authors, discover new books and enjoy live musical performances."

The lineup features New York Times best-selling young adult author Garth Nix. He'll be speaking on his latest book, Angel Mage. His session takes place Friday, Oct. 11 from 4 - 5 p.m. at the Nashville Public Library Auditorium, and he'll sign copies of the book following his discussion.

Other notable authors on the youth lineup include:

Mark Teague, best known for co-creating the How Do Dinosaurs... series. He'll be on hand to discuss his latest book, Fly! (Saturday, Oct. 12 at 12 p.m. at NPL conference room 1A).

Shannon Greenland, author of the popular Killer Instinct series, will speak about her newest novel, Scouts. Joining her is Gillian McDunn, author of Caterpillar Summer (Saturday, Oct. 12 at 12 p.m. in the NPL Teen Studio).

Helene Dunbar, dubbed the "Queen of Heart-Breaking Prose" by Paste Magazine, teams up with young adult author Julia Watts for a discussion (Saturday, Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. in the NPL Special Collections Room).

Judy Schachner, creator of Skippyjon Jones, presents her latest book, Stretchy McHandsome (Saturday, Oct. 12 at 10 a.m. in NPL Conference Room 1A).

That's not all. There's even more fun for kids at War Memorial Plaza:

Watkins College of Art presents the children's activity area with three different arts and crafts stations based on classic children's stories.

• The Nashville Downtown Partnership has life-sized board games like Checkers and Connect Four.

• Grab a selfie with beloved characters like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Skippyjon Jones.

• Each day at 2 p.m. there's a kids' party with cupcakes, costumes, balloons and a read-aloud activity.

• The performing arts stage features several acts including The Theater Bug, Girls Up Loud, Farmer Jason, Silly Grandpa, Gnu Tales and Nashville Dance Co-op.

The Southern Festival of Books hours are Fri 12 - 5 p.m., Sat 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sun 12 - 5 p.m. Admission is free.

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