Rose Glen Literary Festival sees continued growth

Feb. 21, 2014 @ 11:12 PM

Sam Venable, humor columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel, is the keynote speaker for the Rose Glen Literary Festival, which will be held at the Sevierville Convention Center on Saturday.

“Sam Venable is very popular in this area,” event organizer Carroll McMahan said. “His programs and presentations are very well received. We thought he’d be a good fit, and we’re very glad to have him.”

The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is free, with the exception of the noon luncheon, which costs $20. In previous years the festival was held at Walters State Community College. McMahan said the event’s growth made it necessary to move.

“It’s getting us more room, so we won’t be packed so tight as we have in the past,” McMahan said. “We’ve also been experimenting year-to-year with what kind of programs attendees like.”

Part of that, he said, is to cover multiple facets of writing. In its first year, Rose Glen was primarily an event at which authors talked about their books.

Feedback from visitors, McMahan said, sparked some additions.

“We’re including someone talking about how to promote a book once it’s written, a publisher talking about how to get a book published, and another presentation about how to use (the self-publishing platform) CreateSpace to write your own book,” McMahan said. “We also will have authors for the people who are just interested in the entertainment of the program, to have something for everyone.”

McMahan said he conceived the the festival five years ago because he thought it would be good to have an event for local writers, rather than a tourism-centric event. Turnout and reception for the event have exceeded his expectations. 

“You don’t expect the same crowd from a literary festival like you would for a barbecue festival,” McMahan said.

“The first year, people told me not to set expectations too high. If 25-30 people show up, you’ll be lucky. But we had 75 people at the luncheon, and more that attended the event. Last year, we had to cut the luncheon off at 125. That was capacity at the dining hall, so that’s one reason we decided to move it. We were absolutely bursting at the seams at Walters State.”

Other local writers presenting at the festival include Bill Landry, best known for his affiliation with “The Heartland Series,” and the award-winning Renea Winchester. Authors will be available to autograph books.

McMahan said his favorite part of the festival each year is simply taking the time to connect with other writers.

“I get excited about the opportunity it gives writers, and those interested in writing, a chance to gather in one place and exchange ideas and information,” he said.

“It’s very important for us as writers. You make a lot of good contacts, because we have a wide variety of people here.”

Those passionate about reading would enjoy the festival, McMahan said.

“Anyone who loves to read, loves literature, would thoroughly enjoy the event,” he said. “From the programs, the chances to meet writers who write books they like to read, to the luncheon, which is always the highlight of the day.”

The event is open to the public, but seats at the luncheon must be reserved in advance by calling the Sevier County Chamber of Commerce at 453-6411.