Separating Fact From Fiction: Book Fest Comes to Armstrong

(Feb. 22, 2013) The Savannah Book Festival, now in its sixth year, is one of the area's marquee events. A range of authors descend on the Coastal Empire for a weekend of talks and readings, from literary luminaries to television celebrities. The book festival comes to Armstrong as well. Now in the second year of participation, the university partners with SBF@Schools, a special program devoted to bringing book festival authors to high school and college campuses.

This year was no different, and Armstrong students reaped the benefits of the partnership. Two major authors came to campus to engage directly with students. There was also an exclusive student talk downtown. Not only did these writers share their work and gain new fans, but they also offered advice on how to succeed.

Novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts addressed a packed crowd of over 100 in the Student Union ballroom. Speaking with his journalist hat on, Pitts discussed and read from one of his well-known columns, “America, the Stupid Giant, is Evolving Backwards.” Pitts' talk addressed how many Americans eschew knowledge and disdain intellectualism. Speaking to a wide range of students, from campus journalists to engineers, he explained the difference between being stupid and being ignorant.

“Everyone is ignorant about something,” Pitts said. “But to be stupid is not to be ignorant—to be stupid is to lack the ability to use information once you have it.”

Pitts advocated that smart is cool and that the only way the country will succeed is if educated individuals speak their mind—a message that resonated well in a room full of students ready to use their knowledge to make an impact on the world.

New York Times' bestselling novelist B.A. Shapiro, author of “The Art Forger,” spent time with a more intimate group of budding writers. Members of a screenwriting class, along with other English students, heard Shapiro's tale of unsuccessful publications, professional despair, and ultimate success, a success she gained by sticking to her craft and persevering through some serious low points. Shapiro wrote eight novels before “The Art Forger,” which was her first book to make an impact on the marketplace.

In addition to telling her inspirational yet cautionary tale, Shapiro talked shop about the craft of writing—something the students gathered really engaged in. She discussed plot creation, character arcs, and the importance of sharing work with others to help improve the final draft.

On the last day of the festival, Armstrong students were invited to a special event devoted exclusively to students with blockbuster thriller author David Baldacci. Baldacci discussed his beginnings as a writer, complete with personal anecdotes that kept the crowd laughing. He also gave advice to students about how to hone their writing skills.

“Find something you're interested in and passionate about and write about it,” he said. “Write about something you'd like to know about but don't.”

Baldacci also confessed, “When I sit down and write a new project, I'm scared to death that I can't bring the magic again.”

For beginning writers, perhaps this proclamation of fear from a world-famous author quelled some of their anxiety about a career in writing and sent them back to the page with new knowledge and inspiration.

Writing contributed by Lauren Geiger, Armstrong Marketing and Communications Intern Spring 2013.