USC Union Announces Upcountry Literary Festival Dates

On March 17th and 18th, 2023, the Upcountry Literary Festival will return live to the auditorium of the University of South Carolina Union, after a three-year, Covid-induced hiatus.  And one of the festival’s oldest, most devoted supporters will keynote this year’s event and receive the festival’s most prestigious award, The William “Singing Billy” Walker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Southern Letters.

Dr. James Everett Kibler, a native of Newberry County and former Professor of English at the University of Georgia, poet, novelist, story writer, and literary historian, will close out the weekend’s event by sharing samples of his work before accepting the Walker Award, named for the Union-born song-catcher and arranger of the most famous and beloved version of “Amazing Grace.”  Previous Walker laureates include Fred Chappell, Robert Morgan, James Whitehead, Shelby Stevenson, the late Kelly Cherry, and Bobbie Ann Mason.  

Kibler, who lives in a restored plantation home in Maybinton, is the author and editor of numerous books, scholarly and creative, including Our Father’s Fields, Child to the Waters, Poems from Scorched Earth, Tiller, and an upcoming study of the Mississippi novelist William Faulkner.  He is considered the world’s foremost authority on South Carolina antebellum writer William Gilmore Simms.  

Others presenting the same weekend will be Jesse Graves, poet and professor from East Tennessee State University, storyteller and perennial festival favorite Tally Johnson, novelist and poet Val Nieman, Southern architectural historian Robin Lattimore, biographer and historian Fredrick Tucker, local novelist and playwright Dan O’Shields, and Brandon Meeks, editor of the new Southern literary journal Moonshine and Magnolias.

The festival began in 2011 under the direction of USCU English professor Randy Ivey and continued until 2020, when Covid-19 forced its temporary shutdown.  In 2021, there was a virtual version of the festival.  One observer has estimated that the Upcountry Literary Festival is the longest-running book festival not only in South Carolina but perhaps in the entire South and has drawn prestigious names from all over the region.

Ivey says the festival was created to accentuate the continuing relevance of the written word in the digital age.  It has been open to booklovers of all ages but was initially aimed at young people in an attempt to get them back into the habit of reading books.  

The event is free and open to the public.  Books will be available for sell and signing.  Friday’s presentations begin at 1pm and end at 5pm.  Things will recommence on Saturday at 9am and end at 1.

For more information, please contact Randy Ivey at 864-441-7279 or at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s