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New name helps Southern Lit Alliance focus
by Clint Cooper
Sunday, March 31, 2013    |   
The Celebration of Southern Literature will be April 18-20.
The Celebration of Southern Literature will be April 18-20.
Photo by Staff File Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The name of Southern Lit Alliance feels as comfortable to the 61-year-old organization as a well-worn pair of shoes.

Leaders of the former Arts & Education Council of Chattanooga made the name change earlier this year to align it more closely with its signature event, the biennial Celebration of Southern Literature (formerly the Conference on Southern Literature).

“Our feedback was that our name didn’t tell what we were about,” said board President Jane Berz. “It never quite gelled” with the organization’s mission.

The organization’s new slogan, “Great Stories Live Here,” helps explains its new mission.

“We want to focus [on] Southern writers and readers,” said Executive Director Susan Robinson. In doing so, she said, the Southern Lit Alliance (www.SouthernLitAlliance.org) will offer a variety of literary arts education and experiences.

The Celebration of Southern Literature (April 18-20 this year) will be expanded and will extend even further its school literacy outreach. As it does so, the leaders hope it will lose whatever reputation it has as being an event geared toward academia.

“That is so not the case,” said Robinson.

Founded in 1952 by a Ford Foundation grant as one of 12 Adult Education Councils in the country, it is the only one still in existence.

Through the years, though, its nonprofit mission has shifted and most recently has included the Chattanooga Festival of Writers, Culture Fest, TheatreExpress, two film series, the current-affairs television programs “Point of View” and “First View,” and the biennial literature conference.

Although the organization’s Back Row Film Series and Independent Film Series will be dropped because of the inability to get such films for limited runs, films that accentuate other events will be added where necessary.

While the smaller Chattanooga Festival of Writers, held in the off years from the Celebration of Southern Literature, will not continue, the organization will sponsor a similar event in those years.

Fans also can look for activities such as wider-community reading events and poetry fests.

The Chattanooga Public Library, leaders say, is a “natural partner” for the organization and will be one of its many collaborators.

“We have such a wealth of great books, of great writers,” said Berz. “We just felt we had to do more with them, to get more focused.”

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497.