Gazebo Gazette

What do a former taxi driver; the son of a Baptist preacher; a New Orleans chef who’s started a farm in Pearlington (MS); a “military brat” and immigrant from Okinawa; one of the few remaining New Orleans’ residents of the batture on the Mississippi River (Look it up!); a major Emmy award-winning TV director (Meet the Press) from Washington, D.C.; a grand-daughter whose family confronted the Hungarian Holocaust; another chef who was the food consultant during filming of the movie, The Help; an expert on the folklore and cultural history of the song, Li’l Liza Jane; another expert on the Brown Pelican; and a writer who studied under one of the most gifted American authors, Toni Morrison, while at Princeton – all have in common?

The answer is these are partial descriptions – “teasers” – of the backgrounds and circumstances for some of the authors and writers who will be participating in an extraordinary – and free – event to be held on the Mississippi Gulf Coast…at the Hancock Performing Arts Center in the Kiln on Saturday, January 27, 2024.

HOMEGROWN: A WRITERS’ EXCHANGE is returning for its second run after premiering in November 2019, then being put on the shelf while COVID tried to run its course.

The full day event is jam- packed with “live in-person” appearances by accomplished writers, their books, information for aspiring writers about what it takes to get published, and important “how to’s” on being a writer.

HOMEGROWN will also offer a very special session on “The Art of the Cookbook,” featuring four top chefs to be moderated by co-host, Carol Puckett Palmer (with Malcolm White) of the popular Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Think Radio’s DEEP SOUTH DINING food program which airs every Monday morning on the MPB radio network.

“We’re back, bigger and better than ever!” stated John Brdecka, executive director of the local library system.

For its return, the Hancock County Library System has partnered with its neighbor, the Harrison County Library System to produce an event that may be the largest of its kind ever to be presented in Coastal Mississippi.

“We’ve secured more than 20 of the most amazing, talented, and highly acclaimed authors – not just in Mississippi, but from New Orleans, and points beyond,” added Brdecka.

Six timely 80-minute topical authors panels will be moderated by experts to feature 3 to 4 authors each discussing aspects of their inspiration, writing process, and their recent books.

Books will be available for sale during the HOMEGROWN event, and authors will be available for personalized book signings.

“We’re excited that HOMEGROWN will become an annual event,” said Kevin Cole, the PR and marketing lead for the library system, who along with Nel Ducomb of the Kiln library branch are coordinating this year’s event. “The Library Foundation of Hancock County has again stepped forward to offer its generous funding sup- port without which this event would not be possible,” added Ducomb.

Cole acknowledged a recent grant award from the Mississippi Humanities Council in the amount of $2500 which will be used to help underwrite an IN CONVERSATION session live on-stage with MPB-TV’s popular host, Marshal Ramsey (“Mississippi Stories” program) and acclaimed fiction author Michael Farris Smith. Smith recently appeared in a solo session which was featured at the prestigious Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson where he discussed his most recent book, Salvage This World, and two others which have been made into Hollywood feature films.

Smith is unique in that he has been able to retain the rights to convert his novels into screenplays, thus ensuring the literary integrity of his works.

Mel Gibson starred in one of Smith’s movie versions, DESPERATION ROAD.

HOMEGROWN: A WRITERS’ EXCHANGE is free and open to the public with registration available online through the EVENTbrite ticketing service.

An optional box lunch is available for persons wishing to stay for the entire day’s programming. Attendance for the event is expected to top 500 people — with attendance from 100 area college and university students, and area high school seniors and juniors.

A series of special creative writing sessions for young adults will be available for the YA audience. Volunteer opportunities to assist during the event are also available.

Interested persons should contact the BSL library at tel. 228-467-5282.