Photo courtesy of Hoover Public Library
Rebecca Wells, the author of "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," is the headliner for the 2017 Southern Voices Festival at the Hoover Public Library.
The woman who introduced the world to the “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” is headed to Hoover for the 25th anniversary of the Southern Voices Festival.
Author and actress Rebecca Wells is the headliner for the festival, which runs Feb. 21-25 at the Hoover Public Library.
The Louisiana-born Wells is scheduled to perform a one-woman stage show based on the Ya-Ya characters, their real-life counterparts and her memoirs in the Hoover Library Theatre on Friday, Feb. 24.
“She’s going to bring the characters to life on stage through her voices,” said Amanda Borden, the chairwoman of the Southern Voices Festival and soon-to-be Hoover Public Library director. “I’m really excited about that. It’s different than anything we’ve done in the past.”
Wells’ “Divine Secrets” book, which explores relationships between mothers and daughters and the complex bonds of female friendships, topped the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year and spawned Ya-Ya girlfriend groups across the United States and in some foreign countries.
“She’s a really amazing woman, and she’s also very warm,” Borden said. “You just feel like you get to know her after hearing her speak.”
Because this is the 25th year for the Southern Voices Festival, which celebrates writing, music and art, there are more authors scheduled for the Saturday authors’ conference this year.
The keynote speaker for Saturday is Chris Bohjalian, who has authored 19 books, most of them New York Times bestsellers.
His books have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Hartford Courant, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Bookpage and Salon, according to the biography on his website.
Bohjalian won numerous awards for his book “The Sandcastle Girls,” which is about the Turkish genocide of Armenian people in the early 1900s. But he writes about all kinds of different topics, including nuclear holocaust and homelessness, Borden said. His latest book, “The Guest Room,” is about human trafficking, a marriage in crisis and two women. He has a new book, called “The Sleepwalker,” scheduled for release in January.
“He just is all over the place,” Borden said. “He’s really very intriguing because he can write about so many topics.”
Other authors scheduled to speak at the Saturday authors conference include mystery writers Mary Kubica and Lou Berney, western author C.J. Box, Mississippi authors Julie Cantrell and Michael Farris Smith, nonfiction author Rabia Chaudry and two traditional Southern women’s fiction writers, Kristie Woodson Harvey and Karen White.
The festival also will include two performances by the mountain music band Zoe Speaks from Kentucky on Feb. 22-23 and feature the artwork of husband-and-wife artists Bethanne and Darius Hill, who will be honored at a reception on Feb. 21.
Here’s a bit more about each, according to information provided by the Hoover Public Library:
Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of “The Good” Girl” and “Pretty Baby.” Her first novel, “The Good Girl,” received a Strand Critics nomination for best first novel and was a nominee in the Goodreads Choice Awards in the debut author and mystery and thriller categories in 2014. Her newest book, “Don’t You Cry,” was released in May. Kubica lives outside Chicago, where she enjoys photography, gardening and caring for animals at a shelter.
Lou Berney this year won an Edgar Award for the best original paperback for his book “The Long and Faraway Gone,” a crime story that explores the mystery of memory and the impact of violence on survivors. He also has written screenplays and created TV pilots for Warner Brothers, Paramount, Focus Features, ABC and Fox. He teaches in the master’s of fine arts program at Oklahoma City University.
C.J. Box is a New York Times bestselling author of 21 novels, including the Joe Pickett series, which tells the tales of a Wyoming game warden. He has won numerous literary awards, and his novels have been translated into 27 languages and optioned for both film and television. More than 10 million copies of his novels have been sold in the United States alone. His newest Joe Pickett novel is “Off the Grid.” Box lives outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Julie Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She is the author of “Into the Free,” which received Christy Awards for best debut novel and 2013 Book of the Year, as well as the Mississippi Library Association’s fiction award. Her third and most recent novel is “The Feathered Bone.” Cantrell lives in Oxford, Mississippi.
Michael Farris Smith of Columbus, Mississippi, is the is author of “Rivers” and “The Hands of Strangers.” “Rivers” was named in numerous lists for best book of the year and garnered the 2014 Mississippi Author Award for fiction. His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and his essays have appeared in The New York Times, Catfish Alley and Writer’s Bone. His newest novel, “Desperation Road,” is scheduled for release in February.
Rabia Chaudry is an attorney and a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where she researches the intersection of religion and violent extremism. She is also an advocate of Adnan Syed, a man who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend in 2000 in Baltimore but who won a new trial this past summer. Chaudry helped host and produce a podcast about Syed’s case and then wrote her first book about it, called “Adnan’s Story.
Kristy Woodson Harvey is a North Carolina author whose first book, “Dear Carolina,” has been optioned for film and was on the long list of contenders for the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize. She also wrote “Lies and Other Acts of Love” and the forthcoming Peachtree Bluff series, which begins with “Slightly South of Simple.”
Karen White is the bestselling author of 22 novels, including “Flight Patterns” and “The House on Tradd Street,” the first in a mystery series set in Charleston. Borden said White is extremely prolific, with three or four books coming out every year. “She’s like the hardest working author in the industry,” Borden said. Her 23rd novel, “The Guests on South Battery,” is due out in January. White spent most of her youth in London but hails from a long line of Southerners and today lives in Atlanta.
Zoe Speaks is a group of Kentucky musicians that includes Mitch Barrett, Owen Reynolds and Carla Gover. They are known for their smooth, mellow instrumental mixes and close vocal harmonies. From traditional ballads to award-winning originals, this trio often accompanies themselves with a guitar, claw hammer banjo, upright bass, dulcimers and occasionally clogging feet. They first performed at the Hoover Library Theatre in 2003. The group has won numerous songwriting contests, including Merlefest’s Chris Austin Contest, The Telluride Troubadour Contest, the Kerrville New Folk Contest, The Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Songwriting Contest and The Flatrock Festival Song Contest. They have performed at places such as Merlefest, The Kennedy Center, The Kerrville Folk Festival and The Copenhagen Blues Festival.
Photo courtesy of Hoover Public Library
Bethanne Hill is a 1985 graduate of the visual arts department at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and holds a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in painting and sculpture from Birmingham-Southern College. As a young artist, her first great influence was primitive art, specifically Australian Aboriginal art. However, she also has great interest in old barns, churches, houses, cemeteries and animals. All her works are acrylic paint on wood, paper or canvas, but some use india ink and colored pencil as well. Her work can be found as cover illustrations and interior art for numerous books and CDs, as well as in the permanent collections of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, Alabama Power, Children’s Hospital of Alabama and many private collections throughout the country.
Darius Hill is chairman of the visual arts department at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in printmaking from the Atlanta College of Art and a master of fine arts degree in studio from the University of Alabama. He has earned numerous honors and awards including Operation New Birmingham’s Best in Show Award at the Magic City Art Connection, and he was awarded a fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. His works have been selected by many juried exhibitions such as the Red Clay Survey in Huntsville and the Energen Exhibition in Birmingham, and are represented in many museum, corporate, and private collections throughout the United States.
The Hills live in Birmingham with their three children.
Photo courtesy of Hoover Public Library
Bethanne and Darius Hill
Bethanne and Darius Hill and their three children
Bethanne and Darius Hill art
Artwork by Bethanne Hill, at left, and Darius Hill
Tickets for the 2017 Southern Voices Conference go on sale Jan. 6, and Borden said she expects a lot of interest.
“Any one of these authors is going to have a following,” she said. “I’m hoping that we’re going to sell every single ticket, even on the Plaza, this year.”
Due to high demand for tickets, Hoover library officials in 2013 started offering two venues to see and hear from authors in the authors’ conference. There are 250 seats in the Hoover Library Theatre and about 100 seats in the Hoover Library Plaza. Each Saturday author speaks in both locations at different times.
The reception for the Hills is free. Tickets for Zoe Speaks on Feb. 22-23 cost $25, while tickets for Wells’ performance on Feb. 24 cost $35, with a limit of four tickets per person, and tickets for the Saturday authors conference cost $40, with a limit of six tickets per person. All tickets also have a $2.50 processing fee. Tickets for the authors’ conference will be specific to the venue selected.