Greensboro Bound Literary Festival launched in 2018 and happens again, May 16-19. In addition to programs featuring some 80 authors, Greensboro Bound could reach as many as10,500 public school students this year when writers head to classrooms around town. With school funding the way it is now in North Carolina, this wouldn’t happen without generous sponsorship and a legion of volunteers.
It started as the dream of a newcomer.
Steve Colyer is originally from Spartanburg, SC, then New Jersey and most recently—as a retired telecom executive—Miami. He settled in the Triad with his wife Sandra, who had landed a furniture industry position in High Point.
Often spotted with a book in progress, a white broadloom shirt and suspenders, Colyer looks like he might be a southern author himself. As a student, he planned to be a history teacher. He still might write a book, but for now he’s content to be a full-time reader.
Over a big plate of Europa Cafe mussels and a copy of Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch’s Stolen Girl, Colyer described the footprint of Greensboro Bound that is far more expansive than the festival guide that King’s English produced. The weekend of free events—author talks, panels and readings centered in Downtown Greensboro—is the public focus of Greensboro Bound. However, it’s the in-school author visits that might be making the greatest impact on the community.
Do kids care about authors? Unequivocally, yes.
Colyer saw this first hand beginning in 2017. With the help of author and retired teacher Ellen Fischer, he was introduced to Tammy Gruer who was, at that time, Director of Guilford County Schools Library Media Services (Gruer is currently Assistant Clinical Professor/School Library Program Coordinator at UNCG).
“She was like, ‘Yes, this makes sense to me,'” said Colyer. “Within three weeks we were in front of a full meeting of her team with Tammy saying, ‘This group wants to bring authors to your schools. How many of you want to sign up?’ Forty schools immediately said they’d love it.”
Colyer went about working on filling the demand and he’s sat in on many of the author visits and has seen first hand that students of all ages still aspire to write.
“In one Title One school, Ellen Fischer’s co-author, Tilda Balsley, read from their book Shalom Everybodeee! Grover’s Adventures in Israel and talked about writing,” said Colyer. “At the end of the talk, a second grader came forward and said, ‘Ms Balsley, before today, I never knew I could be an author now I know I can be an author, too.'”
Colyer attributes his own love of books to growing up an only child. His bibliophilic lifestyle really expanded when he began volunteering for the Miami Book Fair, one of the largest literary festivals in the country.
Greensboro has always had a literary foothold, with recognized author/academics in residence at our local universities and colleges and thousands of book-loving citizens. When Colyer got to town, he saw an opportunity to initiate what he hopes to become a nationally significant event for authors, readers and aspiring writers of all ages. Teaming up with one of the local independent bookstores, Scuppernong Books, Colyer marshaled a team of volunteers and pulled off the 2018 festival.
“This has been so much a journey where the community and teams of dedicated volunteers have made this happen,” said Colyer.
The 2019 event will bring Zadie Smith, Ani DiFranco, Lamar Giles, Bill Konigsberg and many others for three days of talks and workshops.