The Pat Conroy Literary Festival returns for a second year this October with a new theme — the transformative power of education. Presented by Beaufort’s Pat Conroy Literary Center, the festival focuses on Conroy’s work as a student, teacher, writer, and mentor.
Conroy, one of the Lowcountry's most notable and prolific authors, wrote numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including The Great Santini
and The Prince of Tides
, drawing from his military childhood and experiences as a teacher and Citadel cadet.
Keeping with the education theme, this year’s festival features many of Conroy’s classmates, teachers, and coworkers. Highlights include a tour of the former Beaufort High School campus, a screening of The Lords of Discipline
and a panel discussion with members of the Citadel’s class of 1967, and appearances by teachers William E. Dufford and Nathalie Dupree, students Sallie Ann Robinson and Valerie Sayers, his widow and fellow novelist Cassandra King Conroy, his brother Tim Conroy, and his daughter Melissa Conroy.
“Through the character of Tom Wingo in The Prince of Tides
, Pat wrote that there was ‘no word in the language I revere more than teacher,’” Jonathan Haupt, executive director of the Conroy Center, said. “This year’s festival is our opportunity to honor some of those teachers who meant so much to Pat.”
The festival also features a performance of Conrack
, a musical based on Conroy’s The Water is Wide
, the premiere of Luke Parker Bowles’ short film about the center, and photographs by Billy and Paul Keyserling documenting Conroy’s experiences teaching Daufuskie Island.
In addition to Conroy’s high school classmates, other speakers and guests include International African-American Museum president Michael Boulware Moore, Robert Smalls biographer Cate Lineberry, filmmaker Bud Ferillo, artist Wendell Minor, Charleston chefs Matt and Ted Lee, and author Ann Kidd Taylor, the daughter of Secret Life of Bees
author Sue Monk Kidd.
The festival coincides with the launch of several books — the paperback edition of A Lowcountry Heart
, Conroy’s posthumously published collection of short nonfiction, Geographies of Terrain
, the first book of poetry from Pat’s brother Tim Conroy, and My Tour through the Asylum: A Southern Integrationist’s Memoir
, by William E. Dufford, principal of Beaufort High School during Conroy’s attendance.
Founded after Conroy’s death from pancreatic cancer in 2016, the center aims to celebrate the life, works, and legacy of Pat Conroy in addition to providing space, classes, and support to area writers and readers. Earlier this year, the center became the only South Carolina-affiliate of the Chicago-based American Writers Museum.
The festival runs from Oct. 19-22 in USC Beaufort’s Center for the Arts at 805 Carteret St. Tickets start at $73.50. Learn more at patconroyliterarycenter.org