This has been a year of firsts for Roswell Reads. Instead of selecting a single title, the committee for the community-wide reading event chose one writer’s entire collection of books – a total of eight nonfiction works. 

That author was Rick Bragg, winner of more than 50 writing awards in 20 years, including the Pulitzer Prize for newspaper feature writing. His selection created unprecedented buzz for Roswell Reads. For the first time in the 14-year history of the community reading initiative, the writing workshop and luncheon usually scheduled for mid-March were both sellouts … in January.

Then came another first, this one nowhere near as splendid. 

In early February, Bragg sent word that he had been hospitalized after a critical illness. He had to cancel all speaking engagements involving travel from Jacksonville, Alabama, where he lives. For a writer busy promoting his current New York Times bestseller, “The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table,” that was quite a setback. It was also a setback for Roswell Reads, because Bragg was scheduled to conduct and attend its sold-out writing workshop and luncheon.

Within days, however, Roswell Reads and the renowned Southern author agreed on a new plan, and another first: Bragg would salvage the annual event by videotaping his writing workshop and luncheon discussion. In something like a couple of TED Talks, Bragg agreed to share his insights from decades of newspaper, book and magazine writing, as well as from teaching the subject at Harvard and, currently, the University of Alabama.

 “The show will go on,” declared Deanna Smith, Roswell Reads chair. Workshop and luncheon attendees were offered refunds, but they were also invited to submit questions for Bragg. All originally planned public events are ongoing and while seating is limited, space was available as of press time for the following:

•  A free family program March 2 from 1 — 2:30 p.m. at the East Roswell Library, 2301 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell. For information, call 404-613-4050.

• A Taste of Southern cooking March 14 at 7 p.m. at the Publix Aprons Cooking School, 4305 State Bridge Road, Alpharetta. The community program will feature a three-course dinner using Bragg’s mother’s recipes from his current book. Register at publix.com/recipes-planning/aprons-cooking-schools/alpharetta/classes. Tickets are $45 per person. 

• Bragg’s videotaped writing workshop, “How to write the story of your people (and not get killed),” March 15 from 1 — 3 p.m. in Room 220 at Roswell City Hall, 38 Hill St., Roswell. Cost is $20. Register online at roswellreads2019.eventbrite.com

• And the 14th annual Roswell Reads Literary Luncheon, March 16 at 11 a.m. at Roswell Adult Recreation Center, 830 Grimes Bridge Road, Roswell. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at roswellreads2019.eventbrite.com. In addition to Bragg’s specially taped presentation, there will be a variety of free books and Southern Living magazines featuring Bragg’s columns, signed Bragg books for purchase and a free raffle for some of his titles.  

“We hope our loyal Roswell Readers, who have been so supportive over the last 13 years, will join us to celebrate the life and works of Rick Bragg at this groundbreaking event,” Smith said. “We look forward to the March 16 luncheon, where we will join our fellow readers and continue the citywide conversation and interactive discussion about this iconic Southern author. Questions? Email RoswellReads@gmail.com.”

Contributing journalist, Kathy Des Jardins Cioffi. Owner of Johns Creek’s KRC Communications. Connect with her at krccom.com.

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