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Pat Conroy at 70: 3-day festival planned in honor of best-selling author

Pat Conroy
Pat Conroy SUBMITTED PHOTO

Award-winning author Pat Conroy wholeheartedly endorses the idea of a three-day festival in honor of his life and work.

Or, rather, he says he only agreed to it because his publisher took advantage of his befuddled state while coming off of general anesthesia after surgery.

“I think it’s one of the worst things I’ve ever heard of, and I’ve done everything I could to stop it and I failed,” he said.

Which, of course, means the Lowcountry resident will be a prominent presence at “Pat Conroy at 70: A Literary Festival Celebrating South Carolina’s Prince of Titles.” It will be Oct. 29-31.

PC@70, as it will be called for short, will be a series of special events at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. There will be partner events with the Historic Beaufort Foundation, the Beaufort History Museum, the Beaufort Film Society, and the Pat Conroy Archive at USC Libraries.

The festival is being organized by the University of South Carolina Press with support from the Humanities Council SC and other benefactors.

Conroy turns 70 on Oct. 26.

“I never thought I’d be so old,” he said last week. “For me, 70 is the new 100.”

The plan is for a series of panel presentations and roundtables for writers and artists to talk about their experiences with Conroy and his role as a mentor and an advocate for Southern literature.

Participating will be members of his family, including wife and novelist Cassandra King and siblings Mike, Kathy, Jim and Tim.

Others include fellow New York Times best-selling writers Ron Rash and Mary Alice Monroe; S.C. Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth; internationally recognized artists Jonathan Green and Wendell Minor; historian and radio host Walter Edgar; agent Marly Rusoff; former editor Jonathan Galassi and former students Valerie Sayers and Sallie Ann Robinson.

Writers with Conroy’s Story River Books imprint, including Lillian Smith Award winner Pam Durban and 2014 S.C. Academy of Authors honoree John Lane, will also participate.

Additional events will include a screening of the film adaptation of Conroy’s novel “The Great Santini” and a moderated discussion of Conroy on the film, an exhibition at the John Mark Verdier House, a tour of private homes and gardens as part of Historic Beaufort Foundation’s Fall Festival of Homes & Gardens, and a birthday party at the Beaufort History Museum.

A Facebook page – which Conroy groaned upon hearing of – is already live at facebook.com/PatConroyAt70, and the official website will launch in June at patconroyat70.com.

The festival will be open to the public, except for long-time friend and fellow author Bernie Schein, Conroy said. Schein -- who is listed as a festival participant -- will be on a short, one-person list of people banned at the door.

“That’s the only thing they promised me,” Conroy said.

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