The AJC Decatur Book Festival (DBF) recently announced that Philip Rafshoon is taking over as program director effective January 1, 2013. Rafshoon is the former owner of Atlanta’s Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, which was described by DBF Executive Director, Daren Wang, as “a lynchpin in the Atlanta book landscape for two decades.”
Rafshoon replaces Terra Elan McVoy, the festival’s first program director assistant, who replaced Thomas Bell in February of 2011. According to the Decatur Book Festival website, McVoy has chosen to step down to focus on her career as a novelist. She has released four books since 2009.
The festival grew with McVoy at the helm because she continued the trend of creating programming that appealed to a wide range of community members. The 2011 and 2012 festivals saw new programs such as Book the Brick, Emerging Writers Pavilion, Little Free Libraries, Kidnote, and the first DBF Writer’s Contest. These additions, along with the other classic programs—such as Teen Activities, Children’s Activities, Cooking Authors Demonstrations, and Food Beer and Wine, have kept the festival fresh, relevant, and growing.
Rafshoon told me through email that McVoy’s success in “expanding the diversity of the festival for all types of readers and in all categories” is something he aspires to continue and will use his experience with Outrwrite to do so. “One of the wonderful things that we did at Outwrite was to make books and readings available and exciting for those who identify as readers and book lovers and also for those who are much more casual readers.”
Rafshoon says he is looking forward to applying what he learned at Outwrite to the festival. With Outwrite, Rafshoon “had to wear many hats,” as he puts it. He was in charge of “buying, selling, managing, programming, and budgeting.” All of these logistical and business skills will be important in his new role, but he knows that’s not all it takes. “One of the proudest things that we did at Outwrite was work to foster a sense of community, and that is one of the things that Decatur Book Festival does for the literary community.”
Rafshoon, a long-time community leader, has been recognized numerous times for his business- and community-building contributions. Among other awards, he received the Human Rights Campaign Humanitarian Award in 2000, the Community Service Award from AID Atlanta in 2004, and the Atlanta Gay Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. He’s also served on the advisory committee of the American Booksellers Association.
Rafshoon says he is still learning what authors and panels have done recently and is still building his programming committee. But with his track record and the support of an experienced, hard working staff, there is much promise that the Decatur Book Festival will continue to establish Atlanta as one of the premiere literary cities in the country.