Inside South Arts' Efforts to Breathe Life Into The Communal Literary Experience

"Don't come to us, we'll come to you."

That's the logic underlying Atlanta's South Arts' "Literary Arts Touring" initiative, which will award grants of up to $2,500 to Southern organizations that invite writers of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry from out of state to give readings and conduct educational workshops or similar events.

Before we take a closer look at details of the grant and eligibility criteria, let's first step back and put the initiative in perspective. As readers of IP's Creative Writing coverage know, the literary world — including authors, publishers, and readers alike — is facing a kind of existential crisis. E-books threaten to wipe out physical books. Smart phones and iPads contribute to a kind of "literary ADHD." And authors are scrambling for an increasingly shrinking piece of already-thin royalties.

All of these developments are certainly important, but they obscure an even more alarming trend. The demise of the communal literary experience. I'm thinking of things like book clubs, interactive workshops, discussions at the public library — the kinds of community-oriented experiences centered around a literary work. Don't get me wrong. As I type this there are probably dozens — no, hundreds! — of Fifty Shades of Grey book clubs in full-blown, breathless discussion mode. But I'd also venture to argue that a majority of literary discussion takes place online nowadays.

And so the "Literary Arts Touring" initiative seeks to rekindle the potentially dying art of the communal literary experience. Consider it the literary equivalent of the slow food movement.

To be eligible, applicants must be designated as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or be a governmental organization and located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Tennessee.

The project can include single or multiple writers involved in an event (writers' series, festivals, or single engagements). The maximum grant request is 50 percent of the writers' fee(s). Qualified projects must take place between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016. And it's worth repeating: Winning projects must contain both a public reading and an educational component such as a writing workshop.

Literary Arts Touring applications must be submitted online by Friday, May 1, 2015 by 11:59 PM ET. Click here to do just that.