The recently opened Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort is a tribute to one of America's most beloved writers, its namesake. Considered a prominent figure in late 20th century Southern literature, Conroy graduated from The Citadel and later settled in Beaufort, calling it "too beautiful to leave."
His influence on Beaufort and the Lowcountry was immense. With the establishment of the Center, his influence will be felt for many years, impacting people of all ages. A museum of his work and passion for storytelling, the Center is also a distinguished presence of literary excellence and mentorship.
Conroy wrote 12 books, including his most successful, "The Prince of Tides," all set in or inspired by the Lowcountry, including stories about his time at The Citadel as well as his teaching years on Daufuskie Island.
In 2013, Jonathan Haupt, director of the University of South Carolina Press, created Story River Books fiction imprint to publish novels by both well-established and emerging writers with Southern ties. Conroy served as editor and greatly enjoyed mentoring some of the authors.
Story River Books writers are often scheduled for events at the Literary Center, sharing their talent and expertise and in the spirit of the Center's namesake, continuing his legacy of generosity.
In late 2015, Pat Conroy became ill and was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. He died a few months later at his home in Beaufort. He was 70 years old.
The Pat Conroy Literary Center was established in 2016, with Haupt named as executive director. The mission of the Center is to "develop an inclusive, sustainable, and highly visible educational presence," with exhibitions, writing workshops, mentorship programs, and presentations by local and visiting writers and literary arts leaders.
The Center was designated a Literary Landmark by the American Library Association and is an affiliate of the American Writer's Museum.
Two special events are coming up soon. The first will be a three-day, two-night Writer's Retreat Weekend in January, featuring best-selling fiction writers and memoirists. In an intimate setting at the Anchorage Inn in Beaufort, participants can learn from the best authors.
A book launch for Kristy Woodson Harvey's newest book, "The Secret to Southern Charm," will be held March 15 at the Elizabeth Barnwell Gough House in Beaufort. Ticket price includes a tour of the historic home and a signed copy of the book.
The Pat Conroy Literary Center, located at 308 Charles St., is open Thursday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Other times can be arranged by appointment.
The support of area residents is key to the future of the Center, so volunteers and donations are welcome. For more information, call 843-379-7025 or visit patconroyliterarycenter.org.
Glenda Harris of Bluffton is a freelance writer and editor, nature lover and aspiring novelist.