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Love fest 

Although she won't be offering "Passionate Kisses," Mary Chapin Carpenter will sit down with Kaye Gibbons to talk about inspiration and mutual admiration. Pat Conroy will chat with Doug Marlette about friendship and collaboration. Robert Olen Butler (Had a Good Time: Stories from American Postcards) and his wife, playwright/novelist Elizabeth Dewberry (His Lovely Wife), will have a conversation about falling in love through books.

For Triangle-area book-lovers, the highlight of the season is definitely the 2006 North Carolina Festival of the Book, happening April 26-30. A collaboration between the libraries of Duke, N.C. State, UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University, the biennial event will be a chance for readers and writers to peer into the minds of their favorite authors. The free festival is dubbed It's About the Story and will feature local and nationally acclaimed authors in conversation about the nature of their craft. They'll share the stories behind their work and the relationships that influence their writing.

This year's festival will be a slight departure from the past, as evidence by the name change (from the scholarly-sounding "North Carolina Literary Festival") and more events geared toward popular audiences. Most of the events will take place on Duke's campus, but others will be held at the Carolina Theatre, the Hayti Heritage Center and at NCCU.

Almost 60 writers are expected to participate. Expect to hear about Southern origins of pro wrestling and football, and a talk about why science fiction is the best genre to discuss race, sex and politics.

Get to the chapel on time (Duke Chapel) to hear Barbara Kingsolver speak about the Bellwether Prize, which she founded to recognize literature of social change. Olympia Vernon, author of A Killing in This Town, and Lewis Nordan (Wolf Whistle) will discuss the lingering history of racial violence in the South and the fiction that it has inspired. Peter Guralnick will discuss Dream Boogie, his new biography of Sam Cooke, with WNCU's R&B/soul DJ Jim Davis.

North Carolina's Allan Gurganus, author of The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, and and his former student, Ann Patchett (Truth & Beauty), will be on hand to talk about teaching young writers. Humorist Roy Blount Jr. will spin yarns on 20 years of fishing trips, humor and the writer's life. Reynolds Price and Bill Smith of Crook's Corner will get into Southern food and Southern writers on food.

For readers who harbor secret crushes on authors or lifelong love affairs with books, this spring promises to be very passionate.

Check out the evolving schedule of events at www.ncbook.org.

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