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The Charlotte Literary Festival adds a touch of soul for 2010 

This month, the Charlotte Literary Festival makes a comeback — and in yet another incarnation. Hosted by the NoDa-based used book retailer RealEyes Bookstore, the fifth annual festival is adding music to its slate of programming this year.

According to Darren "Jaz" Vincent, owner of RealEyes and founder of the festival, joining forces with the Neo-Soul Music Festival will make sure readers and non-readers alike have something that appeals to them about the two-day event.

"I felt like it was time to expand," says Vincent. "We were always approached about having entertainment [from] national recording artists, but we didn't want to interrupt the energy that we had going on."

This year's festival — held on Sept. 10 and 11 at the Park Expo & Conference Center — brings bestselling authors Mary Monroe and Susan Taylor, along with famed poet Sonia Sanchez, to the Charlotte for the city's only major literary event. (Budget cuts forced the cancellation of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library's Novello festival. But volunteers, led by UNC-Charlotte professor Mark West, will host "A Tribute to Novello" on Oct. 1, 2 and 9. Oct. 1 and 2 will feature adult authors and Oct. 9 will feature young adult and children's authors.)

On the music side, co-organizer Shannon Wright says partnering with the literary festival was pretty much a no-brainer. The musical entertainment will feature performances from vocalists Dwele, N'dambi and Algebra Blessett.

"The Neo-Soul Festival represents artists who express themselves artistically in a way that you aren't allowed to do in pop culture with pop music generally," says Wright. "With what Jaz was doing with the literary festival, we thought combining the two would be culturally defining ... and give people something more authentic."

Vincent says the artists who will perform at the festival help to encourage literacy, which has been a cornerstone of the event: "When Shannon approached us about a collaboration with neo-soul, we felt like that fit our clientele and demographics."

Wright points to the N'dambi song, "L.I.E." as to how this music coincides with the literary part of the festival.

"It's written about the Long Island Expressway, and it's about this guy who was taking the L.I.E. home from his job in Manhattan. But he was selling people pipe dreams, and it's about the economy and how the banks deceived everybody ... I thought it was a level of expression that neo-soul artists bring that's on the level of poetry."

The Charlotte Literary Festival takes place Sept. 10 and 11 (Friday, 6 p.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.) at The Park Expo & Conference Center (formerly known as the Merchandise Mart), 2500 E. Independence Blvd., Freedom Hall. 248-684-2613. Weekend passes go for $25. For more info, visit www.realeyesbookstore.com.

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