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The Fete Set signed off on 2009 with a dinner hosted in honor of Pat Conroy, and we've started the new year with a literary bang! On Saturday, January 16, a well-heeled crowd filled one of the Wild Dunes Sweetgrass Pavilion ballrooms, site of the Trident Literacy Association's 4th annual authors luncheon.

The sound of rain on the roof and the smell of strong coffee swirled around the room as guests sat in rapt silence throughout the panel discussion. Four authors, all with ties to the Lowcountry, discussed the challenges and rewards of writing, which they peppered with a few zingers. When asked what advice he'd give would-be writers, panelist Jack Bass wryly observed, "If you don't have to do it, don't."

Bass was joined by Katie Crouch, Ann Herlong-Bodman, and Batt Humphreys, and they were expertly moderated by Mary Alice Monroe, a NY Times bestselling author in her own right. Monroe's polished, honeyed tone touched on a variety of topics that ranged from writing rituals to the Kindle. The panelists even discussed the business side of being an author with insights into selling a manuscript and royalties from online booksellers (authors do not receive a percentage of Amazon's resale business).

For the scores of attendees, many of whom participate in a book club according to pre-luncheon chatter, the concept of adult illiteracy is difficult grasp, but the fact is one in seven adults living in the tri-county area are functionally illiterate. It costs $25—roughly the price of a new hardback book—for an adult to work with the Trident Literacy Association, and they accept online donations. Visit their website to learn more: