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If you’ve ever made the trek to the small Alabama town of Monroeville, chances are it had to do with ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

And the same thing goes for the Irondale Café or the Bayou LaBatre area. It’s likely that your readings of the novels ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café’ or ‘Forest Gump’ inspired your travels.
Popular literature can have a tangible effect on interest in a particular area, and can in turn bring tourism money to a state or region.

That concept—that literature can increase tourism and make an economic impact—drives the SouthEastern Literary Tourism Initiative (SELTI) as it encourages writers to pen fiction focusing on place, and readers to engage in that fiction in an interactive way.

The organization, which was launched in 2009, has published two tourism-themed novels and holds an annual tourism fiction writing contest. It’s working with the Alabama Tourism Department, University of Alabama, University of South Alabama, Jacksonville State University and other agencies to promote tourism fiction.
SELTI founder Patrick Brian Miller said that today’s readers have the opportunity to interact with the stories they’re reading through technology.

“Today’s modern e-readers allow readers to instantly browse tourism websites related to fiction through links embedded into the story, but many writers and publishers have not thought to include that yet,” he said. “Part of our mission is to encourage writers, publishers, tourism attractions and governments to work together for a common goal of promoting tourism.”

He said that Alabama is in the lead in this, with SELTI publishing what ‘USA Today’ recognized as the first tourism novel published with an interactive tourism guide embedded with links.
“The novel ‘Blind Fate’ includes the Rosa Parks Museum, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, along with many other cultural attractions,” he said.

According to Guntersville’s Kathryn Lang, the winner of the first SELTI novel-writing contest, literature has a proven track record as a tool for bringing tourists into an area.

“To Kill a Mockingbird brings in thousands of tourists to Monroeville every year, especially during special spring events,” she said. “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil brought in millions of dollars of tourism revenue to Savannah. Forrest Gump drew tourists to Bayou La Batre.”

Lang said, though, that today’s technology brings added opportunities to combine travel and reading.
“Many who read the novel in school are not even aware of Monroeville’s literary tourism events. What if every student who read the novel on a Kindle or iPad was also able to click on a link that led directly to Monroeville’s courthouse museum? That would be reaching millions of potential tourists over the years instead of thousands,” she said.

To read the entire article online, go to: http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/04/to_kill_a_mockingbird_other_al.html

 

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