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Darcy Welch

Darcy Welch by the book

› First book you remember reading? “Watership Down” by Richard Adams in elementary school. “I was entranced — my heart raced along with Fiver’s.”

› Favorite Southern author? Flannery O’Connor

› Favorite book written by a Southern author? “Wise Blood” by Flannery O’Connor

› Book read multiple times that never gets old? “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson

› Book that changed your life or your thinking about a specific topic? “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau

› Book you recommend everyone read at least once? “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Coming Up in the SouthBound Lecture Series

› March 22: Fiction duo Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, co-authors of “The Tilted World.”

› April 21: Claire Vaye Watkins, a new voice in American literature, author of “Gold Fame Citrus”

› May 20: Humorist Harrison Scott Key, author of “The World’s Largest Man,” a memoir about his father.


Browsing book stacks in public libraries with her grandmother began a passion for reading that continues to influence Darcy Welch more than 30 years later.

"I've definitely had teachers along the way who helped grow my passion for reading, but I think it originated organically," she recalls. "My grandmother taught elementary school, and I remember weaving in and out of the aisles of public libraries at a very young age, helping her pick out books for her students — a chore I adored."

She is still suggesting good reads — whether they're for her two young sons, Griffin and Lucas, or for book lovers who attend the SouthBound lecture series sponsored by the Southern Lit Alliance or even for inmates at the Bradley County Jail, where the alliance holds book discussions that provide an outlet for reflection and self-healing.

Welch, 40, is the new director of the Southern Lit Alliance. Her leadership marks a new era for the alliance, a turning of the page after the retirement of Susan Robinson, who helmed the alliance for more than two decades.

"I'm really excited about forging partnerships with like-minded organizations, both within our community and beyond," Welch says. "An organization's mission and reach can be strengthened exponentially when forging those mutually beneficial alliances. Chattanooga is such a great place for those sorts of cross-pollinations."

In fact, Welch's propensity for forming partnerships along with her enthusiasm for the alliance's mission is what caught the attention of the search committee, says Anthony Crutcher, immediate past president of the alliance board. Welch served as a consultant to the alliance for five months before her appointment to the director's job, he explains.

"As consultant, she went above and beyond what her contract called for and created some partnerships that opened several doors for us that we think will be very productive in the future," says Crutcher.

One example is a collaboration with EPB to create a video promo for the SouthBound series, which circulated on EPB channels and networks.

Welch is an alumna of Girls Preparatory School and received a degree in English literature from the University of Tennessee before spending several years building a resume in nonprofit work.

"I've spent time honing my skills in just about every major component of the nonprofit arena: directing programming, volunteer management, campaigns and development," she lists. Not to mention the people skills she built working directly with a variety of volunteers, donors and their personalities, a skill she believes will help her expand the alliance's audience.

"That's a real hot button for me, that we provide meaningful and significant connections and growth through the literary arts that reflects our community's diversity," she says.

Contact Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.