Former Outwrite owner to lead book festival

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Bookworm and longtime LGBT activist Philip Rafshoon takes on a new book-related gig in January on the eve of the first anniversary of his Outwrite Bookstore collapsing into bankruptcy.

The AJC Decatur Book Festival announced Thursday that Rafshoon will take over as event director on Jan. 1, replacing author Terra Elan McVoy. The best-selling young adult author is stepping down to focus on her writing, while longtime festival support Rafshoon steps in with his years of experience in the book business.

“In a short seven years, the Decatur Book Festival has grown very quickly into one of the premier book festivals in the country and has helped showcase and enhance the great way of life in Decatur and the metropolitan Atlanta area,” Rafshoon says in a prepared statement. “As a longtime supporter, I am thrilled to join this team as program director and use my experience to help grow the festival to even greater success and showcase the diverse literature and culture we provide to an ever-expanding audience.”

Rafshoon’s start with the festival comes just a few weeks short of the first anniversary of the closure of Outwrite, the iconic LGBT bookstore and coffeehouse that celebrated its 18th anniversary in December 2011. The store collapsed into bankruptcy owing more than $508,000 to creditors, including $184,000 in unpaid state sales taxes.

Rafshoon was accused of misleading supporters of the store by publicly seeking donations while privately preparing to close and file for bankruptcy. But Rafshoon offered to return the donations after the store closed. Rafshoon then staged a multi-day Midtown Pop-Up Shop to sell books, furniture and supplies from the closed store to help pay the debt.

The former Outwrite space opened this week as 10th & Piedmont, an upscale addition to the popular Gilbert’s café that offers meal service during the day and shifts into a bar for a late-night crowd.

On Friday, Rafshoon told his Facebook friends that he’s already making plans to put his imprint on the book festival.

I am honored and thrilled to officially share with you the news that I have been appointed Program Director of the AJC Decatur Book Festival, the largest independent festival in the country. I am looking forward to working closely with Daren Wang to continue the festival’s traditions and make the festival even stronger. I am eager to get to work and want to all of you for your unwavering support!

Last year, Rafshoono became the first gay winner of Georgia Tech’s Legacy Award. The 1983 graduate in Industrial Management at the college has received several local LGBT-specific awards in the past, including HRC’s Community Leadership Award. He currently serves on the Atlanta Police Department’s LGBT Advisory Panel. Mayor Kasim Reed included Rafshoon on his search committee for the city’s new police chief.

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