Philip Rafshoon quits festival to start new chapter

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Longtime gay business owner, bookworm and activist Philip Rafshoon is quitting his post with the AJC Decatur Book Festival after three years, looking to reinvent himself with new opportunities. 

Rafshoon joined the festival in December 2012 as program director, leaning on years of expertise and contacts he honed during 18 years of owning Outwrite Bookstore. The iconic business, located at the intersection of Piedmont Avenue and 10th Street, closed in January 2012. 

As Rafshoon reinvented himself with the festival, he helped nearly double attendance and sharpen a focus on LGBT authors. Now, as the festival looks to “reinvent and renew” itself, Rafshoon thought it time to do the same personally.

“The festival is always reinventing and renewing itself and, with such a great track record at the AJC DBF, it felt to me like the perfect time to do the same thing for myself and take a look at other opportunities,” Rafshoon tells Project Q Atlanta. 

In addition to helping boost attendance, Rafshoon says he worked to increase the quality, variety and diversity of the offerings of the event, which is held over Labor Day Weekend. The festival announced the “mutual decision” for Rafshoon's departure on Friday as planning gets underway for the 2016 event. His resignation is effective immediately, he says.

Rafshoon didn't hesitate to tick off a handful of his favorite moments with the book festival, including an All-Star lineup of chefs that appeared this year. They included lesbian chefs Cat Cora and Virginia Willies, along with Atlanta favorites Kevin Gillespie and Hugh Acheson. He added that the keynote event of the 2013 was also a highlight of his tenure of the festival. That's when staunch LGBT ally U.S. Rep. John Lewis presented his first graphic book on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. 

But with Rafshoon out at the festival, he cautioned that LGBT literary fans needn't worry.

“While I can probably talk about LGBT literature in my sleep and have used my network to bring in top name, upcoming, and emerging LGBT authors, I believe that the festival leadership and the programming committee have a great commitment to making sure LGBT voices are heard at the AJC DBF. I am comfortable that there will still be a good amount of LGBT inclusion,” he says.

So what's next for Rafshoon? Maybe a little quiet time and reflection in that Midtown loft he shares with partner Robert Gaul. It will cause you condo envy.

But he won't be quiet for long.

“I am actively pursuing opportunities in special events, promotion, sales, and development. I have experience in many areas and I hope to continue to work in an area where I can further causes close to my heart,” he says.

[photo of Robert Gaul, Cat Cora and Philip Rafshoon via Rafshoon]

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