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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2003

10th Oxford Book Conference celebrates novelist, drama critic Stark Young

April 10-13 event brings creative writing, publishing scene home for beginners

April 4, 2003

By Deidra Jackson
University of Mississippi News Services

OXFORD, Miss. — Novelist, playwright and drama critic Stark Young, a versatile figure in the Southern literary renaissance, is paid a tribute during the 10th Oxford Conference for the Book April 10-13 at the University of Mississippi.

A University of Mississippi alumnus and faculty member from 1905-1907, Young was born in Como and reared in Oxford in the historic Walton-Young House, a Mississippi landmark at the corner of University Avenue and Fifth Street. He died in 1963.

This year’s four-day conference of panel discussions, book-signings and social events slates readings and discussions by noted writers, editors, publishers and literary advocates. The event also celebrates National Poetry Month in one of its most popular segments of readings and remarks by celebrated poets.

Most conference sessions are in Johnson Commons on campus and are free to the public, unless otherwise noted.

“Year after year, the Oxford Conference for the Book draws an outstanding assemblage of writers, literary critics, publishers and literature lovers to the Southern literary mecca that is Oxford,” said Ann Abadie, associate director of the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture. “We have a spectacular lineup.”

Novelist Tom Franklin, last year’s UM John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence, said he awaits the literary gathering: “I’m really looking forward to it—it’s just about my favorite weekend in Oxford, and Oxford has a lot of amazing weekends. The readings, the parties, going en masse out to Taylor, well, I’ve got to figure out a way not to sleep.”

During the conference, Franklin will read from his new novel, Hell at the Breech, to be released by William Morrow in May.

“I think the organizers do an amazing job of bringing in a range of exciting authors, both well-established and newer voices,” said poet Beth Ann Fennelly, a UM assistant professor of English and conference panelist. Her book Open House won the 2001 Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry for a First Book and her new book, Tender Hooks, will be published in 2004.

“The atmosphere is very laid back and social, with a lot of opportunities for the conference participants to get to know each other and Oxford, as well as hearing some of the best poetry, fiction, and nonfiction being written today.”

Stark Young devoted his life to the arts and achieved recognition for his contributions as a poet, teacher, playwright, director, fiction writer, essayist, translator and painter. He wrote four successful novels, including in 1934 So Red the Rose, which became a best seller and a movie.

At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the conference hosts an informal kickoff on Thacker Mountain Radio, with a live broadcast on 95.5 FM from Off Square Books in downtown Oxford. The event features live music and readings by authors Robert Stone and Percival Everett.

A “Meet the Speakers” cocktail buffet dinner begins at 7 at Isom Place. Reservations are required, and proceeds benefit the conference. Cost is $50 per person.

The conference begins at 9 a.m Friday with a welcome by Oxford Mayor Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books, and a writers workshop, “Submitting Manuscripts/Working One’s Way Into Print.” Novelist Barry Hannah moderates that discussion.

Panelists are Jere Hoar, novelist, UM emeritus professor of journalism and attorney; Beau Friedlander, Context Books publisher and editor-in-chief; Scott M. Morris, novelist and UM instructor in English; Kathy Pories, senior editor, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill; George Singleton, writer and teacher at South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities; and Shay Youngblood, poet, playwright, fiction writer, screenwriter and UM’s current Grisham Writer-in-Residence.

Hannah also moderates a 10:30 a.m. writers workshop, “Finding a Voice/Reaching an Audience.” Slated on the panel are Helene Atwan, director of Beacon Press; John Evans, owner of Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson; Percival Everett, fiction writer and professor of English at the University of Southern California; Robert Stone, novelist; and Crystal Wilkinson, writer-in-residence at Eastern Kentucky University.

Other Friday workshops include “Algonquin Books: Discussion,” 2 p.m.; “Race and Publishing in America,” 3:30 p.m.; and “How to Get the Most from a Creative Writing Workshop,” at 8 p.m. A 7 p.m. reservations-only cocktail reception at Off Square Books costs $25 per person.

Saturday sessions are “The Endangered Species: Readers Today and Tomorrow,” 9 a.m.; “Writing Memoirs,” 10:30 a.m.; “Stark Young Program” sponsored by the North Mississippi Storytellers Guild, noon; “Stark Young: A Southerner in the Arts,” 2 p.m.; and “Selections from Stark Young’s Works,” at 3 p.m.

Other panels are, Saturday, “Third World Thrillers,” 4:30 p.m.; “Open Mike—Poetry & Fiction Jam,” 8:30 p.m.; and Sunday, “Appalachian Voices,” 9 a.m.; “Books on the Civil Rights Movement,” 1:30 p.m.; and “Poetry: Readings and Remarks, Celebration of National Poetry Month,” at 3 p.m. The conference concludes with a reservations-required country dinner in Taylor, south of Oxford. Cost is $25 per person.

Conference sponsors are the Center for the Study of Southern Culture; departments of English, History, and Journalism; John D. Williams Library; McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College; John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Fund; Barksdale Reading Institute; Sarah Isom Center for Women; University Museums; Junior Auxiliary of Oxford; Lafayette County Literacy Council and Square Books. It is partially funded by the university and grants from the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and the Tribal-State Compact Fund.

For more information or reservations to the two dinners or cocktail reception, contact the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture at 662-915-5993 or for a schedule go to Those requiring special assistance because of a disability also should contact CSSC.

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