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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for June 21-27, 2002.

In this issue:


The following events all happened during this week in Mississippi history.


1825: Southwestern humorist Henry Clay Lewis was born in Charleston, South Carolina. (June 26)

1895: Schoolteacher, journalist and author Ida B. Wells married Ferdinand L. Barnett, a lawyer and newspaperman. (June 27)

1899: Writer Murry Falkner, brother of John and William Faulkner, was born in Ripley, Mississippi. (June 26)

1902: Historian John Percy Dyer was born in New Albany, Mississippi. (June 24)

1910: Musician and photographer Milt Hinton, also known as “The Judge” and hailed as the dean of jazz bassists, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. (June 23)

1923: Historian George H. Thompson was born in Tylertown, Mississippi. (June 22)

1925: Writer John E. Gregg was born in Taylorsville, Mississippi. (June 26)

1928: Joseph Lewis Fant, III, an English professor at West Point and the editor of Faulkner at West Point, was born in Columbus, Mississippi. (June 23)

1933: William Faulkner’s daughter, Jill, was born. (June 24)

1933: James Meredith, a civil rights activist and the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi, was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. (June 25)

1940: William Faulkner published “A Point of Law” in Colliers, a story he will later revise for inclusion in the novel Go Down, Moses. (June 22)

1941: Richard Wright accepted the Spingam Award from the NAACP at its convention in Houston. (June 27)

1948: Music from Spain by Eudora Welty was published by The Levee Press in Greenville, Mississippi. (June 23)

1964: The Eccentricities of a Nightingale by Tennessee Williams and starring Edie Adams premiered at Tappan Zee Playhouse in Nyak, New York. (June 25)

1964: Eudora Welty submitted her story “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” to The New Yorker. It would be published almost immediately in the July 6 issue. (June 26)

1965: Fiction writer P. H. Lowrey died. (June 24)


John Marszaleck, Mississippi State historian, named ‘best speaker’ by national organization

June 10, 2002

John F. Marszaleck

STARKVILLE, Miss. — An award-winning Mississippi State historian recognized for his diverse publications now is receiving honors for his speaking skills.

John F. Marszalek, author of 11 books and more than 150 articles, recently was voted the highest-rated speaker for the Lincoln Forum, a national Gettysburg, Pa., gathering of scholars interested in Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War.

Forum chairman Frank J. Williams, chief justice of the Rhode Island supreme court, said Marszalek joins a distinguished group recognized by the six-year-old professional body.

“Previous audience favorites have included historians Craig Symonds, Jeff Shaara, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Jack Davis,” he said. “All combine scholarship, creativity, enthusiasm, and energy to engage and excite their audiences.”

Based on evaluations by this year’s forum participants, Marszalek rated 9.33 on a 10-point scale. Symonds, a historian at the U.S. Naval Academy, was second at 9.24. Marszelek’s presentation focused on the subject of a forthcoming book about the life of Union Army commander and chief of staff Gen. Henry Halleck.

A Lincoln Forum charter member, Marszalek recently was appointed to a 15-member national advisory committee for the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial celebration in 2009.

One of the top William L. Giles Distinguished Professors since 1994, Marszalek concludes a 29-year MSU faculty career with retirement on June 30. During his career in Starkville, he has written Assault at West Point: The Court Martial of Johnson Whitaker, which became a Showtime cable movie.

Two of his other books — The Petticoat Affair and Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion for Order — were main selections of the History Book Club. In addition, Petticoat Affair won the Southeastern Library Association’s Non-Fiction Award and Sherman was a featured alternate selection of the Book of the Month Club.

Tom Franklin, Grisham writer-in-residence at Ole Miss, ends year with new novel

June 17, 2002

Tom Franklin

OXFORD, Miss. — You could say novelist Tom Franklin raised “Hell” during his year as Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.

His forthcoming novel is Hell at the Breech, a fictionalized history of brutal events that took place 12 miles from his Alabama home. Franklin leaves the prestigious UM post savoring the opportunity to work in American novelist William Faulkner’s backyard.

“I could wander downstairs from my marvelous office and be on Faulkner’s land in five minutes,” said Franklin, who came to Oxford after a stint as a visiting writer-in-residence at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. “Walking the place has helped me tremendously; it’s much better than Illinois to a guy writing about a Southern landscape.”

Franklin soon assumes a similar position at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. Upon leaving UM, he joins an impressive group of other former Grisham writers, including T.R. Pearson, Mary Hood, Darcey Steinke, Steve Yarbrough and Claude Willkinson.

“I enjoyed the students here (at UM). They’re very smart, and the best of them are the best I’ve seen anywhere,” said Franklin, who last year was one of 183 Guggenheim fellows in the U.S. and Canada.

Having to say farewell to extremely talented people is the only downside to the Grisham program, said Joseph Urgo, chair of the UM Department of English. “Tom Franklin has been a tremendous asset to us this year; in a short time he attracted a strong and loyal following among our students,” Urgo said. “We'll look forward to following his post-Grisham career.”

During the year, Franklin taught undergraduate and graduate students in a two-semester fiction writing class. “You write for the joy of it; publication is a bonus,” he told a group of aspiring writers at the 2001 Oxford Conference for the Book, sponsored in part by UM. He praised the Grisham program for its tangible provisions: writing time and financial support.

“The intangibles, also of tremendous benefit, include living in this very literary town just a block from Faulkner’s estate and knowing that writers I admire have shown such confidence in my future that they wanted me to spend a year writing,” he said.

A native of Dickinson, Ala., Franklin remains connected indirectly to the University of Mississippi, with his wife, Beth Ann Fennelly, joining the UM English faculty this fall as a visiting professor in poetry and literary studies. Open House, her first book of poems, won the 2001 Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry for a First Book, one of the nation’s most prestigious awards for new authors.

Shay Youngblood, an award-winning Georgia-born novelist, poet and playwright, the author of Black Girl in Paris and Soul Kiss, is UM’s Grisham Writer-in-Residence for 2002-03.

The annual appointment, which includes housing and a stipend, was funded in 1993 by best-selling author John Grisham and his wife, Renee. It requires writers to teach writing workshops and participate in department activities.

Journalists’ need for math skills prompts prof’s new book

June 18, 2002

OXFORD, Miss. — Journalists are known to joke that they would be engineers or scientists if they could simply do the math.

Just for them, University of Mississippi assistant professor Kathleen Wickham has written the book Math Tools for Journalists.

“Math is something we learned in middle school. We can’t assume that we remember all the steps,” said Wickham, a New Jersey native with daily newspaper experience.

Today’s reporters and editors deal every day with mathematics — from local government budgets to basic statistics and practical arithmetic. Wickham said the handy, 160-page guide was written in part to address her own math-skills weaknesses, which she rediscovered as a doctoral student taking a statistics course. “I just got tired of being stupid,” she said.

Each chapter uses a news story to illustrate a specific, real need to use math. “My goal is for this book to be used in journalism classrooms to improve the math literacy for future journalists, and in newsrooms to improve math skills in the professional ranks,” said Wickham, who joined the UM faculty three years ago, after a decade of teaching at the University of Memphis.

With a master’s degree in journalism and a doctorate in instructional technology, she teaches media writing, ethics and graduate research methods. Her first book focused on online journalism.

Peter Mattiace, a Colorado journalist, is one of the first to purchase the new book. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a journalist, but it often helps,” he said. “Good reporters, and good and bad numbers sometimes just don’t mix. So, whether you have to figure a tax increase in Nowhere Township, a dip in the unemployment rate or how Enron lost all that money — all that fast — you need Professor Wickham’s book before you start. It’s as simple as 1, 2, ah, 3.”

Her first educational order came from the journalism program at Northwestern University. Wickham anticipates interest from other university journalism programs, because new national accrediting standards call for improved student math skills.

She’ll also be part of national panels on math in classrooms and newsrooms during conferences by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

She said she dedicated the book to her two sons. The younger one even helped cook meals. “His college tuition is coming from this,” she said.

For more information about Wickham’s book, contact Marion Street Press at 708-445-8330 or

Do you have a news item about a Mississippi writer? Please send your information to

AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

June 26: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi

Novelist Joe Kanon will read and sign copies of his historical thriller The Good German, at Square Books in Oxford. Visit for details.

July 21-26: 29th Annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference
“Faulkner and His Contemporaries”
The University of Mississippi, Oxford

Conference and registration information is now available on the web at the

If you know of upcoming readings and appearances by Mississippi writers, please let us know by writing us at 


The following events are planned for the coming weeks and months. You may wish to begin planning now to attend or participate.

November 11, 2002

Poetry Reading by J. D. McClatchy, Bondurant Hall Auditorium, The University of Mississippi campus, in Oxford.

February 6, 2003

U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2002) Billy Collins reads from his poetry and offers commentary on his work and other matters. Bondurant Hall Auditorium, The University of Mississippi campus in Oxford.

February 17, 2003

A reading by Clifton L. Taulbert on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford.

April 10-13, 2003

Oxford Conference for the Book, Oxford, Mississippi.

July 20-25, 2003

30th Annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi

If you know of additional news items for this newsletter or if you have suggestions, please write us at

For more information about events in the Oxford and University of Mississippi community, see the Ole Miss Community Calendar:

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