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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for October 11-17, 2002

In this issue:


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

1881: Novelist Stark Young was born in Como, Mississippi. (Oct. 11)

1903: Novelist James Street was born in Lumberton, Mississippi. (Oct. 15)

1913: Theologian Lee A. Belford was born in Savannah, Georgia. (Oct. 14)

1920: Psychologist Wilse B. Webb was born in Hollandale, Mississippi. (Oct. 13)

1922: Writer Thomas Hal Phillips was born on a farm near Corinth, Mississippi. (Oct. 11)

1922: Novelist Borden Deal was born in Pontotoc, Mississippi. (Oct. 12)

1925: Journalist Jack Nelson was born in Talladega, Alabama. (Oct. 11)

1925: Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Dumas Malone married Elisabeth Gifford. (Oct. 17)

1928: Historian Lerone Bennett was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi. (Oct. 17)

1931: Journalist and editor William Hodding Carter married Betty Werlein. (Oct. 14)

1934: William Faulkner published “Retreat” in the Saturday Evening Post. (Oct. 13)

1934: Historian John R. Skates was born in Sharkey County, Mississippi. (Oct. 14)

1935: Newspaper columnist William Raspberry was born in Okolona, Mississippi. (Oct. 12)

1936: English professor Thomas McHaney was born in Paragould, Arkansas. (Oct. 17)

1937: Children’s book writer Helen H. King was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi. (Oct. 15)

1943: Sociologist Joyce A. Ladner was born in Waynesville, Mississippi. (Oct. 12)

1946: Poet and educator Claire T. Feild was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi. (Oct. 11)

1955: William Faulkner’s Big Woods was published by Random House. (Oct. 14)

1957: Place in Fiction by Eudora Welty was published by House of Books, Ltd., New York. (Oct. 17)

1960: Painter Maud Butler Falkner, mother of writers John Faulkner, Murry Falkner, and William Faulkner, died at the age of 88 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Oct. 16)

1964: The Shoe Bird, by Eudora Welty, was published by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York. (Oct. 14)

1982: The Wake of Jamey Foster, a two-act play by Beth Henley, opened on Broadway at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. (Oct. 14)

1995: Librarian and medical writer Thomas Edward Keys died in Rochester, Minnesota. (Oct. 11)

1998: Impossible Marriage, by Beth Henley, opened on Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre in New York, starring Holly Hunter and directed by Stephen Wadsworth. (Oct. 15)

2002: Historian Stephen E. Ambrose died in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, from lung cancer, at the age of 66. (Oct. 13)


Historian Stephen E. Ambrose dies at 66

Stephen E. Ambrose

Oct. 13, 2002

By Brett Martell

NEW ORLEANS — (AP) Stephen E. Ambrose, whose best-selling books made America’s aging World War II veterans hometown heroes again, died early Sunday after a battle with cancer. He was 66.

Ambrose, a longtime smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer in April. Family members were with him when he died about 4 a.m. at a Bay St. Louis, Miss., hospital, relatives said.

“Steve was the great populist historian of America. He didn’t write for intellectuals, he wrote for everyday people,” said Douglas Brinkley, a former student of Ambrose’s who followed him as director of the University of New Orleans’ Eisenhower Center.

Ambrose spent the last six months of his life in a flurry of writing, Brinkley said. His last book, To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian, which he called his love song to his country, is set for release Nov. 19.

For much of his career, Ambrose was a little known history professor. He burst onto the best-sellers list less than a decade ago with his 1994 book D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II.

Based in large part on interviews with veterans about their combat experiences, the book recounted the chaotic, bloody beach invasions of Normandy from the American soldier’s perspective.

“He was saying, ‘There’s all this obsession with high command, but the real story is these citizen soldiers who still live in every town and hamlet in the United States,’” Brinkley said.

With unadorned but lively prose, Ambrose continued to captivate readers as he churned out history books at an industrial pace, publishing more than 30, including a half-dozen more best sellers such as Citizen Soldiers and The Wild Blue.

He “combined high standards of scholarship with the capacity to make history come alive for a lay audience,” Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur Schlesinger said.

While best known for his World War II books and as the founder of the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, Ambrose wrote about numerous aspects of American history. Other books addressed former Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, the Transcontinental Railroad and the Lewis and Clark expeditions of the American West.

“His great gift was that he refused to allow people to think history was boring,” said Brinkley, who also collaborated on several books with Ambrose. “He was always grabbing people by their lapels and saying, ‘Listen to this. Isn’t this fascinating?’”

Ambrose, who called himself a hero worshipper, said in a recent interview that his focus on World War II developed from working on his Eisenhower biography and his memory of GI’s returning home from World War II when he was 10 years old.

“I thought the returning veterans were giants who had saved the world from barbarism. I still think so,” he said.

For the most part, war veterans were eager to help Ambrose and entrusted artifacts they saved from World War II to the National D-Day Museum. The old soldiers seemed to relate well to the author, a plain-speaking man who got to the point and wasn’t afraid to mix in a few curse words for emphasis.

When Ambrose discovered he had lung cancer, he said the likely terminal diagnosis was in some respects liberating because “you can do whatever the hell you want. Who’s going to criticize you? And if they do, what the hell do you care?”

By the time he became ill, Ambrose’s snowballing success had grown into a dynamic family industry that ranged from top-dollar lectures to movie consulting and even historical tours run by one of his sons.

Ambrose’s film work included consulting roles in Steven Spielberg’s World War II blockbuster Saving Private Ryan and on the World War II documentary Price for Peace, also directed by Spielberg.

In addition, Spielberg, co-directing with Private Ryan star Tom Hanks, turned Ambrose’s best-selling book Band of Brothers into a cable miniseries.

Ambrose was born Jan. 10, 1936, a doctor’s son from Whitewater, Wisconsin. He was for much of his career a ponytail-wearing liberal who once quit a teaching job at Kansas State University in protest over a campus visit from Richard Nixon during the bombings of Laos and Cambodia.

As a young professor, Ambrose counted himself among the growing number of new left professors who taught what was wrong with America, criticizing the treatment of native Americans, U.S. motives for the Mexican-American war and neglect of the environment. But he wasn’t always a left-wing academic. He played football for the University of Wisconsin and related his affection for the sport to his fascination with battlefield strategy.

Ambrose spoke out against America’s involvement in the Vietnam war, yet he focused his research on presidents and the military at a time when such topics were increasingly regarded by his colleagues as old fashioned and conservative.

Some in academia didn't take Ambrose seriously, which is why, his supporters say, jealousy ran rampant when Ambrose’s name became a fixture on best-sellers lists. Some colleagues say that was what led to accusations in early 2002 that Ambrose plagiarized several passages in a handful of books. The passages lacked quotation marks, but were footnoted.

Ambrose apologized for careless editing but otherwise stood by his work.

“I always thought plagiarism meant using other people’s words and ideas, pretending they were your own and profiting from it. I do not do that, have never done that and never will,” he wrote in a newspaper editorial.

Ambrose seemed to be settling back into a rhythm in the Spring of 2002 when he was diagnosed with cancer. The diagnosis prompted him to drop a World War II project about the Pacific and launch into the autobiographical book due out next month which began with the working title A Love Song to America. The book in many ways embodied Ambrose’s transformation from left-wing demonstrator to super-patriot.

“I want to tell all the things that are right about America,” Ambrose said in a May interview with The Associated Press.

Ambrose, who spent most of his teaching career at the University of New Orleans, founded the D-Day Museum to exhibit artifacts entrusted to him by veterans he had interviewed. It initially was meant for the New Orleans campus but turned into a $30 million exhibit in a converted warehouse.

In an interview earlier this month with The Times-Picayune, Ambrose said he was inspired to continue writing by Ulysses S. Grant, who wrote his memoirs through the pain of throat cancer.

“Dying is so damn complicated,” he said.

Ambrose is survived by his wife, Moira, and children Andy, Barry and Hugh, Grace and Stephanie.

Clarksdale to host Tennessee Williams Festival

Oct. 11, 2002

CLARKSDALE, Miss. — Clarksdale, Mississippi, one of two Mississippi towns in which playwright Tennessee Williams lived as a child, will once again host a festival in his honor. The Tenth Annual Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival is scheduled for October 17-19, with most events taking place at the Clarksdale Station, next door to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale.

Festivities include screenings of films about Williams and based on his plays, live performances and readings of his plays, and scholarly lectures and discussions of Williams’ works.

Registration begins at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17, with fees starting at $10.00 to cover admission to presentations, porch plays, workshops, and drama competition. Some events, such as a reception at Belle Clark Mansion and a dinner at Uncle Henry’s, cost extra and require reservations by Oct. 15.

For more information, contact the Clarksdale Chamber of Commerce at (662) 627-7337, or visit their web site at for a complete schedule of events and links to additional information.

Call for Papers: John Kennedy Toole

Oct. 12, 2002

Due to two eleventh-hour withdrawals, the editors of a forthcoming volume of essays focusing on the works of John Kennedy Toole seeks 1-2 additional, high-quality papers to round out a collection of essays. Any topics will be considered, but those focusing on The Neon Bible or new approaches to The Confederacy of Dunces are especially welcome. A major Southern university press has expressed significant interest in the project.

Please submit abstracts of between 500-1,000 words as soon as possible. Please contact the following email address right away to express interest or to request further information:

Final acceptance of papers will be conditional on receipt of a publishable essay. Deadlines for final essays will be somewhat negotiable.

Dr. Suzanne Disheroon-Green
Associate Professor of English
Northwestern State University
Natchitoches, Louisiana

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


The following articles were recently added to the Writer Listings:

NEW BOOKS by Mississippi Writers

Preserving the Pascagoula
By Donald G. Schueler
University Press of Mississippi (Paperback, $18.00, ISBN: 157806466X)
First published in 1980
Publication date: May 2002

Description from the publisher:

A classic book about the environmental triumph that saved a southeast Mississippi wetland.

Preserving the Pascagoula re-creates one of the more exciting sagas in the history of wilderness preservation—the ultimately successful fight to protect the vast, magnificent, little-known Pascagoula Swamp in southeastern Mississippi.

The Pascagoula, in terms of discharge volume, remains the largest undammed, unaltered river system in the continental United States. The story of how it was saved, with several heroes, no great villains, and a happy ending, will remind the environmental community that now and then the “good guys” do win.

More than the suspenseful retelling of this achievement, Preserving the Pascagoula details the unusual strategy whereby the fight was won. It serves as a blueprint of how a state government created from scratch one of the finest natural area programs in America today.

This is the story of the most effective nonprofit land acquisition group in the nation, The Nature Conservancy, and its innovative Natural Heritage Program that calls upon states to inventory and protect threatened ecosystems. It is also the story of Mississippi’s response to the Heritage idea, a response that has served as a model for other states.

Finally, this is the account of a handful of dedicated people, ranging in their commitments from counterculture activism to staid conservatism. The unlikely alliance of these disparate groups suggests how much even a few individuals can accomplish against great odds, if they have the will and the nerve.

Preserving the Pascagoula could have been just one more account of a dramatic eleventh-hour confrontation between environmentalists and developers. More than that, it suggests many ways in which people who want to save our wilderness heritage can initiate action, instead of merely reacting to threats to the environment.

This new edition of Preserving the Pascagoula is published by the Mississippi Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. Support and assistance for this effort has come from The Nature Conservancy of Mississippi, Audubon Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.

Donald G. Schueler is the author of A Handmade Wilderness, Incident at Eagle Ranch: Predators as Prey in the American West, The Temple of the Jaguar: Travels in the Yucatan, and Adventuring along the Gulf of Mexico.


The Spirit of Retirement: Creating a Life of Meaning and Personal Growth
By James A. Autry
Prima Publisher (Hardcover, $22.95, ISBN: 0761563539)
Publication date: September 2002

Description from Publishers Weekly:

For some people, the word “retirement” evokes images of farewell parties, vacations, golf games and, at long last, real progress on oft-postponed household projects. But according to Autry (Love and Profit), who once served as the president of a large corporation and is now a public speaker and consultant, the intial euphoria soon wears off, leaving the retiree with a hard realization: “For the first time in my life I don’t have a job.” In this compact, inspiring book, Autry insists that retirement is actually an opportunity for people to “stop doing and concentrate on being.” To that end, he shares stories about retirees who made successful transitions to retirement and juxtaposes these anecdotes with questions and exercises for readers. Retirement is a time for changing one’s approach to life, reinvigorating friendships, serving the community, finding nature and expressing one’s inner creativity, explains the author, and his book—alternately pragmatic and spiritual—should serve disillusioned retirees well. Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

On WritingOn Writing
By Eudora Welty
Modern Library (Hardcover, $14.95, ISBN: 0679642706)
Publication date: September 2002

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Welty (The Optimist’s Daughter; The Golden Apples; One Writer’s Beginnings), who died last year, was a master of the short story, of small town eccentricities, of dialogue and place and the messiness of human relationships—she was a writer’s writer. Now, seven of her essays about the craft of fiction, taken from 1978’s The Eye of the Story, are repackaged together in a little book that marks a welcome break from the myriad how-to-write-a-novel-in-six-weeks guides and good-natured but often ineffectual volumes of creative encouragement. In elegant and insightful investigations, Welty considers Hemingway’s moralizing, Virginia Woolf’s intellectual use of the senses, the “lowlier angel” of setting, the problem of polemical, crusading fiction and the novel as “an illusion come full circle” that “seems to include a good deal of the whole world.” There is some advice to be had—narrative pleasure can arise from authorial obstruction, for example—but by and large this is a book of fond analysis, addressed to the serious reader and dedicated writer. Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Touring Literary MississippiTouring Literary Mississippi
By Patti Carr Black and Marion Barnwell
University Press of Mississippi (Paperback, $20.00, ISBN: 157806368X)
Publication date: September 2002

Description from the publisher:

A guide to the adventures waiting in one of the richest literary states in America.

By taking the literary traveler on seven preplanned tours—through the Delta, along Highway 61, to the heart of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha country, to sites near Interstate 55 and the Natchez Trace, to the piney woods of East and South Mississippi, and along the sun-struck Gulf Coast—this book captures the phenomenal abundance and diversity of Mississippi literature.

More than a guidebook, this book includes capsule biographies and well over a hundred photographs of writers, their residences, and their literary environments. It also provides maps and gives explicit directions to writers’ homes and other literary sites.

The sheer number of writers discovered, recovered, and claimed by Mississippi will astonish travelers both from within and from without the state. Included are not only such major figures in the pantheon of American literature as William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, and Richard Wright but also the less well-known.

Every nook and cranny of the state claims a piece of Mississippi’s literary heritage. Literature pervades Yazoo City, Jackson, Greenville, Oxford, Natchez, the Gulf Coast, and the Delta Blues country. Willie Morris, Richard Ford, and Beverly Lowry have declared that a famous writer’s presence in their hometowns convinced them that they too could be writers.

As the locations bring to life the connection of ordinary rituals with the stuff of fiction, poetry, and memoir, these hands-on tours make evident the special cross-pollination of writer and community in Mississippi.

Patti Carr Black is the author of Art in Mississippi, 1720­1980 and The Southern Writers Quiz Book (both published by the University Press of Mississippi). Marion Barnwell, a fiction writer and an assistant professor of English at Delta State University, compiled and edited A Place Called Mississippi (published by the University Press of Mississippi).

AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

Aug. 1-Nov. 4: J. D. Williams Library, University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi

“Civil Rights, Mississippi, and the Novelist’s Craft.” This exhibit highlights fictional accounts set in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement, including works by Ellen Douglas, Patrick D. Smith, Elizabeth Spencer, Eudora Welty, Lewis Nordan, William Mahoney, Joan Williams, and many others. Supplementing the display of books will be correspondence, manuscripts, and related ephemera drawn from the archive’s literary collections. Located in the Hall of Mississippi Writers in the Special Collections Department, J. D. Williams Library. Open 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. For more information, please contact: Leigh McWhite, (662) 915-7937,

Oct. 17: Bryant Hall Gallery, University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, 4:00 p.m.

Yalobusha Review 2002 Debut Party. Reception for readers, writers, artists and editors of Yalobusha Review 2002, UM’s fine arts journal. Features a reading by poet Claude Wilkinson. Copies of YR available for purchase, along with original artwork and broadsides. Sponsored by Master of Fine Arts programs in English and Art. For more information, please contact: Dept. of Art at (662) 915-7193.

Nov. 11: Bondurant Hall Auditorium, University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, 7:00 p.m.

Poetry Reading by J. D. McClatchy. He is the author of four books of poetry, including The Rest of the Way (1992) and Ten Commandments (1998), two collections of essays, and has edited numerous books, including The Vintage Book of World Poetry (1996) and The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry (1990). Since 1991 he has been editor of The Yale Review, and in 1996 he was named a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the Department of English. For more information, contact the English Department at (662) 915-7687,

Nov. 12: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 5:00 p.m.

Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides, Beach Music and The Great Santini, will be at Square Books to read and sign copies of his new book, My Losing Season. For more information, visit the Square Books web site,

Nov. 14: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 5:30 p.m.

Donna Tartt, author of The Secret History, will sign and read from her long-awaited second novel, The Little Friend, at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. For more information, visit the Square Books web site,

Nov. 14: Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi, 4:00 p.m.

Mary Carol Miller will sign copies of Lost Landmarks of Mississippi. For more information, visit the Square Books web site,

If you know of upcoming literary events by or about 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.

January 16, 2003

Poetry Reading by Tom Chandler, 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.

March 25, 2003

Poetry Reading by Andrew Hudgins, Bondurant Hall Auditorium, The University of Mississippi campus, in Oxford.

March 26-30, 2003

Seventeenth Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana. For information, visit their web site at

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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