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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for January 17-23, 2003

In this issue:


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

1815: Southwestern humorist Joseph Glover Baldwin was born at Friendly Grove factory near Winchester, Virginia. (Jan. 21)

1893: Legislator, statesman, and Supreme Court justice L.Q.C. Lamar died in Georgia. He was buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Oxford. (Jan. 23)

1917: English professor Juanita V. Williamson was born in Shelby, Mississippi. (Jan. 18)

1923: Religion writer Martha Nelson was born in Merigold, Mississippi. (Jan. 19)

1931: Acclaimed stage and screen actor James Earl Jones, who co-wrote his autobiography Voices and Silences with Penelope Niven, was born in Arkabutla, Mississippi. (Jan. 17)

1931: Political scientist Samuel H. Barnes was born in Mississippi. (Jan. 20)

1931: William Faulkner’s daughter, Alabama, died, nine days after being born prematurely. (Jan. 20)

1938: Methodist minister and founder of the National Federation for Decency in 1977 Donald E. Wildmon was born in Dumas, Mississippi. (Jan. 18)

1939: The Wild Palms, a novel by William Faulkner, was published by Random House. Faulkner’s original title for the book, If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem, was changed at the request of the publisher. (Jan. 19)

1939: U.S. Air Force officer and motivation consultant Will Clark was born in Philadelphia, Mississippi. (Jan. 19)

1942: Walker Percy’s second cousin (and guardian) William Alexander Percy died in Greenville, Mississippi, from a stroke. Later that year, Walker would begin a three-year bout with tuberculosis. (Jan. 21)

1946: It was announced that Richard Wright’s Black Boy had sold 195,000 copies in the Harper trade edition and 351,000 through the Book of the Month Club, making it the fourth best-selling nonfiction title for 1945. (Jan. 19)

1954: William Faulkner arrived in Rome after visiting England, France, and Switzerland. He was working on Land of the Pharaohs for Howard Hawks. (Jan. 19)

1979: A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur by Tennessee Williams opened off-Broadway at the Hudson Guild Theatre in New York. It performed only 36 times. (Jan. 17)

1985: Novelist Borden Deal died of a heart attack in Sarasota, Florida. (Jan. 22)

2000: Food writer Craig Claiborne died at East Hampton, New York. (Jan. 22)


Back from the brink, Oxford American magazine to publish ‘relaunch issue’ this month

Jan. 16, 2003

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — When Oxford American editor Marc Smirnoff announced last May that the magazine had two weeks in which to find a new owner or face shutting down for good, things did not look promising.

The struggling “Southern magazine of good writing,” acclaimed for its annual music issues and for a talented and various array of writers and contributors over its ten-year run, was on the brink of financial ruin because of poor subscription sales and low ad revenues. The Spring 2002 issue of the magazine had been completed and sent to the printer, but could not be printed or mailed to subscribers because of a lack of operating funds.

Now, the magazine is back from the brink, thanks to a new owner, a new home in Arkansas, and a new editorial and business staff. Still unchanged is the magazine’s name and its editor, Smirnoff, who founded the magazine in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1992.

The magazine was saved from ruin when At Home Media Group, Inc., an Arkansas-based publisher, teamed up with two local entrepreneurs to purchase a majority interest in the Oxford American. Now based in Little Rock, the magazine will continue to offer its eclectic blend of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction for which it has been noteworthy.

According to a FAQ on the magazine’s web site, the magazine’s editorial content was what attracted the new owners in the first place. “I think it would be a significant mistake to tinker with the editorial content of the magazine,” says At Home Media’s Russ McDonough. Because the magazine has “such a devoted following,” the new publisher’s challenge is “to make that a profitable model without alienating our readers.”

The magazine will publish a regular issue every two months, along with special music and food issues each year, for a total of eight issues per year.

The magazine is no stranger to financial troubles. In 1994, the magazine nearly folded from a lack of funds, until bestselling novelist John Grisham rescued the magazine from ruin by purchasing an interest in the magazine and becoming the publisher. Grisham’s relationship with the magazine dates back to the very first issue in 1992, in which Grisham contributed an essay titled “The Faulkner Thing,” about how his own works were frequently compared to those of William Faulkner simply because both of them lived in Oxford, Mississippi.

The magazine also published Grisham’s first published short story, “The Birthday,” in 1995, and a serialized novel, A Painted House, in 2000.

The magazine’s most recent financial troubles ironically came as an anthology of the best articles and stories from the first ten years had just been published. The Best of the Oxford American: Ten Years from the Southern Magazine of Good Writing was published by Hill Street Press in 2002 and featured previously unpublished works that appeared in the magazine by such writers as Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Larry Brown, Barry Hannah, Rosanne Cash, Steve Martin, Donna Tartt, Susan Sontag, Rick Bass, and others.

More information about the magazine, including subscription and submission information, is available from the magazine’s web site, Also featured on the site are articles from the so-called “Lost Issue,” the issue that had previously been stranded at the printer for lack of funds.

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

NEW BOOKS by Mississippi Writers

William Faulkner: Six Decades of Criticism

Edited by Linda Wagner-Martin

Michigan State University Press (Hardcover, $29.95, ISBN: 0870136127)

Publication date: October 2002

Description from the publisher:

Few twentieth-century writers are as revered as William Faulkner. This collection brings together the best literary criticism on Faulkner from the last six decades, detailing the imaginative and passionate responses to his still-controversial novels. By focusing on the criticism rather than the works, Linda Wagner-Martin shows the primary directions in Faulkner’s influence on critics, writers, and students of American literature today. This invaluable volume reveals the patterns of change in literary criticism over time, while exploring the various critical streams—language theory, feminism, deconstruction, and psychoanalysis—that have elevated Faulkner’s work to the highest rank of the American literary pantheon.

Linda Wagner-Martin is Hanes Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Recent books include A Historical Guide to Ernest Hemingway, “Favored Strangers”: Gertrude Stein and Her Family, Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life, and a cultural edition of Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives.

In the Land of Dreamy DreamsIn the Land of Dreamy Dreams

By Ellen Gilchrist

Voices of the South Series

Louisiana State University Press (Paperback, $26.95, ISBN: 0807128295)

First published in 1981

Publication date: October 2002

Description from the publisher:

In the Land of Dreamy Dreams is Ellen Gilchrist’s fabled first collection of stories, the book that won her acclaim in 1981 and to which each of her subsequent works has been compared. Peopled largely with young southern females who chafe against the restrictions of their upper-class lives, these stories convey the humor and tragedy to be found wherever retreat into imagination is preferred over reality. Introduced here are Nora Jane Whittington, Rhoda Manning, and other recurring Gilchrist characters beloved for their failures, tenacity, and all-too-human hope in the face of frustrated love.

Raising Positive Kids in a Negative WorldRaising Positive Kids in a Negative World

By Zig Ziglar

Thomas Nelson (Paperback, $14.99, ISBN: 0785264787)

First published in 1985

Publication date: October 2002


A child is not a computer that can be programmed to perform according to our desires. Each child is a unique human being with the free will to choose their path in life. With this in mind, Zig Ziglar shows parents how they can help their kids build a foundation of character from which to make the right choices in life. By modeling attitudes and actions that bring about positive results, parents can help their kids understand that life can be positive and that they have incredible worth in God’s eyes. Drawing from his “I CAN” course which has been taught to over three million participants in over 5000 schools, Ziglar provides sensible guidelines to help parents handle a variety of issues including drugs, discipline, encouragement, television, and dating and sex.

AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

Feb. 6: Bondurant Auditorium, University of Mississippi campus, Oxford, Mississippi, 7 p.m.

U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2002) Billy Collins reads from his poetry and offers commentary on his work and other matters. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the English Department. For more information, contact the department at (662) 915-7439, or online at

Feb. 6-8: Magnolia Independent Film Festival, Cinema 12, Starkville, Mississippi

The 6th annual Mag Film Fest, celebrating the spirit, the honesty, and the vision of independent films. For more information, visit the festival web site,

Feb. 17: Old Chemistry Auditorium, University of Mississippi campus, Oxford, Mississippi, 7 p.m.

Clifton L. Taulbert, author of the acclaimed classic Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored, will speak. This event is in conjunction with Open Doors, the University of Mississippi’s yearlong observance of the 40th anniversary of the integration of higher education. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the English Department. For more information, contact the department at (662) 915-7439, or online at

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.

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. Information and registration forms available at

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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