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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for May 2-8, 2003

In this issue:

  • This week in Mississippi Literary History
  • News about Mississippi Writers
  • New books by Mississippi writers
  • Author events: readings, book signings, and appearances
  • Announcements: News briefs, conferences, calls for papers, and reader announcements
  • On the horizon: events coming up in the weeks and months ahead


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

1541: Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto arrived at the Mississippi River, nearly five months after entering present-day Mississippi. The massive river impeded his westward journey for nearly a month as his men built barges to cross the river. (May 8)

1699: Construction of Fort Maurepas was completed on the eastern shore of Biloxi Bay, near present-day Ocean Springs, as part of the first French settlement in what is now Mississippi under the command of Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville. (May 4)

1700: Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, leader of the first French colony in what is now Mississippi, established a peace treaty with the Natchez Indians, who cede land on which to build Fort Rosalie near present-day Natchez, though the actual fort would not be built until 1716. (May 5)

1905: Writer and educator Miriam Weiss was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. (May 9)

1919: Writer and English professor Louise Blackwell was born in Benmore, Mississippi. (May 7)

1925: William Faulkner published “The Rosary” in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. (May 3)

1926: Theatre scholar Barbara Izard was born in Gulfport, Mississippi. (May 8)

1932: William Faulkner arrived in Culver City, California as an MGM contract writer. (May 7)

1932: Chemist John Fredric Garst was born in Jackson, Mississippi. (May 8)

1935: Garden writer Neil G. Odenwald was born in Heathman, Mississippi. (May 3)

1942: William Faulkner published “The Bear” in the Saturday Evening Post. (May 6)

1943: Tennessee Williams signed a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. During the following months, while awaiting a studio assignment, he wrote The Gentleman Caller, which he later renamed The Glass Menagerie. (May 4)

1944: Novelist and short story writer Jack Butler was born in Alligator, Mississippi. (May 8)

1952: Playwright Beth Henley was born in Jackson, Mississippi. (May 8)

1955: Pulitzer Prizes were awarded to William Faulkner for A Fable and to Tennessee Williams for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. (May 2)

1981: Journalist John Osborne died of emphysema in Washington, D.C. (May 2)

1987: Writer Willie Morris spoke at the dedication of the Confederate cemetery in Raymond, Mississippi. (May 9)

1989: Economist Earl Hamilton died in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. (May 7)

1993: Theologian C. E. Autrey died in Pensacola, Florida. (May 8)

1998: Myres Smith McDougal, professor of law and one of the originators of the originators of the New Haven school of jurisprudence, died in North Branford, Connecticut. (May 7)

2002: Cable network C-SPAN aired a live broadcast on William Faulkner from Rowan Oak, his former home in Oxford, Mississippi, as part of its American Writers II: The Twentieth Century television series. (May 5)


Jim Henson’s Muppets now back in the family

Five Henson children buy back the company their father founded

May 7, 2003

Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the other Muppets—the “marionette puppets” created by puppeteer and filmmaker Jim Henson—are returning home after years abroad.

According to media reports, German media company EM.TV & Merchandising AG has agreed to sell Jim Henson Co., the producer of the Muppets, to the children of their creator for $89 million. Henson, who created the puppets and performed and voiced several of the characters, died in 1990.

EM.TV bought the Jim Henson Co. from the Henson family for $680 million in March 2000 at the height of the stock market bubble. Since then, it has sold off parts of the company, including the Sesame Street characters and its stake in the children’s networks Odyssey, Noggin, and Kermit.

The sale of the 45-year-old company returns it to Jim Henson’s five children: Brian, Lisa, Cheryl, John, and Heather. All five siblings will serve on the company’s board, and two—Brian and Lisa—will be actively involved in managing the company.

In a statement on the company’s web site, Brian Henson said, “I am absolutely thrilled that Lisa, Cheryl, John, Heather and I will acquire the company our father founded some 45 years ago. This has been a very challenging period for The Jim Henson Company. But the company has achieved some great things over the past few years, continues to have great assets and, we firmly believe, has great potential. Our commitment, as the Jim Henson Company’s new owners and as Jim Henson’s children, is to preserve and enhance those assets, fully realize that potential, and thereby honor our father’s legacy.

“In the months and years ahead, we will be actively exploring new and expanded strategic relationships to help us continue to carry out the company’s mission: making the world a better place by inspiring people to celebrate life.”

The Henson family will pay $78 million in cash for the characters, the TV and motion picture production companies and the special effects unit known as the Creature Shop. EM.TV will keep Henson Co.’s current liquid assets of $11 million.

Jim Henson, who was born in 1936 in Greenville, Mississippi, created his trademark puppets nearly fifty years ago for a five-minute late-night puppet show on a local television station. His fur-and-foam creatures gained popularity in commercials and appearances on variety shows, but their big break came in 1969 with the premier of Sesame Street. Henson himself performed and voiced his most famous creature, Kermit the Frog, whose namesake was one of Henson’s childhood friends in Leland, Mississippi.

Related Links
The Jim Henson Company.
Muppet family back together,” (7 May 2003)

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NEW BOOKS by Mississippi Writers

Charitable Choices: Religion, Race, and Poverty in the Post-Welfare EraCharitable Choices: Religion, Race, and Poverty in the Post-Welfare Era

By John P. Bartkowski and Helen A. Regis

New York University Press (Hardcover, $60.00, ISBN: 0814799019; Paperback, $19.00, ISBN: 0814799027)

Publication date: February 2003

Description from the publisher:

Congregations and faith-based organizations have become key participants in America’s welfare revolution. Recent legislation has expanded the social welfare role of religious communities, thus revealing a pervasive lack of faith in purely economic responses to poverty.

Charitable Choices is an ethnographic study of faith-based poverty relief in 30 congregations in the rural south. Drawing on in-depth interviews and fieldwork in Mississippi faith communities, it examines how religious conviction and racial dynamics shape congregational benevolence. Mississippi has long had the nation’s highest poverty rate and was the first state to implement a faith-based welfare reform initiative. The book provides a grounded and even-handed treatment of congregational poverty relief rather than abstract theory on faith-based initiatives.

The volume examines how congregations are coping with national developments in social welfare policy and reveals the strategies that religious communities utilize to fight poverty in their local communities. By giving particular attention to the influence of theological convictions and organizational dynamics on religious service provision, it identifies both the prospects and pitfalls likely to result from the expansion of charitable choice.

John P. Bartkowski is Associate Professor of Sociology at Mississippi State University. He is the author of Remaking the Godly Marriage: Gender Negotiation in Evangelical Families. Helen Regis is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Louisiana State University. Her work on New Orleans jazz funerals and second lines has appeared in American Ethnologist and Cultural Anthropology.

Splintered BonesSplintered Bones

By Carolyn Haines

Dell (Paperback, $5.99, ISBN: 0440237211)

Publication date: February 2003

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Described on the somewhat staid cover as “a mystery from the Mississippi Delta,” Haines’s third Southern cozy (first in hardcover) is heavy on the cornpone, but is saved from the totally ridiculous by a hearty leavening of laughter. Sarah Booth Delaney and her cohorts, Tinkie Richmond and Cece Dee Falcon (formerly Cecil but that’s for another story) band together to save friend and horse breeder Eulalee “Lee” McBride from a first-degree murder rap. Lee has confessed to the murder of her loutish husband, Kemper Fuquar, in order to save her mixed-up 14-year-old daughter, Kip Fuquar, from the charge. The sheriff is hard-put to find a woman any woman on the outlying magnolia-scented estates who didn’t have a motive to crush Kemper’s skull, then sic Avenger, a temperamental show horse, on the rotter. When she’s not busy being a PI, Sarah Booth stays busy playing with her red tick hound, Sweetie Pie; talking to a resident ghost, Jitty, in her antebellum mansion; reluctantly scouring the area for a date to the hunt ball; baby-sitting for a willful Kip; and reading Kinky Friedman books. Sarah Booth keeps up with her friends’ lipstick and nail polish colors, and even goes along with having Sweetie Pie’s hair dyed brown from its graying shade. The author’s long on accent, if short on clues that help elucidate the mystery. But Haines (Them Bones) keeps her sense of humor throughout, holding the reader’s attention and internal laugh track right down to the last snicker. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

June 19-22: Ford Center for the Performing Arts, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi

“Oxford Film Festival.” Oxford’s first community-sponsored film festival consists of 4 days of screenings, along with workshops on film-making, screen-writing, etc., for adults and children, juried professional independent and amateur films, presentations and awards. Ticket prices & details TBA. 10 a.m.-midnight daily. For more information, visit the festival web site,

June 26-29: The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi

The “Yoknapatawpha Summer Writers’ Workshop” is designed to give poets and fiction writers experience in the art of writing. The workshop features writing practice and critiques, as well as readings and craft presentations. By the end of the four days, participants should emerge with improved writing skills, as well as a greater appreciation for the process from thought to printed page. Open to anyone interested in writing. Pre-registration is required. Tuition for the workshop is $395 per person and includes workshops, lectures, panel discussions, readings, and one evening reception. The registration deadline is Friday, June 6, 2003. For more information, visit the workshop web site,

If you know of upcoming literary events by or about Mississippi writers, please let us know by writing us at 


The 2003 ‘Yalobusha Review’ now available

Volume VIII features 20 poems, 6 short stories, 3 works of creative nonfiction, 2 translations, and 26 images. Contributors include Shay Youngblood (Grisham Writer-in-Residence), Steve Almond, Claude Wilkinson, Steve Bellin, Louis Bourgeois, and Charles Wright. Also featured is a joint-interview with authors Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle.

Copies may be obtained by sending a check for $10 made payable to the YALOBUSHA REVIEW at the following address:
Dept. of English
Bondurant Hall
P.O. Box 1848
University, MS 38655

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

July 20-24, 2003

30th Annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi. Information and registration forms available at

October 16, 2003

Elmore Leonard, author of more than 30 novels (including Bandits, Get Shorty, and Tishomingo Blues), numerous film and television productions, essays and commentaries, will read and talk about his career. For more information on Leonard, visit Elmore Leonard’s new book, When the Women Come Out to Dance, is to be published in November 2003. Johnson Commons Ballroom, The University of Mississippi, 7 p.m. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the Department of English at the University of 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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