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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for February 6-12, 2004

In this issue:


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

1699: Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, leading a French expedition to establish a permanent settlement in Louisiana, first entered present-day Mississippi at Ship Island. (Feb. 10)

1911: Football coach Glenn Ellison was born in Pittsboro, Mississippi. (Feb. 7)

1913: Newspaper columnist Orville B. Eustis was born in Greenville, Mississippi. (Feb. 8)

1913: Poet Charles Henri Ford was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi. (Feb. 10)

1925: William Faulkner published “Mirrors of Chartres Street” in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. (Feb. 8)

1930: English professor Carl E. Bain was born in Jackson, Mississippi. (Feb. 9)

1931: The novel Sanctuary, by William Faulkner, was published by Cape & Smith. (Feb. 9)

1934: William Faulkner published “A Bear Hunt” in the Saturday Evening Post. (Feb. 10)

1936: Poet and phsyciain John Stone was born in Jackson, Mississippi. (Feb. 7)

1941: The Atlantic Monthly accepted Eudora Welty’s short story “Why I Live At the P.O.” for publication. (Feb. 11)

1942: Harper’s Magazine accepted Eudora Welty’s story “The Wide Net” for publication. It had been previously rejected by the Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, Red Book, Country Gentleman, Ladies Home Journal, and Atlantic, among others. (Feb. 6)

1942: Novelist Peggy Webb was born in Mooreville, Mississippi. (Feb. 8)

1944: Writer David Blagden was born in Biloxi, Mississippi. (Feb. 8)

1951: William Faulkner’s Notes on a Horsethief was published. (Feb. 10)

1954: Author and poet Maxwell Bodenheim was fatally shot by Harold Weinberg while on a drinking spree. Weinberg then stabbed Bodenheim’s wife Ruth to death, as well. (Feb. 7)

1954: Shall Not Perish, teleplay by William Faulkner based on his story, was broadcast on Lux Video Theatre. (Feb. 11)

1955: Novelist John Grisham was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas. (Feb. 8)

1969: Boys in the Band, a play by Mart Crowley, opened in London at Wyndham’s. (Feb. 11)

1988: Young adult fiction writer Iris Vinton died of breast cancer in New York City. (Feb. 6)

1993: Children’s writer Otto R. Salassi died of liver disease in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Feb. 10)

1997: The television movie Old Man, based on the novella by William Faulkner, was broadcast on CBS. (Feb. 9)

2001: The motion picture Hannibal, sequel to Silence of the Lambs and based on a novel by Thomas Harris, premiered in theatres. (Feb. 9)

2002: A Multitude of Sins: Stories, by Richard Ford, was published. (Feb. 12)


Writer Richard Ford reads from his work Feb. 12

First author to receive both Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award for a single work

Feb. 9, 2004

By Deidra Jackson
University of Mississippi News Services

Richard Ford
Acclaimed author Richard Ford reads in Johnson Commons from The Lay of the Land, the ‘most serious and the most comic’ in his three-novel series.

OXFORD, Miss. — Leaving the Mississippi Delta — where he lived “a wonderful monotony” for some five years— was the best thing award-winning novelist Richard Ford did for the sake of his writing, he said.

“If I stayed, it would have confined me to writing about subjects written by other Mississippians, like Richard Wright and William Faulkner,” said Ford, who reads from his newest work Feb.12 at the University of Mississippi. “I had to go find something that only I could write about … that would be good, that would be mine.”

Ford, whose 1996 novel Independence Day was the first book to win both the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and PEN/Faulkner Award, reads at 7 p.m. in Paul B. Johnson Commons ballroom. The program is free and open to the public. His visit is sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the Department of English.

Preceding his reading, the Jackson-born author who later lived in Cleveland, plans to be in downtown Oxford for a 1:30-2:30 p.m. book signing at Square Books.

At UM, Ford will read from The Lay of the Land, a novel he is writing as the third in a series featuring protagonist Frank Bascombe, a sportswriter highlighted in Ford’s novels The Sportswriter (1986) and Independence Day.

Set at Thanksgiving in the year 2000 in suburban New Jersey — the setting for all his novels — The Lay of the Land will be the “most serious and the most comic of the three,” said Ford by telephone from his ocean-front home in East Booth Bay, Maine. “I’ve been writing it for a year and a little more, but it’ll be a three-and-a-half- year project.”

“He writes powerful ruminations,” said author Barry Hannah, Ford’s longtime friend and fellow Jackson native who is UM’s writer-in-residence. “I think his reading will be superb. He’s one of the strongest short story writers of all time.”

Ford has written six novels and three short-story collections. His other novels are A Piece of My Heart (1976), The Ultimate Good Luck (1981) and Wildlife (1990). He also has published three story collections: Rock Springs (1987), Women with Men (1997) and A Multitude of Sins (2002).

Although born and raised in the South, Ford, who turns 60 on Feb. 16, has traveled extensively throughout the country, keeping residencies in Montana, Maine and New Orleans, where he lives on Bourbon Street with his wife Kristina Ford, who is executive director of the city planning commission.

Ford’s short stories have been widely anthologized and have appeared in Esquire, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Granta. He edited The Granta Book of the American Short Story (1992), The Granta Book of the American Long Story and The Complete Stories of Anton Chekov, among others.

What advice would Ford offer to struggling or beginning writers? Talk yourself out of it.

“There’s not a bit of advice that hasn’t been contradicted by any other bit of advice,” he quipped.

Among the numerous other awards and honors Ford has received are a Guggenheim Fellowship, two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, and the 1994 Rea Award, which is given annually to a writer who has made contributions to the short story as an art form.

In citing Ford’s work, the Rea Award jurors said, “Richard Ford’s power lies in the deceiving simplicity of his language, in the complexity of the emotions he explores and in the extraordinary tenderness with which most of the people in his stories go about the solitary business of loving, and seeking love.”

Ford received a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, where he studied literature and began to write stories. He attended law school at Washington University in St. Louis for one semester, but quit to pursue a career in writing. He received a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of California at Irvine.

He has taught at Princeton University, Williams College and the University of Michigan. Ford wrote the screenplay for the 1991 film Bright Angel, which starred Sam Shepard and was based on two stories from Rock Springs.

Said film critic Roger Ebert: “No other writer can take the image of the West — the freedom of the open prairies — and make it seem like such a closed-in place, so drained of freedom, and threatening.”

“He is a man of great character and loyalty to his friends,” Hannah added. “Richard was forthright in his attack on racism. He’s enlightened me, more quickly than others of us, to racial injustice.”

For more information about Ford’s reading or assistance related to a disability, call the Department of English at 662-915-7439.

Endowment to support country’s first Faulkner dissertation fellowship

Alumnus remembers mother with $100,000 scholarship fund

Feb. 9, 2004

By Deidra Jackson
University of Mississippi News Services

Frances Bell McCool
Frances Bell McCool, a 1959 UM graduate, is being remembered by her family with a new scholarship.

OXFORD, Miss. — Thanks to a gift from an alumnus and his wife, the University of Mississippi plans to offer the nation’s only doctoral scholarship for students studying the life and work of Nobel laureate William Faulkner.

Campbell and Leighton McCool of Oxford have established a $100,000 endowment to create the Frances Bell McCool Endowment for Faulkner Dissertation Fellowship. The scholarship honors Frances Bell McCool, McCool’s mother and Ole Miss alumna, who died in 1994.

“Leighton and I strongly believe in what Chancellor (Robert) Khayat has done in the past seven years and his commitment to enhancing the national reputation of Ole Miss,” said Campbell McCool, a 1985 UM grad. “We wanted to do something to help.

“We chose to establish a Faulkner scholarship in the English department and the writing program because we truly believe it is one of the areas where Ole Miss has a growing national reputation and can go head-to-head with any school,” he added.

Frances Bell McCool, a 1959 UM graduate, taught high school mathematics for more than 30 years in Jackson and New Orleans. One of the first recipients of the Robert M. Carrier Scholarship, UM’s oldest prestigious scholastic award, she graduated in three years with a degree in mathematics and education.

Campbell McCool said he is pleased to have this option for honoring the memory of his mother “who had such a significant impact on my life and loved Ole Miss as much as anyone who ever went to school here.”

Plans call for the first McCool Fellowship to be awarded during the 2004-05 academic year, said Joe Urgo, chair of the Department of English.

“The McCool Fellowship will enable us to attract the most promising young Faulkner scholars to Oxford and advance this department’s work toward being the epicenter of Faulkner studies in the world,” Urgo said.

Faulkner was reared in Oxford and attended Ole Miss. He also served as the university postmaster and later made his home at Rowan Oak, near the UM campus. Since its creation in 1974, UM’s annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, which draws scholars from around the world to Oxford, is one of the longest-running literary events focusing on the works of a single author.

English department plans are to offer the competitive fellowship biennially, Urgo said. Existing graduate stipends for English doctoral students are set at $10,000. The McCool Fellowship amount is yet to be decided. Recipients are to be chosen by a four-member committee, including McCool and Urgo.

Said Chancellor Robert Khayat: “The extraordinary gift of Campbell and Leighton McCool honoring Campbell’s mother, Frances Bell McCool, provides an opportunity for Ole Miss to offer the only fully endowed Faulkner Dissertation Fellowship. Frances McCool was a wonderful student and teacher, and it is so fitting that her children have chosen to honor her by enabling others to become great teachers.”

Frances Bell McCool comes from a long line of Ole Miss alums. Her grandfather, Dean James Warsaw Bell, was an alumnus and faculty member for some 50 years. He was instrumental in the formation of the School of Commerce at UM and served as its first dean for 20 years, after also serving as dean of the School of Education. Her father, James Warsaw Bell Jr., received both undergraduate and law degrees from Ole Miss and was appointed university postmaster when William Faulkner was fired from the position.

“Ole Miss has been such a large part of both of our lives,” Campbell McCool said. “So it is a great honor to be able to give back to an institution that has given so much to our family.”

For more information about UM scholarships, contact Office of Financial Aid at 662-915-7175. To establish an endowment, contact University Advancement at 662-915-5944.

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

AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

Through Feb. 29, 2004: National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.

Passionate Observer: Photographs by Eudora Welty, highlighting over 50 of Welty’s black-and-white photographs from the 1930s, will be exhibited at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. For more details, visit the museum web site at

Feb. 12, 2004: Johnson Commons Ballroom, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, 7:00 p.m.

Reading and lecture by Richard Ford. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the Department of English at the University of Mississippi.

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.

April 1-4, 2004

The 11th Oxford Conference for the Book, in Oxford, Mississippi. Notable authors, editors, publishers and others in the trade gather with educators, literacy advocates and book lovers for panel discussions, readings and scholarly presentations. The 2003 conference is dedicated to Mississippian and author Walker Percy (1916-90). Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Oxford Tourism Council, and Square Books. Free admission; preregistration recommended through the Center for Study of Southern Culture (

June 17-20, 2004

Oxford Film Festival, in Oxford, Mississippi. Oxford’s second annual 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 and details are available at

July 25-29, 2004

31st Annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, “Faulkner and Material Culture.” The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi. More information, including registration fees and online application 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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