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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for March 5-11, 2004

In this issue:


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

1767: Jean Baptiste de Bienville, long-time governor and leader of the Louisiana colony under French rule, died in France. (March 7)

1849: Writer Eliza Jane Poitevant, who wrote under the pen name Pearl Rivers, was born in Gainesville, Mississippi. (March 11)

1863: Suffragist and state legislator Belle Kearney was born in Madison County, Mississippi. (March 6)

1889: Novelist and short story writer Ben Ames Williams was born in Macon, Mississippi. (March 7)

1908: Historian W. B. Hamilton was born in Jackson, Mississippi. (March 7)

1926: Memoirist and novelist Reuben G. Davis married Helen Dick. (March 9)

1932: William Faulkner published “Turnabout” in the Saturday Evening Post; it was the basis for a film called Today We Live, which premiered in Oxford at the Lyric Theatre April 12, 1933. (March 5)

1933: Poet, lecturer, and management consultant James A. Autry was born in Memphis, Tennessee. (March 8)

1936: Poet Margaret Walker received notice to report to work for the WPA Writer’s Project in Chicago as a fulltime employee. (March 13)

1958: Nature writer Rick Bass was born in Forth Worth, Texas. (March 7)

1959: Tennessee Williams’ play Sweet Bird of Youth premiered in New York at the Martin Beck Theatre. It ran for 383 performances. (March 10)

1960: First telecast on CBS-TV of Tomorrow, based on the short story by William Faulkner and directed by Robert Mulligan with a screenplay by Horton Foote. (March 7)

1991: Poet Etheridge Knight died of lung cancer in Indianapolis, Indiana. (March 10)


Authors gather in Oxford for 11th annual Book Conference April 1-4

March 9, 2004

By Jennifer Southall
University of Mississippi News Services

OXFORD, Miss. — For anyone who loves a good book — whether poetry, fiction, memoir, polemic or mystery — the University of Mississippi is the place to be April 1-4 for the 2004 Oxford Conference for the Book.

Scheduled to appear at this year’s conference, which is dedicated to Southern novelist Walker Percy, are humorist Roy Blount Jr., editor Gary Fisketjon, publisher Jonathan Galassi, novelist Kaye Gibbons, journalist Sebastian Junger, poet William Jay Smith, Newbery Award-winner Mildred D. Taylor and American Book Award-winner Janisse Ray, among many others.

“I love public discourse, and I think that book festivals provide a grand forum for the dissemination of ideas through art,” said Ray, UM’s 2003-04 John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence and moderator of a conference panel discussion on literature and political activism.

Jamie Kornegay, bookseller at Oxford’s Square Books and a conference organizer, said he’s pleased that this year’s conference features more panel discussions moderated by local writers. They include UM’s two other writers-in-residence, Tom Franklin and Barry Hannah, as well as the Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Chair of Journalism and Boston Globe columnist Curtis Wilkie.

Besides readings and panel discussions — with topics ranging from “Remembering Walker Percy” to “Readers Today and Tomorrow,” “Submitting Manuscripts” and “Southern Preoccupations” — the 2004 conference also offers a number of events that support Ray’s “grand forum” for disseminating ideas.

To honor the visiting Newbery Award winner, conference organizers have proclaimed April 2 as Mildred D. Taylor Day in Mississippi. In addition to a reception for Taylor, students from several area middle schools have been invited to discuss Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

Other conference offerings include cocktail parties with session panelists, a catfish dinner, the opening of the Mississippi Mystery Writers Exhibition, and a performance of scenes from William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and other Southern literary classics set to music.

Kornegay pointed to other “interesting new directions” to be taken with this year’s conference, which include the opening of the conference on Thursday to allow the live radio program Thacker Mountain Radio to be hosted on the UM campus.

As added attractions, conference organizers have scheduled two out-of-town events this year. A literary tour of the Mississippi Delta, featuring sites relevant to Percy, Tennessee Williams, Shelby Foote and others, kicks off in Greenwood March 29 and concludes April 1; programs April 4-5 in Jackson celebrate restoration of the garden at the home where Eudora Welty lived for 76 years.

Aside from the outstanding conference itinerary, Ray said it’s the attitude of Conference for the Book participants that differentiates this event from other literary festivals.

“One aspect that I really like about the Oxford conference is that the people in attendance seem to understand books not simply as entertainment or business but books as momentous things — as vehicles of epiphany and social change and art,” said Ray. “Books are important at the level of marrow.”

Conference sessions at UM are open to the public without charge; however, preregistration is recommended to ensure seating. Reservations and advance payment are required for three optional conference events: a cocktail buffet with panelists at Isom Place ($50), cocktail party with panelists at Off Square Books ($25) and country dinner at Taylor Catfish ($25).

The Welty event in Jackson is free and open to the public. Reservations and advance payment of $50 are required for a related April 4 dinner at the Old Capitol Inn (price includes cocktails and gratuity). Registration and advance payment of $350 are required for the Delta literary tour.

The 2004 Oxford Conference for the Book is sponsored by UM’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Square Books, Junior Auxiliary of Oxford, Lafayette Co. Literacy Council and Oxford Tourism Council. The event is partially funded by UM, R&B Feder Foundation for the Beaux Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Tribal State Compact Fund, Mississippi Humanities Council and Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.

The Welty program is sponsored by CSSC and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and is made possible by a grant from NEA. The Delta tour is sponsored by CSSC and Viking Range Corp.

To register for the conference, Welty event or Delta tour, or for more information, visit For assistance related to a disability, call 662-915-7236.


Literary programs in Jackson, Delta bookend Oxford Book Conference

March 10, 2004

By Jennifer Southall
University of Mississippi News Services

OXFORD, Miss. — With appearances by such diverse writers as Roy Blount Jr., Kaye Gibbons, William Jay Smith, Mildred D. Taylor and Sebastian Junger, the 2004 Oxford Conference for the Book is sure to delight literary enthusiasts of all stripes.

But for those who want more, conference organizers have scheduled two additional offerings on days immediately before and after the April 1-4 conference at the University of Mississippi: a literary tour of the Mississippi Delta March 29-April 1 and several events in Jackson April 4-5 related to Eudora Welty.

To register for the conference, Welty events and Delta tour, or for more information, visit or call 662-915-5993.

“The Delta has a rich history of music and food,” said Jimmy Thomas, a Delta native and guide for part of the tour, which includes stops in Greenwood, Greenville and Clarksdale. “But just as important — perhaps even more important — is its rich literary history.”

An abundance of literary culture also can be found at 119 Pinehurst in Jackson, the address of Eudora Welty’s home. Although the house where Welty spent more than 76 years is not open to the public, the newly restored gardens that Welty maintained with her mother open in early April and are on the Jackson itinerary.

“To see the garden itself — the flowers and plants evokes passages and imagery that Eudora wrote about in her stories,” said Mary Alice Welty White, Welty’s niece and the home's curator.

The Delta literary tour, organized by UM’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the Viking Range Corp., begins in Greenwood, home base for the tour. The first leg of the trip offers participants the opportunity to explore the town where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson was put to rest and where playwright Endesha Ida Mae Holland spent her youth.

The second day of the tour is spent exploring Greenville, home of novelist Beverly Lowry and Vogue senior writer Julia Reed, as well as writers William Alexander Percy, Walker Percy and Shelby Foote. On hand for the tour, Lowry and Reed are scheduled to read from their works at Greenville’s McCormick Book End. Also, Kenneth Holditch, professor emeritus at the University of New Orleans, gives a talk on Walker Percy and his circle of literary friends.

Greenville, in the heart of the Delta, has produced more writers per capita than any other city in the United States, according to Thomas, managing editor for the new edition of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, scheduled to be published by CSSC in 2005.

Holditch speaks again on the third day of the tour in Clarksdale, where Tennessee Williams spent much of his early childhood and where Williams’ grandfather served for 16 years as rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church. In addition to Holditch’s talk on Williams’ relation to Mississippi, visits to significant Williams-related sites are on the Clarksdale itinerary.

Besides the literary treats in the three towns, the tour includes breaks for barbecue and other favorite Delta foods. Also scheduled along the way, of course, are attending live blues performances and visiting such places as the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale.

The Delta’s heritage is one that its people are happy to share, Thomas said. “The people of the Delta are very proud of what comes from there, and they’re also very inviting and appreciative of anyone who visits to admire or take part in the abundance of literary culture.”

Jackson events include a walk through the Welty garden with archival gardener Susan Halton, tour of the Welty Archives and reading of “Petrified Man” by actor John Maxwell, as well as talks on Welty’s life and work. The events are sponsored by CSSC and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and made possible by a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

Welty’s fiction alludes to more than 150 varieties of plant species, many of which grew in the garden created by Welty’s mother. The garden has been restored to its 1940s look, based on documentation found in the Welty home, which is to be opened to the public in 2005.

“With the garden and Eudora’s correspondence, awards and other papers, Eudora’s home will be one of the most complete literary home museums in the country once it’s restored. Everything is right there,” White said.

All the Welty events related to the Book Conference are free and open to the public except an April 4 dinner at the Old Capitol Inn, which requires reservations and advance payment of $50 (price includes cocktails and gratuity). Old Capitol is offering a special $99 rate (plus tax) for Welty program participants. Reservations can be made through March 22 by calling 888-359-9001.

Registration and advance payment of $350 are required for the Delta literary tour and include all program activities, five meals and local transportation. Lodging is not included, but group accommodations at a discounted rate of $135 per night are available at the Alluvian, Viking’s boutique hotel in Greenwood. Reservations can be made by calling 866-600-5201 and asking for the “literary tour” rate.

For assistance related to a disability, call 662-915-7236.

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

AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

April 1-4: Oxford, Mississippi

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 (

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.

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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