FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 10, 2010
Novelist Connie May Fowler to Headline 22nd Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium
COLUMBUS, Miss. -- Best-selling novelist Connie May Fowler will be joined by 11 other authors in honoring the legacy of Mississippi University for Women alumna Eudora Welty during the 22nd annual Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium, Oct. 21–23 on the MUW campus, organized by the Department of Languages, Literature, and Philosophy and College of Arts and Sciences.
Admission to all Writers' Symposium sessions is free, and all are open to the public. The weekend will also include an art exhibit hosted by the Department of Art and Design and a performance by the Department of Music and Theatre.
The theme of this year's symposium is “‘Never Think You've Seen the Last of Anything': Of Optimists and Other Endangered Species” and is inspired by Eudora Welty's Pulitzer Prize winning novel "The Optimist's Daughter." According to symposium director Dr. Kendall Dunkelberg, “the theme of optimism seems particularly appropriate in a time of economic recession and the environmental crisis caused by the oil spill in the Gulf.”
A search for optimism figures prominently in "How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly," the latest novel by keynote speaker Connie May Fowler, which recounts the life of title character, Clarissa Burden, as she confronts a loveless marriage and the ghosts of her own past and the past of her Florida home on a day of magic and discovery that features an ancient oak tree, a one-armed angel, a one-eyed man and the All-American Dynamite Dwarf Carnival. “Fowler lends magic and voice to the singular Florida landscape,” writes Annie Bostrom for Booklist, “…she blurs the line between the written and the writer as we witness Clarissa's brave discovery that the real truth is often the most risky tale to tell.”
Fowler, who will read on Thursday, Oct. 21st, at 7:30 p.m. in Nissan Auditorium of Parkinson Hall, returns for her second appearance at the symposium. She has also published the memoir "When Katie Wakes" and five other novels, "The Problem with Murmur Lee," "Remembering Blue," "River of Hidden Dreams," "Sugar Cage" and "Before Women Had Wings," which was made into an Oprah Winfrey Presents television movie. Her reading will be followed by a reception and book signing with all symposium authors.
The symposium will resume at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 22nd with the work of North Carolina native, Wayne Caldwell, whose novels "Cataloochee" and "Requiem by Fire" recount the changes and difficult choices forced on a community that existed on land destined to become part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park . Publisher's Weekly praises Caldwell 's fiction for its "rich historical background" and "unhurried story about resiliency and the unifying power of community."
Another North Carolinian, poet Shirlette Ammons follows with a reading from "Matching Skin." Ammons' latest book includes the five-song CD John Anonymous, on which she collaborates with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and other artists. Indy Week praises her efforts, noting "Her ability to move between disciplines and venues is rare, her hunger to try new things, intense." She has published one previous book of poetry "The Stumphole Aunthology of Backwoods Blood" and plays bass and sings vocals with her soul, funk, and hip-hop band Mosadi.
Next, Lorraine López will read from her recent short story collection "The Homicide Survivors Picnic," which was one of five finalists for this year's prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award. These 10 stories, set in the South and portraying characters that live on the edge, "make an impact, bringing the reader face-to-face with situations that are realistic and gritty but never hopeless or pitiful," writes Alex Myers for New Pages Book Reviews. López teaches at Vanderbilt University and is a previous recipient of the International Latino Book Award and many other awards for her publications, which include "Call Me Henri," "The Gifted Gabaldón Sisters" and "Soy La Avon Lady and Other Stories."
Concluding the morning program will be Alabama native Tom Franklin, who currently teaches creative writing at the University of Mississippi . His newly released novel "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" brings us the story of two friends from a small Mississippi town who are torn apart by circumstance and reunited by tragedy. Washington Post Book World calls it "Beautifully written and potent" and USA Today proclaims it "Another literary knockout." Franklin has also published "Smonk," "Hell at the Breach" and "Poachers: Stories."
After a break for lunch, the symposium will resume at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 22nd, with the fiction of Barb Johnson, whose recent collection of short stories "More of This World or Maybe Another" portrays the lives of residents of a Mid-City New Orleans neighborhood who all frequent the Bubble Laundromat, where their stories at times intertwine. Johnson's debut collection has been dubbed "an insightful literary gem" by Booklist, and she is the recipient of an A Room of Her Own Foundation Freedom Award, which has allowed her to quit her day job as a carpenter and work on a new novel.
Affrilachian poet Mitchell L. H. Douglas follows with a reading from his collection "Cooling Board: A Long-Playing Poem" on the life and times of soul music legend Donny Hathaway. Playing on the conventions of vinyl music albums, Douglas has collected his poems on two "sides," one telling of Hathaway's rise to fame and the flipside portraying the struggles in his career. Both include "alternate takes" of original poems that introduce new information and competing interpretations of the events in this musical odyssey.
Becky Hagenston returns to the symposium with a reading from her latest book of short fiction, "Strange Weather," which won the 2009 Spokane Prize. A Starkville resident and associate professor of English at Mississippi State University, Hagenston has also published the story collection, "A Gram of Mars," and her work has appeared widely in magazines, been performed as part of Stories on Stage at the Sacramento Poetry Center, and selected for an O' Henry prize, a Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award, and many other prizes.
The afternoon session concludes with a Round-Table Discussion featuring all 12 authors. The theme of this year's discussion is "Optimists and Other Endangered Species," and the public is encouraged to come with questions about the authors' works, the theme, or the process of writing and publishing. This is a time for more informal discussion with the authors who have already appeared, as well as those who will be on the program on Saturday. Light refreshments will be served.
Friday evening, from 5:30-7:00 p.m., the Department of Art and Design will host an opening reception for an exhibit by Gulfport ceramics and fiber artist Lee Renninger in the Eugenia Summer Gallery of the Fine Arts Building. Known for her sculptures and mixed media installations, Renninger works with ceramics and textiles to explore the interweaving of politics and fashion. The exhibit will run from Oct. 14th through Nov. 4th, and will be open during normal gallery hours of 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Later, starting at 7:30 p.m. in Cromwell Theatre, the Department of Music and Theatre will present a preview of selected scenes from the fall production "12 Angry Jurors," an adaptation of the play by Reginald Rose. The full production will be presented Oct. 28-30.
The symposium resumes at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 23rd, with a reading by Steve Yates from his debut novel "Morkan's Quarry." Set in Civil-War-era Missouri , Yates' novel explores the divided loyalties and impossible choices faced by two generations of Morkans as they try to hang onto the family legacy and are forced to contend with both Union and Confederate forces who battle for control of the Ozark hills and the resources at the quarry. A Missouri native, Yates has lived for many years in Flowood, where he is marketing director for the University Press of Mississippi.
Georgia poet, Sean Hill, will read from his debut "Blood Ties & Brown Liquor," which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has called " an innovative collection of bluesy, meditative poems that is certain to mark Hill's emergence as a major new voice in American poetry." In a call and response across six generations of a family whose fictional forefather Silas Wright was born in 1907, Hill offers up a portrait of the complex and tenacious black community of Milledgeville.
Essayist, Ellis Anderson, also describes the resilience of her community in "Under Surge, Under Siege: The Odyssey of Bay St. Louis and Katrina." In this compelling narrative, Anderson chronicles the trauma of the storm and its immediate aftermath, as well as the challenges that faced the city as it regrouped in order to rebuild. Anderson is an active blogger, and her essays and articles have appeared in Salon, The Sun Herald and South Mississippi Living. She is also a jewelry artist and owner of the Quarter Moon Gallery in Ocean Springs. As a community activist, Anderson is a co-founder of Coastal Community Watch, and has become a spokesperson for the Bay St. Louis area, featured in recent interviews on NPR's Morning Edition with Scott Simon and Tom Sumner's Worldwide Webcast on Flint Talk Radio.
Poet Beth Ann Fennelly returns to the symposium to round out the program with a reading from her most recent collection, "Unmentionables," which Booklist has described as " Insouciant, sexy, funny, and dead-on," adding, "Fennelly crafts perfectly metered lines and quick-turn stanzas steeped in the blues and rock and roll in which she riffs on sights, sounds, and moments at once ordinary and suffused with implication." The recipient of numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Award, Fennelly teaches poetry at the University of Mississippi .
Each day, doors will open half an hour before the morning sessions begin, and coffee will be served. Sessions will have a break at the midpoint, and the audience is free to come and go during the breaks or between readings, which last approximately 40 minutes. Books by all the authors will be on sale before and after each session, as well as during breaks; authors will be available for signing throughout the symposium.
All sessions are free and open to the public, thanks to a generous grant from The Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation; funding is also provided by the Welty Series Endowment and MUW Foundation. Contact the symposium director Dr. Kendall Dunkelberg at Mississippi University for Women, College of Arts and Sciences, P. O. Box MUW-1634, Columbus MS 39701 , (662) 329-7386. More information about the authors can also be found at the symposium web site www.muw.edu/welty/ or on our groups on Goodreads and Facebook.