COLUMBUS, Miss. -- Louisiana native Tim Parrish will present the keynote reading for the 26th annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m., reading from his memoir “Fear and What Follows: The violent education of a Christian racist” and his new novel “The Jumper,” which transport readers to the gritty streets of working class Baton Rouge.
“Fear and What Follows” takes an unflinching look at Parrish’s close encounters with racial violence as a young man. “The Jumper” follows the story of Jimmy Strawhorn, an orphaned, illiterate ranch hand who returns to Baton Rouge to meet his biological father, a down-on-his luck gambler. There he discovers a complex family history and confronts his desire to jump from high places.
A reception and book signing with all Symposium authors will follow the keynote address. Books will be on sale Thursday night and throughout the Symposium. All Symposium sessions are free and open to the public, thanks to a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation.
Readings continue Friday and Saturday, featuring local writer Deborah Johnson, whose second novel “The Secret of Magic” centers around Regina Robichard, a young lawyer who comes to Revere, Mississippi, to investigate the disappearance of an African American soldier on his return from World War II. She disentangles the secrets of the Magnolia Forest and the real life of her favorite author, M. P. Calhoun.
The Eudora Welty Prize will be awarded to “Freedom Rider Diary,” a memoir by Carol Ruth Silver, who tells of her experiences as a young college graduate who left New York City to join the Freedom Riders on one of the historic rides to desegregate Southern busses. Her participation in this nonviolent action led to her arrest and imprisonment in Parchman for 40 days. Silver has gone on to become a successful lawyer, politician and advocate for women’s rights. One of her recent projects is to bring laptops and education to the young women of Afghanistan.
Jackson native Katy Simpson Smith, will read from her debut novel, “The Story of Land and Sea,” which chronicles three generations of North Carolinians during and after the Revolutionary War to tell the tales of Helen, her privateer husband, Helen’s slave, Moll, and her daughter ,Tabitha, whose bout with Yellow Fever serves as the crisis that launches one of several interwoven journeys.
Poet Derrick Harriell will read from his second collection, “Ropes,” which chronicles the lives of African-American boxers and which was awarded the 2014 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters award in poetry. He will also read from his first collection, “Cotton.” Harriell teaches African American Studies and English at the University of Mississippi.
Harriell and Simpson Smith judged the Ephemera Prize for high school writers. Students from around, “Homesick for Somewhere: Displacement, Loss and Longing in the South.” The top writers will be recognized and invited to read on Friday afternoon.
Other Symposium authors include, Jackson novelist Matthew Guinn, whose debut book, “The Resurrectionist” tells the story of bones dug up in a South Carolina medical college’s basement, and of the slave who was purchased to procure bodies as cadavers for the anatomy class, exhuming them from African American graveyards. Nominated for an Edgar Award, the novel has been described by Library Journal as “important history and a moving call to conscience.”
In her debut novel “The Last Days of California,” Jackson native Mary Miller tells of a family from Montgomery, who embark on a road-trip to California to witness the Rapture, along the way discovering more about each other than about the end times. This year, Miller serves as a Grisham Visiting Writer at the University of Mississippi.
Kentucky poet, Shayla Lawson, will read from her debut collection, “A Speed Education in Human Being.” Lawson studies in the graduate creative writing program at Indiana University and teaches at the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts. Fellow Affrilachian poet, Frank X Walker praises her poems as “built from organic steel and marble paper… and decorated with keepsakes from all over the alphabet.”
John Bensko returns to the Symposium with his fourth collection of poems, “Visitations,” which bring to life intense visions of lives ranging from a ghostly dream witnessed by Edgar Allen Poe to a nun caring for yellow fever victims in Holly Springs and the commander of the Andersonville prison camp, as well as reflections of contemporary Southern scenes.
David Armand brings his second novel, “Harlow,” the story of 18-year-old Leslie Somers searching the Louisiana backwoods for the father he has never met. With echoes of Oedipal conflict, Leslie’s chance encounter with his father leads to dark revelations and conflict in a gripping gothic tale.
Amy Fleury will read from her second book of poetry, “Sympathetic Magic,” which takes the reader from the finely etched landscapes of her native Kansas to the lush environs around Lake Charles, La., where Fleury directs the MFA program in creative writing at McNeese State. Fleury turns her precise eye to the natural world as she recounts childhood memories, lost loves, spiritual quests and the life lessons of caring for an aging parent.
Jackson poet and Millsaps professor, Richard Boada, will read from his new collection “The Error of Nostalgia,” in which he takes readers on a journey throughout the South, as well as to Ecuador and other South and Central American locales, in these evocative poems that probe memory and family history.
For more information, visit the symposium website: www.muw.edu/welty.
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Oct. 14, 2014