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Welty Symposium


Columbus, Miss. -- Novelist Moira Crone returns as the keynote speaker at Mississippi University for Women’s 27th annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium, Oct. 22-24, reading from her recent novel, “The Ice Garden,” which tells the story of 10-year-old Claire McKenzie, who takes care of her newborn sister Sweetie, while their mother sinks deeper into mental illness.

Claire and her father are captivated by her mother’s beauty and musical talent, even as they each become increasingly aware of the dangers her neglect and capricious demands create for the family. 

Crone’s novel with its themes of birth and rescue is a fitting starting point for this year’s symposium theme, “’This Very Leap in the Dark’: New Beginnings in Southern Letters.”

Symposium director Dr. Kendall Dunkelberg notes that the theme “looks at new beginnings for the characters of established writers and first-time novelists and poets, and celebrates the beginning of The W’s new low-residency MFA program in creative writing and the winners of our 2nd annual Ephemera Prize for high school writers.”

All symposium sessions are held in Poindexter Hall’s Connie Sills Kossen Auditorium and are free and open to the public, thanks to a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation. The keynote session begins at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24, and will be followed by a reception and book signing with all symposium authors.

Other novelists who will participate in the symposium include Sefi Atta, a Nigerian writer who lives in Meridian. She will read from her third novel, “A Bit of Difference,” which tells of a Nigerian woman living in London, who returns to Nigeria for work and to attempt to reconnect with her family. In addition to fiction, Atta has written five plays and four radio plays that have been produced in Nigeria, England and Germany.

Ravi Howard returns to the symposium with his second novel, “Driving the King,” the story of a World War II veteran who is down on his luck in Montgomery, Ala., until he lands a job as chauffeur and bodyguard to Nat King Cole. Through the lens of his main character, Nat Weary, Howard explores the segregated South of the ‘40s and ‘50s as well as the somewhat freer lifestyle Weary finds when he lands in Los Angeles, with its own version on discrimination and intolerance.

Jackson, native Kiese Laymon brings his first novel, “Long Division,” the story of a high school student named Citoyen and his friends that involves time travel a novel within the novel that contains some strikingly familiar characters. The Boston Review calls it “a multilayered, allusion-packed, time-traveling plot… engaging complex questions of race, violence, gender, sexuality and our relationship to history.” Laymon will also read from his recent collection of essays, titled “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America.”

Local author and Mississippi State professor Michael Kardos will return with his second novel “Before He Finds Her.” Kardos crafts a gripping literary thriller, which explores the tangled past and an uncertain future of Melanie Dennison, who has grown up in hiding in West Virginia, but returns to her birthplace of Silver Bay, New Jersey, to try to discover the truth about the disappearance of her father, who is suspected of murdering her mother and attempting to kill Melanie when she was only three.

Lisa Howorth will read from her debut novel, “Flying Shoes,” an in-depth exploration of Oxford and the main character Mary Byrd Thornton’s attempts to come to terms with the news that the cold case of the murder of her step-brother may finally be solved. It is a fictional account, though the central crime is based on the murder of the author’s step-brother, which remains unsolved. Howorth is part-owner of Square Books and has published widely on Southern language and culture.

Jackson resident and Missouri Ozarks native, Steve Yates, returns to the symposium with his second novel, “The Teeth of the Souls,” the sequel to his popular historical novel “Morkan’s Quarry.” While the first novel told the story of Michael Morkan’s attempts to hang onto his quarry during the Civil War, “The Teeth of the Souls” picks up after the war and chronicles his son Leighton’s struggle to make it a profitable business again in the chaos of Reconstruction.

Historian Miki Pfeffer will discuss her book “Southern Ladies and Suffragists,” which has been selected for this year’s Eudora Welty Prize. In her study, Pfeffer examines issues of gender and power as they played out at the 1884 New Orleans Worlds Fair, where women from around the country gathered, including some of the leaders of the burgeoning suffrage movement.

Poets at the symposium include T. R. Hummer, a native of Macon, who will read from his eighth collection of poems, “Skandalon” In finely hewed verse, Hummer writes of stumbling blocks, both mortal and divine, of love and loss ranging from contemporary situations to mythological settings, from the pastoral to the blues.

Nashville poet, T. J. Jarrett will read from her second collection “Zion.” Her poems cross the centuries as she writes in her own voice and in the personae that range from long dead ancestors to Governor Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi to create what poet Rodney Jones has called, “an unforgettable dialogue of generation, of gender, of race.”

Randolph Thomas brings his debut collection of poems “The Deepest Rooms.” These finely crafted narratives weave together multiple perspectives to create a family history and survey the Southern landscape from Thomas’s native Virginia to Baton Rouge, where he now teaches writing at Louisiana State University.

Melissa Ginsburg will read from her debut collection, “Dear Weather Ghost.” Her musical poems present enchanting images of a world that is both familiar and uncanny. A native of Houston, Texas, Ginsburg teaches creative writing at the University of Mississippi.

Along with these published authors, The W will welcome five high school students, Makayla Raby, Summar McGee, Carly Sneed, Laurel Lancaster and Dharma Gilley, winners of the 2nd annual Eudora Welty Ephemera Prize for fiction, essay or poetry. These students will be invited to read their work and have lunch with the authors.

Other Welty Series events include the Welty Gala with P. J. O’Rourke Friday, Oct. 23 beginning at 7p.m. and the Welty Art Exhibit, “Intersections of Gender and Place” with artists Laura Bell, Alicia Henry, Kathleen Loe, Suellen Parker and Kelly Thiel. An artist talk will be held at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, followed by a reception for the exhibit at the Eugenia Summers Gallery at 5 p.m., which will be available Oct. 8-30.

For more information, see the Symposium website http://www.muw.edu/welty.

Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium Schedule

Thursday Oct. 22 — 7:30 PM
Moira Crone “The Ice Garden”
Receptioni & book signing with all authors

Friday, Oct. 23 9 AM – 12 Noon
Sefi Atta , “A Bit of Difference”
T. R. Hummer, “Skandalon”
Melissa Ginsburg, “Dear Weather Ghost”
Kiese Laymon “Long Division”

Friday, Oct. 23 1:30-4:00 PM
Ravi Howard, “Driving the King”
TJ Jarrett ,“Zion”
Michael Kardos, “Before He Finds Her”
Ephemera Prize Reading

Saturday, Oct. 24 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Randolph Thomas, “The Deepest Rooms”
Miki Pfeffer, “Southern Ladies and Suffragists”
Lisa Howorth , “Flying Shoes”
Steve Yates, “The Teeth of the Souls”

All sessions are held in the Connie Sills Kossen Auditorium of Poindexter Hall on the campus of Mississippi University for Women.

Oct. 5, 2015