34th annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium features Steve Yarbrough
Mississippi Delta novelist Steve Yarbrough returns as the keynote author for the 34th annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium, Oct. 27-29 in Mississippi University for Women’s Poindexter Hall.
Yarbrough has received many awards for his fiction, including the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction, the Richard Wright Award and the Robert Penn Warren Award. He has been a frequent guest in the symposium’s early years featuring his three story collections, and this year will read from his eighth novel, “Stay Gone Days.”
Yarbrough’s novel, which Rain Taxi calls “wise, tender and honest,” provides a fitting launch for the symposium theme: “Telling Stories, Charting a Future: ‘Coming to the end of the road… the jumping-off place,’” inspired by Eudora Welty’s story “No Place for You My Love.” Yarbrough weaves the life stories of two sisters, Ella and Caroline Cole, beginning with their high school triumphs and foibles in the fictional town of Loring, Mississippi, where their roads diverge after their father’s tragic accident. Readers follow their separate twists and turns over four decades that lead them to Boston, California, Poland and eventually back to the Delta.
The symposium begins with Yarbrough’s keynote reading on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in The W’s Poindexter Hall. Sessions continue Friday at 9:30 a.m. until noon, Friday at 1:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. and Saturday at 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.
Other writers who will present at the symposium will include Eudora Welty Prize scholar Annette Trefzer, who will discuss her book “Exposing Mississippi: Eudora Welty’s Photographic Reflections,” in which she explores Welty’s vision as a photographer in the context of the depression-era Mississippi she explored through her lens.
New voices in fiction include, Chantal James, who will read from her debut novel, “None But the Righteous,” a magical-realist story of Ham, a young Black man searching the South for home and freedom in the wake of hurricane Katrina, which The Los Angeles Times describes as “a deeply haunted novel that moves with calm and ruthless determination.”
She is joined by Virginia writer, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, whose debut collection of stories and a novella, “My Monticello,” was named one of Time Magazine’s 10 Best Fiction books for 2021, and Olivia Clare Friedman of the University of Southern Mississippi with her debut novel, “Here Lies,” which tells the story of two unemployed young women in a futuristic small-town Louisiana, weathering a restrictive culture in the wake of climate change and incessant storms.
Other Mississippi writers include poets T. K. Lee, assistant professor of English at The W, returning with his second collection of poetry, “Scapegoat,” Columbus native and W alumnus C. T. Salazar with his debut full-length collection, “Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking” and Derrick Harriell of the University of Mississippi, who returns to the symposium with his collection “Come Kingdom.” They are joined by Alabama poets Jacqueline Allen Trimble and Adam Vines, who return with their collections “How to Survive the Apocalypse” and “Lures.”
Veteran Kentucky writer Holly Goddard Jones also returns to the symposium with her fourth book, the short story collection “Antipodes,” which Garden and Gun has hailed as “extraordinary and life-crammed stories.” And making his Welty Symposium debut is Chattanooga poet Earl S. Braggs with his first memoir about growing up black and poor in rural North Carolina, “A Boy Named Boy.”
On Friday afternoon, these 12 published writers will be joined by five high-school Ephemera Prize winners, whose poems, essays and stories were judged by Jacqueline Allen Trimble and Chantal James.
Other Welty Series events include the Welty Gala, a university fundraising dinner featuring Henry Winkler Friday evening, and the Welty Art Gallery exhibits, ongoing in Summer Hall.
All symposium sessions and art exhibits are free and open to the public. No reservations are required. For Welty Gala tickets, contact the MUW Foundation. For information on the authors, books and the Ephemera Prize, see the symposium website www.muw.edu/welty.
Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium Schedule
Thursday, Oct. 27
Keynote reading: Steve Yarbrough, “Stay Gone Days”
Friday, Oct. 28
Derrick Harriell, “Come Kingdom: Poems”
Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, “My Monticello”
Adam Vines, “Lures: Poems”
Holly Goddard Jones, “Antipodes: Stories”
Olivia Clare Friedman, “Here Lies”
Chantal James, “None But the Righteous”
Jacqueline Trimble, “How to Survive the Apocalypse”
Ephemera Prize Winners
Saturday, Oct. 29
Annette Trefzer, “Exposing Mississippi: Eudora Welty’s Photographic Reflections”
T. K. Lee, “Scapegoat”
Earl S. Braggs, “A Boy Named Boy”
C.T. Salazar, “Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking”