The theme of the twelfth annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium has its root in Welty’s great family novel, Losing Battles: “Setting New Places at the Reunion Table: Inclusion in the Southern Literature of the New Century or `She knows we’re all part of it together, or ought to be!'”

Jill Conner Browne, author of the hilarious Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love: A Fallen Southern Belle’s Look at Love, Life, Men, Marriage, and Being Prepared, will open the symposium in beautiful Poindexter Hall. Browne, much in demand as a humorous speaker, originated the tongue in cheek club, “The Sweet Potato Queens” in the early 1980s. The group has become a permanent and flamboyant attraction at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Jackson, and has its own fan club. Browne writes for The Clarion-Ledger and lives in Jackson.

Jan Nordby Gretlund, scholar and professor of American literature at the University of Southern Denmark, is author of Eudora Welty’s Aesthetics of Place and Frames of Southern Mind: Reflections on the Stoic, Bi-Racial &Existential South.”He has held ACLS or Fulbright fellowships at Vanderbilt, Southern Mississippi and South Carolina’s “Institute for Southern Studies.” From 1998-99, he was visiting professor at the University of South Carolina, Beaufort.

Melinda Haynes, author of Mother of Pearl, the highly praised first novel about life, love and family ties in Petal and Hattiesburg in the mid-1950s, has had her novel chosen as an Oprah Book Club selection. A nationally acclaimed artist, she began writing fiction as a “second career,” after several life crises led her to reexamine her past. Now living in Grand Bay, Alabama, she is at work on her second novel.

Tova Mirvis, who grew up in a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, the setting for The Ladies Auxiliary, received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Columbia College and her master’s degree in creative writing from Columbia’s School of the Arts. Mirvis now lives in New York City and is working on her second novel.

Sena Jeter Naslund, originally from Birmingham, is the author of the recently highly acclaimed Ahab’s Wife and The Star-Gazer, and numerous short stories. With an MA and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, she now teaches at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, where she directs the creative writing program and was awarded the university’s first Distinguished Teaching Professor honor. Naslund’s fiction has been published in such journals as The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review (where she won the Lawrence Prize in fiction), The Indiana Review, and The Alaska Quarterly Review. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Kentucky Arts Council.

Robert Philipson is the author of the Welty prize-winning manuscript, The Identity Question: Blacks and Jews in Europe and America.

Padgett Powell, who teaches creative writing at the University of Florida., has published in The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper’s, BOMB, DoubleTake, The Paris Review and many other periodicals. He has won the Prix de Rome from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Paris Review John Train Humor Prize, and a Henfield Foundation Transatlantic Review Award. He has been a Senior Fulbright Lecturer in Turkey. His books include Edisto: A Novel, A Woman Name Drown, Typical, Edisto Revisited and Aliens of Affection.

C.D. Wright was born and raised in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. She has published seven collections of poetry, most recently Just Whistle, a book length poem (Kelsey Street Press, 1993). String Light (University of Georgia Press, 1991) won the 1992 Poetry Center Book Award given by San Francisco State University. Poems and essays have appeared in BRICK, Conjunctions, Epoch, Field, The New Yorker, Sulfur, Tri-Quarterly, and other magazines. In 1981 she received a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts which prompted a move to Mexico. She was awarded the Witter Bynner Prize for Poetry from the American Academy and Institute for Arts and Letters in 1986, and in 1987 Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Bunting Institute. A second NEA was awarded in 1988 as well as a GE Award for a literary essay. She was a 1989 recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award, and a 1990 recipient of the Rhode Island Governor’s Award for the Arts. In 1994 she was named State Poet of Rhode Island.

Financially assisted by a grant from the Robert M Hearin Support Foundation, the symposium is free and open to the public.

Friends of the Welty Series