The theme of the fourteenth annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium is: “The Dear Dust of our Long Absence: Journeys to and from the South.” Writers will include native Southerners who still live and write in the South, “transplants” who now live in the South and may or may not consider themselves “Southern” writers and writers who at least for a time have left their native South to live and write elsewhere.

Jeanne Braselton, a Georgia native who still lives and works in her home state, was a prize-winning journalist before completing her book A False Sense of Well Being, which just won the 38th annual Georgia Writers Association Award for best first novel. Described as a “cross between Nora Ephron and Flannery OâConner,” Braselton’s work is a dark comedy about “the desperate–even reckless–things people do to give their lives passion and meaning.”

Stuart Chapman, an American historian now at Boston University, overwhelmed the Welty Prize Committee with his manuscript biography of Shelby Foote. His presentation, Shelby Foote’s “The Civil War: Civil War or Civil Rights?” focuses on the ways that Foote’s writing reveals “issues of politics and race [which] repeatedly reemerge in unexpected ways.” Chapman explains that Foote’s Civil War trilogy “may be read, to some extent, as a displacement of the painful racial and political issues affecting him during the 1950s and 1960s.”

Moira Crone, professor and director of creative writing at Louisiana State University, has published six books including three collections of short stories: Dream State and The Winnebago Mysteries and Other Stories and is editing An Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction. Winner of a Pirates Alley Faulkner Society Award for Short Fiction, she has also been published in The New Yorker, Mademoiselle and The Ohio Review, among others. Two of her stories have been anthologized in Best Short Stories From the South.

Kendall Dunkelberg, an Iowa native, is associate professor of English at MUW. Internationally known as a translator of Flemish and Dutch poetry, his first book was Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus translations of poems by Paul Snoek. For the Symposium he will read from his recently published first book of poems Landscapes and Architectures, as well as from new poems in a manuscript with the working title “Travelogue and Other Poems.” These poems explore the travels that have brought him to the South, first as a graduate student in Texas and now as a faculty member at MUW, as well as the process of putting down roots in Columbus, where he has lived for the past eight years.

Kaye Gibbons will be returning to the Symposium by popular demand. The North Carolina native wrote her first novel at age 26, Ellen Foster, which won the Sue Kaufman Prize for first fiction from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and several other awards. Since then, sheâs published eight more books, including A Virtuous Woman, A Cure for Dreams and On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon. Forthcoming in 2003 is Raised by Hand. In 1997, Gibbons was knighted by the French Minister of Culture for her contributions to literature. Our own Eudora Welty said that Gibbons work embodies “the honesty of thought and eye and feeling and word.”

Becky Hageston, now a member of the faculty at Mississippi State University, spent her years growing up in Maryland and then earned an MFA from the University of Arizona. Her first collection of short stories, A Gram of Mars, was awarded the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. Called “a new and necessary voice in American Fiction,” Hagenston writes stories which one reviewer says “circle about the central questions in our lives–coming to terms with our past, coming to terms with the present.” She has published stories in TriQuarterly, Shenandoah, and Folio, among others. “Til Death Do Us Part,” originally published in The Crescent Review, was included in Prize Stories 1996: The O. Henry Awards.

Cary Holladay, an O. Henry award recipient in 1999, has authored two collections of short stories, The Palace of Wasted Footsteps and The People Down South. She is currently a resident of Memphis, Tennessee. Set in the Arkansas Delta country, her first novel, Mercury, “paints haunting portraits of unforgettable characters filled with the unwavering desire to find salvation and hope in the midst of unbearable pain.”

Paul Ruffin will be coming home when he returns to Columbus for the Symposium. Born in Alabama, he moved to Columbus when he was 7 and grew up here. Now professor of English and director of the creative writing program at Sam Houston University where he is founder and editor-in-chief of The Texas Review, he also writes a popular newspaper column about Southern people, issues and ideas. He has published more than 600 poems and more than 50 stories in numerous journals and magazines, including Poetry, Wisconsin Review and The North Atlantic Review. In addition to scholarly work, he has published two collections of short stories: The Man Who Would Be God and Islands, Women, and God and a novel this year, Pompeii Man. His collection of poetry, Circling, won a 1997 Poetry Award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters.

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