Part of the annual Welty Weekend at “the W,” The Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium honors one of MUW’s best-known and best-loved alumnae. Fans of Southern Literature won’t be disappointed with this year’s stellar collection of Welty Symposium authors who will be gathering on the Mississippi University for Women campus for the fifteenth annual symposium October 16th through the 18th. This year’s theme, inspired by a quote from Welty’s Golden Apples, is “’Their own visioning:’ The Power of Landscape in Southern Literature.

Connie Mae Fowler is a novelist, essayist, and screen writer who often “writes of the destructiveness and courage of the human spirit.” She is the author of Sugar Cage, and River of Hidden Dreams. In addition, her best known work, Before Women Had Wings, won the Southern Book Critics Choice Award for Fiction and was nominated for the International Dublin Award for Literature. She transformed the novel into a screenplay produced by Oprah Winfrey through Harpo Productions. Her books have been translated into eleven different languages and published in over twenty countries.

Carolyn Elkins has published poems in Tar River Poetry, Red Rock Review, Sunstone, and in American Studies in Scandinavia, among many others. She has two books of poetry, Coriolis Forces, and her most recent, Daedalus Rising. Coriolis Forces was the winner of Palanquin Press’ Chapbook Competition in 2000, and Ms. Elkins won the Grand Prize in Poetry in the Red Rock Review’s annual competition in 2001. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Book Award. She also won the Poetry Slam at the Wildacres Writers Workshop three years in a row. She has taught in the Poets in Person program sponsored by the NEH, the American Library Association, and Poetry magazine.

Cassandra King, who has been called “A Vibrant New Voice from the Heart of the South,” will be the first reader on Saturday morning. She is the author of two novels, Making Waves in Zion and The Sunday Wife, “a captivating book about one woman’s journey toward independence and the life-changing friendship that guides her there.” Publishers Weekly calls The Sunday Wife “a tale of turbulent emotions and the vagaries of public opinion in a small Southern town.” Library Journal labels Ms. King an “extraordinary author,” and says that “fans of Patricia Gaffney and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings will enjoy this extremely well-written book.” Anne Rivers Siddons praises King’s second novel, saying “Cassandra King catches these quirky, complex people and their world flawlessly. A wonderful book.”

Christopher Maurer is the winner of the 2003 Eudora Welty Prize for the forthcoming Fortune’s Favorite Child. He has also published Dreaming in Clay on the Coast of Mississippi: Love and Art at Shearwater. He is the head of the Department of Spanish, Italian, French and Portuguese at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is widely published as a scholar of Spanish literature and as a translator of Federico García Lorca, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Baltasar Gracián, and many others.

Robert Morgan will open the symposium in Poindexter Hall on Thursday evening. A North Carolina native, Mr. Morgan writes of the “strong bonds of Southern families over generations.” Critics have praised his ability to reveal “an indelible sense of place for those familiar with or strangers to the Blue Ridge Mountains.” His works include Gap Creek, which was an Oprah Book Club selection, The Truest Pleasure, which was a Publisher’s Weekly “Best Book of the Year,” and The Hinterlands. In addition to his fiction, Mr. Morgan’s poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Yale Review, and The New England Review. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockerfeller Foundation Bellagio Fellowship, and the James G. Hanes Poetry Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. His works are particularly reflective of this year’s theme, since one reviewer asserts Morgan’s works “are about our mothers and fathers, our land and rivers….They map our hearts.”

Barbara Robinette Moss is an accomplished artist and writer. Her Change Me into Zeus’s Daughter was a national best-seller that critics compared favorably to Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’. People Magazine said it is “more than a litany of deprivation. It is a story of overcoming.” Ms. Moss won the Gold Medal for Personal Essay in the William Faulkner Creative Writing Contest. Change Me into Zeus’s Daughter has been optioned for film production.

Ron Rash is the 2002 winner of the Novello Literary Award. His novel, One Foot in Eden, is, according to Lee Smith, “a classic tale of passion and tragedy [where]…each voice rings as true as the sound of an ax in the cold early morning air.” Another North Carolina native, his fiction won a General Electric Younger Writers Award in 1987, and in 1994 he was awarded an NEA Poetry Fellowship. The author of seven previous books, his poetry and fiction have appeared in the Yale Review, Oxford American, and Shenandoah, among others. Mr. Rash’s reading will conclude Friday’s symposium sessions, but don’t forget that more writers will be reading from their works on Saturday morning.
Jack Riggs says he was “raised in Lexington, North Carolina, where he grew up on Honey Monk barbecue and ACC Basketball.” He spent ten years in Hollywood as an assistant director and story analyst, and then returned to North Carolina to earn an MFA and to pursue a writing career. His stories have appeared in The Chattahoochee Review, The Crescent Review, The Habersham Review, and in Writing, Making it Real. In 2000 he was selected as an “Emerging New Southern Voice” at the Millennial Gathering of the Writers of the New South at Vanderbilt University. His work has been a finalist in the Glimmer Train Fiction Contest and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His debut novel, When the Finch Rises, is “in the tradition of A Separate Peace,” and is set in a 1960s North Carolina mill town.

Natasha Trethewey will begin Friday morning’s session. Her first book, Domestic Work, a collection of poems about the work of women, was inspired by her grandmother and was selected by Rita Dove for the prestigious Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Domestic Work also received the 2001 Lillian Smith Book Award and the 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award. Her second volume, Bellocq’s Ophelia, was a finalist for the Academy of American Poets’ James Laughlin Prize. Trethewey’s work also won the Grolier Poetry Prize and a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in numerous anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2000.

Brad Watson is a Mississippi native who recently completed five years teaching creative writing at Harvard. His novel Heaven of Mercury was a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award and has just been named a winner of the Southern Book Award for fiction presented by the Southern Book Critics Circle. Publishers Weekly calls this first novel “a dark but resonant journey through the world of the Southern gothic.” Another critic praises this novel as “an ambitious work from an important voice in American fiction–a voice with a distinctly Southern accent.” Watson’s collection of short stories, Last Days of the Dog Men, won a Sue Kaufman prize for first fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was hailed as the “debut of a master storyteller.” He has also published short fiction in Story, Black Warrior Review, and the Greensboro Review.

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