The symposium is scheduled for October 16th, 17th, and 18th, 2008. The theme for this year’s symposium is “Mirrors for Reality: the Past and Future Wrapped like Butterfly Wings.” This title is taken from a review that Eudora Welty wrote of Virginia Woolf’s posthumous volume of stories, Monday or Tuesday. In this essay, published in the New York Times, Welty describes Woolf’s writing as looking at reality in a mirror, where “elongation, foreshortening, superimposing are all instruments of the complicated vision which wants to look at truth.” She adds that in Woolf’s writing “the opaque character is revealed opalescent in its cocoon, with its past and future wrapping it like butterfly wings. Its flicker of life ticks like a heart under our eyes, and as it emerges from its dull contemplation we almost see it fly in the sun – but not quite.” The same can be said of Welty’s writing. When mirrors figure prominently, as in her story “The Burning,” the reflect the trials of the present and the disturbing events of the past, to give a hopeful, if at times tenuous vision of the future.

We will be selling books at Welty Book Table during the symposium, and all proceeds go to support future symposia. We often have books on hand early for those who want to read ahead. Contact the College of Arts and Sciences for more information.

Angela Ball won the Donald Hall Prize in Poetry for her most recent volume, Night Clerk and the Hotel of Both Worlds,, which also earned her a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award, her second MIAL award. “At once literary and conversational, enigmatic and lucid, exuberant and wounded,” wrote Terrance Hayes, judge of the Donald Hall Award, “these nimble poems wed the world of imagination to the world of experience.” Ball is professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi and poetry editor for Mississippi Review. She has also received an Individual Writer’s Grant from the NEA, and has published four other collections of poetry, including The Museum of the Revolution: 58 Exhibits, Possession, Quartet, and Kneeling between Parked Cars.
John Dufresne teaches Fiction Writing at Florida International University and has published four novels, Louisiana Power and Light, Love Warps the Mind a Little, Deep in the Shade of Paradise, and this summer Requiem, Mass; two story collections The Way That Water Enters Stone and Johnny Too Bad; and The Lie That Tells a Truth: a Guide to Writing Fiction. He has also written two screenplays and a play and co-authored (with 12 others) the mystery novel Naked Came the Manatee. Publisher’s Weekly wrote of his most recent novel: “Johnny is a very amusing narrator, and Dufresne’s witty, sardonic take on life’s fictions leaps off the page” and Library Journal has called it “Funny and extremely well told.”
Geary Hobson was born and raised in Arkansas of Cherokee-Quapaw and Chickasaw ancestry. He has served as Director of Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico and currently teaches in the English Department of the University of Oklahoma. A recipient of the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award, Hobson has seen his poems, essays, and stories widely anthologized in From Totems to Hip Hop; Arkansas, Arkansas; Native American Literature; An Ear to the Ground; Without Reservation; American Indian Literature; Aniyunwiya/Real Human Beings; and others. He has published Deer Hunting & Other Poems and the novel Last of the Ofos. He has also edited the anthology The Remembered Earth: An Anthology of Contemporary Native American Literature.
Cary Holladay, whose latest book A Fight in the Doctor’s Office won the 2007 Miami University Novella Contest. She is also author of the novel Mercury and three collections of short stories, The Quick-Change Artist, The People Down South, and The Palace of Wasted Footsteps. Among her many awards are a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Goodheart Prize, the O. Henry Prize, and the Paul Bowles Prize for Fiction. Her fiction has appeared in many anthologies and magazines, including New Stories from the South, Shenandoah, and The Southern Review. In A Fight in the Doctor’s Office, a young newlywed searches for the husband who has abandoned her but falls in love with a disabled baby instead.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson, award-winning reporter and columnist and author of the memoir Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana. While on the staff of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Johnson was a three-time Scripps Howard Writer of the Year, a Pulitzer Prize nominee for commentary, and the winner of numerous other national awards for both reporting and commentary. She later wrote for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Praised by Publisher’s Weekly as a “wonderful, personal look into a Cajun community,” Poor Man’s Provence is the story of the residents of her adopted Bayou home of Henderson, Louisiana.
Deborah Johnson is author of The Air Between Us, which Publisher’s Weekly praised as a “vivid debut” whose “compelling character studies keep the pages turning.” In this, her first contemporary novel, Johnson explores race relations in the fictional small, Mississippi town of Revere on the verge of integration. Reviewing for The Washington Post, Amy Alexander writes: “Johnson’s omniscient narrator gracefully glides through the tangle of associations that exist between the black residents and those who inhabit Revere’s ‘white’ side,” and concludes that “this enjoyable story evokes a world once hidden in plain sight, and the inevitability of its end.” Johnson is an editor for Genesis Press in Columbus, and has previously written historical fiction under the nom de plume Deborah Johns, including titles such as Tuscany and The Lion of Venice.
Rodney Jones was awarded the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award in 2007 for his ninth book, Salvation Blues, a selection of 100 poems that span his career, including 24 new poems. Booklist called his new collection “a six-pack of rich Southern smoothness… Satisfying. Deep as a well. Filled with a bit of everything.” Jones has also received the Harper Lee Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Jean Stein Award, the Academy of American Poets Lavan Younger Poets Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Previous books by Jones include Kingdom of the Instant, Elegy for the Southern Drawl, Things That Happen Once, Apocalyptic Narrative, Transparent Gestures, The Unborn, The Story They Told Us of Light, and Going Ahead Looking Back.
Hillary Jordan, whose novel Mudbound won the 2006 Bellwether Prize for Fiction, awarded biannually to a debut novel that addresses issues of social justice. The story of two families, one black and one white, in the Mississippi Delta just after World War II, Mudbound has been hailed by Publisher’s Weekly as a “superbly rendered depiction of the fury and terror wrought by racism” and by Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers as a “powerful firestorm of a first novel.” Mudbound was also named the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association Fiction Book of the Year, as well as a Barnes and Noble Discover pick, a Borders Original Voices selection, and a Book Sense pick.
Richard Megraw is Associate Professor of American Studies that the University of Alabama and author of Confronting Modernity: Art and Society in Louisiana, which was chosen as the recipient of this year’s Welty Prize. His book examines the conflicts and benefits modernity exerted on the local culture in Louisiana through an examination of the work of Ellsworth Woodward, artist and potter at Sophie Newcomb College, and Lyle Saxon, writer and director of the Federal Writers Project in Louisiana during the depression.
Catherine Pierce is the author of Famous Last Words, her first full-length poetry collection, which was selected for the 2007 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. John Yau, the judge of the competition, wrote of her poems: “Catherine Pierce gets to the conundrum of language; we want to believe what it says and we don’t believe it.” Pierce was selected as one of fifty poets to appear in Best New Poets, 2007. She has also published a chapbook, Animals of Habit, which won the Wick Chapbook competition, and she has published widely in magazines such as Slate, Ploughshares, Crab Orchard Review, Indiana Review, Gulf Coast, Blackbird, Third Coast, Mid-American Review, and Mississippi Review. She currently lives in Starkville and teaches creative writing at Mississippi State University.
Noel Polk is a scholar of Southern literature with an international reputation. He has lectured widely on Faulkner and Welty, edited novels by Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren, and published scholarly books, including Eudora Welty: A Bibliography of Her Work; Children of the Dark House: Text and Context in Faulkner; Outside the Southern Myth; and most recently Faulkner and Welty and the Southern Literary Tradition. After a distinguished career at the University of Southern Mississippi, Polk is now teaching and editing Mississippi Quarterly at Mississippi State University.
Paul Ruffin returns to Columbus with his latest collection of short stories Jesus in the Mist, which Kirkus Reviews has called “Remarkable stories of seekers, idealists, visionaries and the occasional racist, written in an authentic Southern idiom.” Ruffin has also published five collections of poetry, Lighting the Furnace Pilot, Our Women, The Storm Cellar, Circling, and The Book of Boys and Girls; two novels, Pompeii Man and Castle in the Gloom; two collections of essays, Here’s to Noah, Bless His Ark and Segovia Chronicles; and two other short story collections: The Man Who Would Be God and Islands, Women, and God. He is professor of English at Sam Houston State University, where he edits The Texas Review and directs Texas Review Press. He has published widely in magazines, including Paris Review, Georgia Review, Quarterly West, Mississippi Review and many others. He also writes the weekly newspaper column “Ruffin-It” and his commentaries have appeared on National Public Radio.

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