The theme for this year’s symposium is “”Homesick for Somewhere’: Displacement, loss, and longing in the South” and is inspired by Eudora Welty’s story “Kin” from her collection The Bride of Innisfallen.

The names below are the list of authors for this year, including when available, links to author websites where you can learn a little more about this year’s line-up. Don’t forget that we will be selling books at Welty Book Table during the symposium.

The full schedule can be found on our poster or the events listings on Facebook, Goodreads, and LibraryThing.

Tim Parrish

author of the memoir Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist and the novel The Jumper

Thursday, October 23, 2014, 7:30 p.m., Poindexter Hall

A native of Baton Rouge, Parrish now coordinates the creative writing MFA program at Southern Connecticut State University. He first appeared at the Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium in 2004 with his short story collection Red Stick Men. Since then, he has published widely in literary journals such as Black Warrior Review, Connecticut Review, Louisiana Literature, New England Review, and Shenandoah and anthologies such as Louisiana in Words, and Wide Awake in the Pelican State

In Fear and What Follows, Parrish takes an unflinching look at his own bigoted upbringing in a newly desegregated South. Growing up in working-class Baton Rouge, the young Parrish becomes involved in street fights, bullying, and race riots, while his Southern Baptist upbringing sends him mixed messages of love for Jesus and intolerance. As his descent into violence threatens to spiral out of control, he is befriended by a star athlete and top student, who also happens to be African American. In a starred review, Booklist called Parrish’s memoir “a dramatic literary performance… one of those books that, once read, is never forgotten.”

The Jumper, follows the story of Jimmy Strawhorn, an orphaned, illiterate ranch hand in West Texas, who returns to Baton Rouge to find his father. There he discovers a complex family history and confronts his desire to jump from high places. Eric Miles Williamson, in awarding the George Garrett Prize for Fiction, noted “Parrish has written a novel of such force and magnitude that he’s entered the constellation of American literary stars.”


David Armand

Saturday, October 25, 11:15 a.m.

Author of Harlow and The Pugilist’s Wife

David Armand’s second novel, “Harlow,” is the story of eighteen-year-old Leslie Somers searching the Louisiana backwoods for the father he has never met. With echoes of Oedipal conflict, Leslie’s chance encounter with his father leads to dark revelations and conflict in a gripping gothic tale.  

Armand’s first novel, “The Pugilist’s Wife,” also set in rural Sun, Louisiana, was the winner of the George Garret Fiction Prize. Armand teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he also serves as associate editor for Louisiana Literature Press.


Harlow cover

John Bensko

Friday, October 24, 9:40 a.m.

Author of Visitations, Sea Dogs, Green Soldiers, The Iron City, and The Waterman’s Children

John Bensko returns to the symposium with his fourth collection of poems, Visitations, which bring to life brief, yet intense visions of lives, both historical and contemporary, ranging from a ghostly dream witnessed by Edgar Allen Poe to a nun caring for yellow fever victims in Holly Springs, the commander of the Andersonville prison camp, and moments of the poet’s own life and reflections.

A professor in the MFA program at the University of Memphis, Bensko has also published a collection of stories, Sea Dogs, and three previous books of poems, The Iron City, Waterman’s Children, and Green Soldiers, for which he was awarded the Yale Younger Poets prize. He was born in Birmingham and grew up in Decatur, Alabama.


Visitations cover

Richard Boada

Saturday, October 25, 10:20 a.m.

Author of The Error of Nostalgia

Jackson poet and Millsaps professor, Richard Boada, will read from his new collection “The Error of Nostalgia,” in which he takes readers on a journey throughout the South, as well as to Ecuador and other South and Central American locales, in these evocative poems that probe memory and family history.

The Error of Nostalgia cover
Amy Fleury

Amy Fleury

Saturday, October 25, 9:40 a.m.

Author of Sympathetic Magic, Beautiful Trouble, and Reliquaries of the Lesser Saints

Amy Fleury, will read from her second book of poetry, “Sympathetic Magic,” which takes the reader from the finely etched landscapes of her native Kansas to the lush environs around Lake Charles, Louisiana, where Fleury directs the MFA program in Creative Writing at McNeese State University. Along the way, Fleury turns her precise eye to the natural world as she explores childhood memories, lost loves, spiritual quests, and the life lessons of caring for an aging parent.


Sympathetic Magic cover

Matthew Guinn

Friday, October 24, 10:20 a.m.

Author of The Resurrectionist 

Matthew Guinn’s debut novel, The Resurrectionist tells the story of bones dug up in a South Carolina medical college’s basement, and of the slave who was required to procure bodies as cadavers for the anatomy class by exhuming them from African American graveyards. Nominated for an Edgar Award, the novel as been described by Library Journal as “important history and a moving call to conscience.”

Originally from Atlanta, Guinn has settled in Jackson with his wife Kristen and two children. Besides his novel, Guinn has published a book of scholarship, After Southern Modernism: Fiction of the Contemporary South. 

The Resurrectionist cover

Derrick Harriell

Friday, October 24, 2:10 p.m.

Author of Ropes and Cotton

Derrick Harriell will read from his second poetry collection, “Ropes,” which chronicles the lives of African American boxers and which was awarded the 2014 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters award in poetry.

He will also read from his first collection, “Cotton,” an exploration of his adoptive home in the South. Harriell was born and raised in Milwaukee, and now teaches African American Studies and English at the University of Mississippi.

Harriell also serves as one of the judges of the first Ephemera Prize for High School Writers, which will be awarded at the symposium on Friday after his and Katy Simpson Smith’s readings.


Cotton coverRopes cover

photo by Birney Imes

Deborah Johnson

Friday, October 24, 1:30 p.m.

Author of The Secret of Magic and The Air Between Us

Deborah Johnson returns to the symposium with her second novel The Secret of Magic, whose main character, Regina Robichard, a young NAACP lawyer, has come to Revere Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of an African American soldier on his return from the Second World War. Here she disentangles the secrets of the Magnolia Forest and the realities of her favorite childhood author, M. P. Calhoun.

Booklist has praised the novel as “a completely engaging southern gothic with unforgettable characters.” It is a fictional account of a pivotal early civil rights case, inspired by Johnson’s father’s love of Thurgood Marshall, who has a small role in the novel, and Johnson’s admiration for Constance Baker Motley, the inspiration for Regina’s character.


Secret of Magic cover

Shayla Lawson

Friday, October 24, 11:00 a.m.

Author of A Speed Education in Human Being

Kentucky poet, Shayla Lawson, will read from her debut collection, “A Speed Education in Human Being.” Lawson is a student in the Creative Writing MFA program at Indiana University and teaches at the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts. She also has a degree in architecture. Fellow Affrilachian poet, Frank X Walker praises her poems as “built from organic steel and marble paper…  a house—no, a village—that love built and decorated with keepsakes from all over the alphabet.”

Speed Education cover

Mary Miller

Saturday, October 25, 9:40 a.m.

Author of The Last Days of California

In her debut novel “The Last Days of California,” Jackson native Mary Miller tells the story of a family from Montgomery AL who embark on a road-trip to California to witness the Rapture, along the way discovering more about each other than about the end times. The New York Times praised the novel for feeling “like a poem, each day on the road like a stanza repeated with slight variations and brand names used as incantations…” adding, “Miller always chooses just the right detail to illuminate life in the 2010s.”

Miller has previously published two collections of micro fiction “The Big World” and “Less Shiny.” 

Last Days of California cover

Carol Ruth Silver

Photo by Luis Delgado

Carol Ruth Silver

Friday, October 24, 9:00 a.m.

author of Freedom Rider Diary: Smuggled Notes from Parchman Prison

This year’s Eudora Welty Prize will be awarded to Carol Ruth Silver for her memoir, “Freedom Rider Diary,” which tells of her experiences as a young twenty-two-year-old college graduate who left New York City to join the Freedom Riders on one of the historic rides to desegregate the busses in the South. Her participation in this nonviolent civil disobedience led to her arrest and imprisonment in Parchman for forty days. The memoir recounts the experience of Silver and other members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in the charged atmosphere of the Civil Rights movement.

Silver has gone on to be a successful lawyer and politician in San Francisco, as well as an advocate for women’s rights. One of her recent projects is to bring laptops and education to the young women of Afghanistan through the One Laptop Per Child program. 


Katy Simpson Smith

Friday, October 24, 3:00 p.m.

Author of The Story of Land and Sea

First-time novelist and Jackson native Katy Simpson Smith will read and discuss The Story of Land and Sea, which chronicles three generations of North Carolinians around the time of the Revolutionary War to tell the tale of Helen and her privateer husband, as well as Helen’s uneasy relationship with her slave, Moll, as well as the stories of Helen’s father Asa and her daughter Tabitha, whose bout with Yellow Fever serves as the crisis that launches one of several interwoven journeys. The Oxford American calls the novel “a memorable debut, rich with small, sharp moments of observation and understanding” and Vogue predicts it will be the “debut of the year.”

Simpson Smith also serves as one of the judges of the first Ephemera Prize for High School Writers. The prize will be awarded following her and Derrick Harriell’s readings.

Friends of the Welty Series