The theme for this year’s symposium is “”This Very Leap in the Dark’: New Beginnings in Southern Letters” which is inspired by Eudora Welty’s essay “Words into Fiction” from her collection of essays The Eye of the Story.

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.

Moira Crone

author of The Ice Garden

7:30 PM on Thursday, October 22

Novelist Moira Crone returns as the keynote speaker, reading from her recent novel, The Ice Garden, which tells the story of 10-year-old Claire McKenzie, who takes care of her newborn sister Sweetie while their mother sinks deeper into mental illness. Claire and her father are captivated by her mother’s beauty and musical talent, even as they each become increasingly aware of the dangers her neglect and capricious demands create for the family. Set against the segregated backdrop of 1960s North Carolina, the novel also explores the world of the family’s maid, Sidney, who raises the two girls.

Moira Crone grew up in North Carolina and lives in New Orleans. She is the author of six books, and is recipient of the 2009 Robert Penn Waren Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers for her fiction. In 2015, The Ice Garden received a Gold Medal from the Independent Publisher Awards.


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Sefi Atta

author of A Bit of Difference

9:00 AM on Friday, October 23

Sefi Atta is a Nigerian writer who lives in Meridian, Mississippi. She will read from her third novel, A Bit of Difference, which tells of a Nigerian woman living in London who returns to Nigeria for work and to attempt to reconnect with her family. Previous books include the novels Everything Good Will Come and Swallow, as well as the story collection News From Home. In addition to fiction, Atta has written five plays and four radio plays that have been produced in Nigeria, England, and Germany.

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Melissa Ginsburg

author of Dear Weather Ghost

10:30 AM on Friday, October 23

Melissa Ginsburg’s musical poems present enchanting images of a world that is both familiar and uncanny. A native of Houston, Texas, Ginsburg teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Mississippi. She lives in Oxford, where she also edits the Yalobusha Review. Along with Dear Weather Ghost, she has also published a poetry chapbook Arbor, and her debut novel, Sunset City, is forthcoming in 2016 from HarperCollins.


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Ravi Howard

author of Driving the King

1:30 PM on Friday, October 23

Ravi Howard returns to the symposium with his second novel, Driving the King, the story of a World War II veteran who is down on his luck in Montgomery, Alabama, until he lands a job as chauffeur and bodyguard to Nat King Cole. Through the lens of his main character, Nat Weary, Howard explores the segregated South of the ‘40s and ‘50s, as well as the somewhat freer world Weary finds when he lands in Los Angeles, with its own version of intolerance and discrimination. Howard first came to the symposium with his debut novel, Like Trees Walking, the fictionalized account of a 1980s lynching in his native Mobile, Alabama.

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Lisa Howorth

author of Flying Shoes

9:30 AM on Saturday, October 24

Lisa Howorth’s novel,  Flying Shoes, is an in-depth exploration of Oxford, Mississippi, and the main character Mary Byrd Thornton’s attempts to come to terms with the news that the cold case of the murder of her step-brother may finally be solved. It is a fictional account, though the central crime is based on the murder of the author’s own step-brother, which remains unsolved. Howorth is part-owner of Square Books and has published widely on Southern language and culture in articles and books such as The Southern I.Q. Quiz Book, South: A Treasury of Art and Literature, and Yellow Dogs, Hushpuppies, and Bluetick Hounds: The Official Encyclopedia of Southern Culture Quiz Book.

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T. R. Hummer

T. R. Hummer

author of Skandalon

9:45 AM on Friday, October 23

T. R. Hummer is a native of Macon, Mississippi, who will read from his eighth collection of poems, Skandalon. In finely hewed verse, Hummer writes of stumbling blocks, both mortal and divine, of love and loss ranging from contemporary situations to mythological settings, from the pastoral to the blues. His other collections include Ephemeron, The Infitity Sessions, Walt Whitman in Hell, Useless Virtues, Lower-Class Heresy, The 18,000 Ton Olympic Dream, and The Passion of the Right-Angled Man

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T. J. Jarrett

© Dennis Wile

T. J. Jarrett

author of Zion

2:10 PM on Friday, October 23

T.J. Jarrett’s poems cross the centuries as she writes in her own voice and in personae that range from long dead ancestors to Governor Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi to create what poet Rodney Jones has called, “an unforgettable dialogue of generation, of gender, of race.” ˆZion won the Crab Orchard Open Competition, and Jarrett’s first collection, Ain’t No Grave, was a finalist for the Balcones Prize and was published by New Issues Press. Jarrett lives in Nashville, where she works as a software developer.


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Michael Kardos

author of Before He Finds Her

3:00 PM on Friday, October 23

Michael Kardos is associate professor of English and co-director of creative writing at Mississippi State University, and has published two previous books of fiction, One Last Good Time and The Three-Day Affair. In his latest novel, Kardos crafts a gripping literary thriller that explores the tangled past and an uncertain future of Melanie Dennison, who has grown up in hiding in West Virginia, but returns to her birthplace of Silver Bay, New Jersey, to try to discover the truth about the disappearance of her father, who is suspected of murdering her mother and attempting to kill Melanie when she was only three.

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Kiese Laymon

Kiese Laymon

author of Long Division and How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America

11:15 AM on Friday, October 23

Kiese Laymon is a native of Jackson, Mississippi. He has taught at Vassar College and is currently John Grisham Visiting Writer at the University of Mississippi. His first novel, Long Division, is the story of a high school student named Citoyen and involves time travel and a novel within the novel that contains some strikingly familiar characters. The Boston Review calls it “a multilayered, allusion-packed, time-traveling plot… engaging complex questions of race, violence, gender, sexuality, and our relationship to history.” Laymon has also published a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America.

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Miki Pfeffer

author of Southern Ladies and Suffragists

10:10 AM on Saturday, October 24

Miki Pfeffer is a native of New Orleans and Visiting Scholar of History at Nichols State University in Thibodeaux, Louisiana. In her Eudora-Welty-Prize-winning study Southern Ladies and Suffragists: Julia Ward Right and Women’s Rights at the 1884 New Orleans World’s Fair, she examines issues of gender and power as they played out at the 1884 New Orleans World’s Fair, where women from around the country gathered, including some of the leaders of the suffrage movement.


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Randolph Thomas

author of The Deepest Rooms

11:00 AM on Saturday, October 24

Randolph Thomas won the Gerard Cable Award for his debut collection of poems The Deepest Rooms. These finely crafted narratives weave together multiple perspectives to create a family history and survey the Southern landscape from Thomas’s native Virginia to Baton Rouge, where he now teaches writing at Louisiana State University. Thomas is also the author of the story collection, Dispensations, which won the Many Voices Project Award.

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Steve Yates

author of The Teeth of the Souls

11:40 AM on Saturday, October 24

Steve Yates returns to the symposium with his second novel, The Teeth of the Souls, the sequel to his popular historical novel Morkan’s Quarry. Both are set in Yates’s native Missiouri Ozarks. While the first novel told the story of Michael Morkan’s attempts to hang onto his quarry during the Civil War, The Teeth of the Souls picks up after the war and chronicles his son Leighton’s struggle to make the quarry a profitable business again in the chaos of Reconstruction. Yates is also the author of the short story collection Some Kinds of Love.

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