U.S. and Mississippi poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey will be the keynote author at the 32nd Annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium, Oct. 22-24, 2020. The world-renowned poet comes to the symposium with her first memoir, “Memorial Drive,” which recounts her early life with her mother and her abusive stepfather that would ultimately lead to her mother’s murder. Kiese Laymon, writing for the New York Times, acknowledges that “the memoir is not the hardest book I have ever read,” but it is “the hardest I could imagine writing.” He argues that “‘Memorial Drive’ forces the reader to think about how the sublime Southern conjurers of words, spaces, sounds and patterns protect themselves from trauma when trauma may be, in part, what nudged them down the dusty road to poetic mastery.”

As such, Trethewey’s memoir serves as a fitting launching point for this year’s symposium theme, “‘Walking Along in the Changing-Time” Southern Writers in Uncertain Times,” which is inspired by Welty’s story “The Wide Net.” Due to travel concerns and COVID-19, the keynote session, including Trethewey’s reading, will be streamed live on October 22 at 6:00 p.m.

Other writers who will present at the symposium include: Beth Kander (Original Syn Trilogy), Randall Horton ({#289-128}: Poems), Juyanne James (Table Scraps and Other Essays), Sandra Meek (Still), Catherine Pierce (Danger Days), Katy Simpson Smith (The Everlasting), Michael Farris Smith (Blackwood), M. O. Walsh (The Big Door Prize), and Claude Wilkinson (World Without End). At least one other panel will be virtual and some may be in person with a limited audience if public health conditions allow. All panels will also be live streamed. 

Since there will be no live Welty Gala this year, the symposium schedule will also be adjusted to include sessions on Friday Oct. 23 at 10 a.m. till 12 p.m., 1:30-3:30 p.m., and 7:00-9:00 p.m. CST and Saturday Oct. 24 at 10 a.m. till 12 p.m.

All times are subject to change. Please see www.muw.edu/welty for more details on the program and the link to watch our live-streamed events.