Stories of the South | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Stories of the South

The Eudora Welty Writer’s Symposium hosts some of the states best authors at the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Miss., Oct. 23-25.

The Eudora Welty Writer’s Symposium hosts some of the states best authors at the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Miss., Oct. 23-25. Photo by Trip Burns.

Mississippi and the South have a rich and layered literary tradition, from Eudora Welty to William Faulkner to Richard Wright. Since 1989, the Eudora Welty Writer's Symposium has hosted southern authors at the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus. The symposium provides a platform for authors specializing in southern fiction or scholarship about the South to voice their work, along with honoring the most well known alumnus of MUW. It culminates with festivities marking the inauguration of the university's president. Over the years, the symposium has grown in popularity, expanding its reach into the state, and shifted from a balance between scholarship and fiction to an emphasis on fiction.

"The goal of the symposium this year," says professor Kendall Dunkelberg, director of the Symposium, is to "expose people to new writers, get people engaged in writing and literature, and introduce people on how to translate an idea to the printed page."

Bringing 12 authors to one place and having them read their work connects people to the books and "makes the words come alive," Dunkelberg says. Copies of the books will be available for purchase, and authors will sign copies after their readings.

The symposium is unique this year for two reasons: More than half the authors have a connection to Mississippi, and outreach to high schools has never been more expansive. High schools students were offered the chance to enter a writing contest, and the winner will be announced during the symposium. Students from Clinton and Jackson submitted stories and are in the running.

"I want to expose students to writing, to the process of creating a book, give them the chance to talk to published authors, and bring them onto a college campus," Dunkelberg says.

This year's theme comes from Eudora Welty's "Homesick for Somewhere: Displacement, Loss and Longing in the South," a story from the book "The Bride of Innisfallen." Works focusing on identity, culture and personal growth or destruction feature prominently. Most importantly, Dunkelberg wants the audience to "listen to stories they can relate to."

The year's authors and the work they will read from at the 2014 Eudora Welty Writer's Symposium are:

Tim Parrish— "The Jumper and Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist"

Deborah Johnson— "The Secret of Magic"

Carol Ruth Silver— "Freedom Writer Diary"

Katy Simpson Smith— "The Story of Land and Sea"

Poet Derrick Harriell—"Ropes"

Matthew Guinn— "The Resurrectionist"

Poet Shayla Lawson— "A Speed Education in Human Being"

Poet John Bensko— "Visitations"

David Armand— "Harlow"

Poet Amy Fleury— "Sympathetic Magic"

Poet Richard Boada— "The Error of Nostalgia"

Mary Miller— "The Last Days of California"

The Eudora Welty Writer's Symposium is Oct. 23-25 at the Mississippi University for Women (1100 College St., Columbus, 662-329-4750). Sessions are free and open to the public. For more information, call 662-329-7169 or email adunkelberg@muw.edu.

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