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Welty Symposium offers myriad of writer’s influence

October 7, 2018

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — It’s been 93 years since Eudora Welty enrolled at what is now Mississippi University for Women in Columbus.

Each year, the school honors the Mississippi writer with a weekend of Welty.

The 30th annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium is set for Oct. 18-20 on the campus of The W. This year’s theme is “As If the Ear of the World Listened: Celebrating Thirty Years of Southern Stories,” inspired by Eudora Welty’s novel “Delta Wedding.”

“It’s a weekend where we bring 12 writers to campus and have readings basically starting Thursday night all the way through Saturday at about 12:30 p.m. There’s fiction writers, there’s poets, there’s creative non-fiction and a couple of memoir (writers) that we’re featuring this year. We’ve got a little bit of everything with a broad mix of all Southern writing including two international writers,” said Dr. Kendall Dunkelberg, professor of English and Welty Symposium director at The W.

Novelist Steve Yarbrough returns as the keynote author for the event. Among his many awards are the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction, the Richard Wright Award and the Robert Penn Warren Award.

A frequent participant in the symposium’s early years, Yarbrough will read from his seventh novel, “The Unmade World.”

“Many of our writers this time around, since it’s our 30th year, have been to the symposium at least once before, though we do have a few new faces as well,” Dunkelberg said.

All symposium sessions will be held in Poindexter Hall at The W and are free and open to the public. Yarbrough will appear at the keynote session, Thursday, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m. A reception and book signing with all symposium authors will follow.

“It’s a free event,” Dunkelberg said. “People can come and join us for all of it or they can come from one hour and hear somebody read. We have it set up so our students can come and go between classes. Even if you can only come for a few minutes, it’s worth it.”

Novelists Silas House and Anthony Grooms will appear in Friday morning’s session, beginning at 9 a.m. House will read from his sixth novel, “Southernmost,” the story of a Tennessee preacher who, in the wake of an epic Cumberland River flood, realizes he must come to terms with his estranged, gay brother and reconcile his life and faith. In “The Vain Conversation,” Grooms weaves a tale based on the story of a 1946 lynching of two black couples in Walton County, Georgia, taking on the perspectives of a young boy who witnessed the event, one of the men who was killed and another man who was present at the crime.

They will be joined by poets, Angela Ball, director of the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi, who will read from her sixth collection, “Talking Pillow,” and Kamilah Aisha Moon, who teaches poetry at Agnes Scott University and will read from her second collection, “Starshine & Clay.”

Other Welty Series events include the “Faculty Biennial” art exhibit and the annual gala fundraiser with Brad Meltzer, author of “The Inner Circle,” ″The Book of Fate” and nine other bestselling novels.

“We started this in 1989,” Dunkelberg said. “It started with seven or eight writers and more scholars than writers. We had a lot of discussion about Southern literature. We’ve grown over time, obviously. For the university, it’s really important to us that Welty’s an alumnus. Of the modernist or mid-century writers from Mississippi, she and Faulkner are really the ones that stand out. She provides a different take on what Mississippi is and was. She’s very subtle in her portrayal, but if you read between the lines you can read her questioning of the status quo from her work.”

For updates and more information on the authors, visit the symposium website muw.edu/welty.

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com

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