Novelist Brad Watson returns as the keynote speaker at the 278h annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium, Oct. 20-22, reading from his new novel, Miss Jane. Watson is the author of short story collections Last Days of the Dog Men and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives as well the novel The Heaven of Mercury, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Miss Jane is loosely based on the story of Watson’s great-aunt, who had a rare birth defect that left her unable to bear children, incontinent, and ill-suited for marriage. Set in rural 1920s Mississippi, the novel surrounds its main character with the lushly fecund natural world, even as she is defined as “barren” and lives a mostly solitary existence.
Kirkus Reviews calls the novel “A well-written portrait of a person whose rich inner life outstrips the limits of her body,” arguing the Watson’s dry writing “captures the simple things that bring his character joy.”
With its exploration of deep family secrets, Miss Jane is a fitting starting point for this year’s symposium theme, "Overcoming the Silence: To speak out when 'It warrants no stir.'" The theme is taken from Eudora Welty's story "The Demonstrators," which was published in The New Yorker in 1966 and appears in The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty.
Other writers who will participate in the symposium include: Dana Carpenter (Bohemian Gospel), Becky Hagenston (Scavengers), Randall Horton (Hook: A Memoir), Richard Lyons (Un Poco Loco), Cole Lavalais (Summer of the Cicadas), David Armand (My Mother’s House), James Kimbrell (Smote), Paulette Boudreaux (Mulberry), Sandar Meek (An Ecology of Elsewhere).
Along with the published authors, The W will welcome five high school students, winners of the 2nd annual Eudora Welty Ephemera Prize for fiction, essay or poetry. The selected students will be invited to read their work and have lunch with the authors.
All symposium events will be held on the Mississippi University for Women campus and are free and open to the public. The symposium is made possible through the generous support of the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation. For more information, see the Symposium website http://www.muw.edu/welty.