Program of the 2009 Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium

The symposium is scheduled for October 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, 2009. The theme for this year's symposium is "Time Goes Like a Dream No Matter How Hard You Run." This theme is taken from Eudora Welty's short story "A Shower of Gold" from her collection The Golden Apples. The dream of time is on all our minds as we celebrate MUW's 125th anniversary and Eudora Welty's Centenary year. We look to stories of our past, which at times can be chillingly honest, to inform our dreams for the future. Special events have been added in honor of these anniversaries, including a reception for MUW’s student literary magazine, The Dilettanti at 4:00 p.m. on Friday and on Saturday, a picnic lunch with the authors at noon, followed by a new afternoon session. The public is invited to attend and bring their lunch, or box lunches can be purchased in advance for $9.25. Contact the College of Arts and Sciences office (Painter Hall, Room 111, 662-329-7386) by Thursday, October 15, to reserve a lunch. Payment in advance is required.

Additionally, Friday evening from 5:30-7:30, the MUW Department of Art and Design will host an opening reception for the exhibit “Figurative Paintings and Drawings by Terry Strickland” in the Eugenia Summer Gallery. Following the art reception at 7:30 p.m. in Cromwell Theatre, the MUW Department of Music and Theatre will present an open rehearsal of an upcoming production featuring work by acclaimed writer Horton Foote, who is best known for his screenplays of To Kill A Mockingbird and Tender Mercies.

This year's authors are listed below in alphabetical order with links to author websites and links to pages on their most recent books. Don't forget that we will be selling books at Welty Book Table during the symposium. We often have books early for those who want to read ahead. Contact the College of Arts and Sciences office for more information. All events (other than box lunch reservations) are free and open to the public.

Melissa J. Delbridge, author of Family Bible

Set in Tuscaloosa, her memoir recounts Delbridge's years growing up in the troubled era of desegregation. Booklist lauds Family Bible for being "as much a cultural history of the South as a history of her own life," calling it "witty, tragic, and relentlessly wise." Taking on stormy issues of race, sexual abuse, and gender identity, Delbrige writes "with such calm and grace that the lives she observes provide richer insight than readers may expect," according to Kirkus Reviews. Her debut memoir has garnered much attention, including the 2009 Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award for Creative Non-Fiction. Delbridge is MUW's Common Reading Initiative author and appears in cooperation with the CRI program and the Ina E. Gordy Honors College.

Kendall Dunkelberg, author of Landscapes and Architectures and Time Capsules

Angela Ball writes,"“Kendall Dunkelberg's Time Capsules encompass eloquence and sense, memory and implication. These skillful poems give us much to admire, and even more to taste, to see." Dunkelberg has also published many translations, including Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus, poems of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, and Outside the Lines: New Dutch and Flemish Writing, a special issue of The Literary Review.

Tony Earley, author of Jim, The Boy and The Blue Star

These novels recount the life of Jim Glass, first as a 10-year-old boy and in the sequel as a seventeen-year-old high school senior, growing up in rural North Carolina during the Depression and World War II. Written in deceptively simple, almost folksy prose, these novels examine adult themes through the prism of their young characters. "Tony Earley's novels are the Shaker chairs of American literature," writes Yvonne Zipp of The Christian Science Monitor, "They're well-made, sturdy tales that are stripped of excess and postmodern gimmicks, and they just might last you forever..." Earley has also published a collection of short stories, Here We Are In Paradise, and collection of essays, Somehow Form a Family.

Becky Gould Gibson, author of Aphrodite's Daughter, Need-Fire, Holding Ground, and First Life

In her most recent volumes, Gibson brings to life little-known historical women figures like the 7th-century abbess Hild and explores the lasting power of iconic female figures from Aphrodite to the Virgin Mary. A Pushcart Prize nominee and winner the X. J. Kennedy Prize and a Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Award, as well as of numerous arts grants, Gibson has also published poems in many journals and anthologies. She is Professor Emeritus of English and Women's Studies at Guilford College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Ravi Howard, author of Like Trees, Walking

Howard's debut novel Like Trees, Walking fictionalizes a 1981 lynching in Mobile in what Booklist hails as "a subtle and stirring look at the complexities of racial hatred and family obligations." Called "a talent to watch" by The Washington Post, Howard won a Hurston/Wright Award for the short story on which his novel is based and in 2008 received the second annual Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. He is also a former producer at NFL Films and an Emmy winner for his work on HBO's weekly show Inside the NFL. His short fiction has appeared in the journals Callaloo and Massachusetts Review, and he has also been a commentator for NPR's All Things Considered.

Pearl Amelia McHaney, editor of Occasions: Selected Writings by Eudora Welty and Eudora Welty as Photographer

Eudora Welty Scholar and winner of this year's Welty Prize, Dr. McHaney has published widely on Southern literature and edited three previous books on Welty A Writer's Eye: Collected Book Reviews; Eudora Welty: The Contemporary Reviews; and Eudora Welty: Writers' Reflections on First Reading Welty. She also co-wrote the memoir, The Road to West 43rd St. with Nash K. Burger. McHaney serves as President of the Eudora Welty Society, has edited the Eudora Welty Newsletter since 1977, and is on the editorial board of the newly established Eudora Welty Review.

Jim Murphy, author of Heaven Overland

Murphy's first full-length volume of poetry deals with iconic figures from W.E.B. Du Bois to Elvis Presley, and according to an Alabama Writers Forum reviewer "comes to terms with American history in tough, contemporary, resonant language." Murphy is also author of the chapbook The Memphis Sun, and his poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Southern Humanities Review, Cimarron Review, and Puerto del Sol, among many others. He is poetry editor for Red Mountain Review, a Birmingham-based literary journal, and professor of English at University of Montevallo, where he directs the annual Montevallo Literary Festival.

Bridget Smith Pieschel, editor of Golden Days: Reminiscences of Alumnae, Mississippi State College for Women

This book is the result of many interviews conducted by the student/alumnae collaborative Oral History Program of MUW's Southern Women's Institute (now the Center for Women's Research and Public Policy), which Pieschel also directs. The CWRPP's research focuses on all issues affecting women and girls and particularly on the history of MUW and women's education, and Pieschel regularly speaks to civic and student groups about MUW's history and 19th-century women's education. She is also co-author with Stephen Pieschel of Loyal Daughters, the centennial history of MUW. She is a past recipient of the MUW Medal of Excellence and was for many years director of the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium.

Jack Riggs, author of and The Fireman's Wife

Set in the low country and the hills of South Carolina, The Fireman’s Wife tells the stories of Peck, a fireman struggling whether to save his marriage or let his wife have the freedom she seems to need; Cassie, his wife who yearns for the future she gave up when she married; and their daughter Kelly who is caught in the middle. Joane Wilkinson, writing for Booklist, praises Riggs for bringing "an intimate knowledge of the land as well as a feel for the emotional highs and lows of marriage to this sensitive novel of love and loss." Riggs was recently named Georgia Author of the Year for 2009.

Natasha Trethewey, author of Native Guard, Bellocq's Ophelia, and Domestic Work.

"Trethewey's exacting and resonant poetry is rooted in the shadow side of American history," writes Donna Seaman in Booklist. "In commanding, bayonet-sharp lyrics, Trethewey matches states of mind with states of nature… as she tells the terrible story of the Native Guard." She received a Pulitzer Prize for Native Guard in 2007 and has been awarded the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize for Poetry, the Lillian Smith Award for Poetry, and the Mississippi Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts. She was also named Georgia Woman of the Year in 2008. She holds the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Emory University.

© Rachel Eliza Griffith

Frank X Walker, author of Affrilachia, Black Box, Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York, and When Winter come: The Ascension of York

Buffalo Dance, won the Lillian Smith Book Award. Called "a magnificent achievement" by Nikki Giovanni, the book reimagines the Lewis and Clark expedition through the eyes of Clark's personal slave York. His most recent book When Winter Come continues his story. A recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship in Poetry and founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, Walker co-produced the film documentary Coal Black Voices, The History of the Affrilachian Poets and is editor and publisher of PLUCK!: The New Journal of Affrilachian Art & Culture. He is currently Writer in Residence and lecturer in English at Northern Kentucky University.

Jesmyn Ward, author of Where the Line Bleeds

Ward's debut novel has been hailed by Publishers Weekly as "starkly beautiful." Set on the rural Mississippi Gulf Coast, the novel follows the tensions between twin brothers, one a dock laborer and the other a drug dealer trying to alleviate their family's poverty. The novel is an Essence Book Club Selection and an Honor Award recipient from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Ward's essays and fiction have appeared in Oxford American, A Public Space, and Bomb, among others. From DeLisle, Mississippi, and the first person in her family to attain a college degree, Ward earned her MFA from the University of Michigan and is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.

Ken Wells, author of The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous: Fighting to Save a Way of Life in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

A native of Bayou Black, Louisiana, Wells has been called "one of the most compelling voices in fiction of the last decade" by The Los Angeles Times. He is author of four novels of the Cajun bayous--Meely LaBauve, Junior's Leg and Logan's Storm, collectively known as The Catahoula Bayou Trilogy, and Crawfish Mountain, a satire of Big Oil shenanigans and political corruption in the hauntingly beautiful but beleaguered wetlands of Louisiana. A Pulitzer-Prize nominated journalist, Wells is also author of several works of non-fiction, including The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous, winner of the 2008 Harry Chapin Media Award for a book of literary journalism.