Program of the 2011 Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium

The symposium will be held on the campus of Mississippi University for Women in Rent Auditorium of Whitfield Hall on October 20th, 21st, and 22nd, 2011. The theme for this year's symposium is "Crossing Cultures in the South: 'into the lovely room full of strangers'" and is taken from Eudora Welty's short story "The Bride of Innisfallen." All symposium sessions are free and open to the public, thanks to a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation. 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.


Judith Ortiz Cofer

author of Woman in Front of the Sun, If I Could Fly, A Love Story Beginning in Spanish, Sleeping With One Eye Open, Reaching for the Mainland, Call Me Maria, Silent Dancing, The Meaning of Consuelo, An Island Like You, The Line of the Sun, The Latin Deli, The Year of Our Revolution, Terms of Survival, and Lessons from a Writer's Life. Ms. Cofer was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the United States when she was four. She is now Regents and Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia. She was recently honored to be included in the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame and the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Sefi Atta

The Nigerian-born novelist has lived in Meridian, Mississippi, since 1997. She is the author of two novels Everything Good Will Come and Swallow as well as the short story colleciton News from Home, which received the 2009 Noma Award for publishing in Africa. The jury described Ms. Atta as "One of the most original, imaginative and gifted fiction writers in Africa, and arguably the best of her generation." She has also received the 2006 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa and PEN International David TK Wong Prize.

Jean W. Cash

Southern Literature scholar and Professor Emerita of English at James Madison University, Dr. Cash will discuss her most recent book, Larry Brown: A Writer's Life, which has been awarded the 2011 Eudora Welty Prize. Dr. Cash met Larry Brown in 1989 just after he published his first collection of short stories, Facing the Music, and followed his writing through his career. In 2008, she edited Larry Brown and the Blue-Collar South a collection of essays on Brown’s writing and life. She has also published the seminal biography, Flannery O'Conner, A Life.

Joy Castro

Her fist book, The Truth Book: Escaping a Childhood of Abuse Among Jehovah's Witnesses, was named a Book Sense Notable Book by the American Booksellers Association and was adapted and excerpted in The New York Times Magazine. In it, Castro chronicles her adoption and childhood in a Jehovah’s Witness household and the abuse she and her brother suffered at the hands of her stepfather, as well as the bitter custody battle she faced after fleeing to live with her father. Caroline Leavitt, writing for the Boston Globe, called it "Gorgeous, disturbing, and grippingly alive," adding "Castro's book offers the kind of hope her background never supplied."

Ann Fisher-Wirth

The author of three full-length books of poetry, Carta Marina, Five Terraces, and Blue Window, as well as three chapbooks Walking Wu Wei’s Scroll, The Trinket Poems, and Slide Shows, Ms. Fisher-Wirth teaches poetry writing, literature, and environmental studies at the University of Mississippi and has been a frequent traveler, first growing up in an Army household and later as university instructor in Belgium and a Fulbright scholar to Switzerland and Sweden. Booklist praised Carta Marina as a "breakthrough book from a significant poet."

Minrose Gwin

Mississippi University for Women alumna and University of North Carolina English profssor, Minrose. Gwin is the author of two literary works: a memoir, Wishing for Snow, which deals with her mother’s mental illness and her own struggles to come to terms with it, and a novel The Queen of Palmyra, which recounts the turbulent race relations of the fictional Mississippi town of Millwood. Publisher’s Weekly praised the novel as "affecting and disturbing," noting it "shows the terror and tragedy in one divided Southern community whose residents have no interest in reconciling."

Randall Horton

Originally of Birmingham, Alabama, Randall Horton has published two book of poetry and is a recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize and was awarded an NEA Fellowship for Poetry in 2010. His debut collection, The Definition of Place, delves into his family’s history and the history of race relations in North and Central Alabama from the turn of the 20th Century through the Civil Right Era, while his second collection The Lingua Franca of Ninth Street explores his time in Washington DC and his relationship to his father.

Pauline Kaldas

The author of Letters from Cairo, Egyptian Compass, and The Time Between Places: Stories that Weave in and out of Egypt and America and editor of Dinarzad's Children: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction was born in Egypt and at the age of eight emigrated to the United States with her parents. Later, she returned to Egypt and taught at the University of Cairo for three years. She is Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Hollins University in Roanoke, VA.

Michael Kardos

He originally hails from the New Jersey shore and now is Assistant Professor and Co-director of Creative Writing at Mississippi State University. Kardos has recently published his collection of short stories, One Last Good Time, which Booklist praised as "An impressive debut…" for its "…surprise outcomes and absurdist touches." His first novel, The Three-day Affair, is due out next year.

Michael F. Smith

A Mississippi native who has lived for extended periods abroad in France and Switzerland, Smith is Associate Professor of English at Mississippi University for Women. His debut novella The Hands of Strangers, set in Paris, portrays a young couple whose daughter has been abducted while on a school trip. In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly notes "In this anxiety-ridden little gem, Smith captures the essence of the helpless, making more of an impact than most novels three times its size."

Latha Viswanathan

Ms. Viswanathan was born in India and has worked there and in the Philippines, England, and Canada as a journalist and copywriter before coming to the United States. She currently lives and writes in Houston, TX. Her debut collection of short stories, Lingering Tide, will be released in the US and Canade in October. Her story from this collection, "Cool Wedding," set in Houston and New Orleans, was selected for inclusion in New Stories from the South.

Jianqing Zheng

Born in Wuhan, China, Zheng is currently Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English and Foreign Languages at Misssissippi Valley State University, where he edits Valley Voices, Haiku Page, and Poetry South. He is the author of poetry chapbooks The Porch, Deltascape, Found Haiku (from Eudora Welty's “Delta Wedding,” for example), and minis, as well as the full-lenght book The Landscape of the Mind. Zheng is also editor of and contributor to the scholarly collection The Other World of Richard Wright: Perspectives on His Haiku.