Brad Watson returns as keynote speaker at the 28th annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium at Mississippi University for Women Oct. 20-22. Watson will read from his National Book Award-nominated novel, “Miss Jane.” He is the author of short story collections “Last Days of the Dog Men” and “Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives” and the novel “The Heaven of Mercury,” which was also a finalist for the National Book Award.
Watson will read and discuss his novel Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m. in Poindexter Hall on the MUW campus. A book signing with all Symposium authors follows. This and all symposium events are free and open to the public. No tickets or reservations are required, and the audience is welcome to come for all or part of each session.
Watson’s novel “Miss Jane” is loosely based on the story of his great-aunt, who had a rare birth defect that left her incontinent, unable to bear children and ill-suited for marriage. Set in the first half of the 20th century in rural Mississippi, the novel surrounds its main character with the lushly fecund natural world; even she is defined as “barren” by society and lives a mostly solitary existence.
Kirkus Reviews describes the novel as “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.
More featured authors
The symposium continues Oct. 21-22 with three debut novelists, a short story writer, four poets and three writers of nonfiction. Along with published authors, The W will welcome five high school students, winners of the third annual Eudora Welty Ephemera Prize for fiction, essay or poetry. The selected students will be invited to read their work on the afternoon of Oct. 21.
Eudora Welty Prize scholar Patricia Boyett will begin panels Oct. 21 with a discussion of her study of civil rights-era Jones and Forrest counties, “Right to Revolt: The Crusade for Racial Justice in Mississippi’s Central Piney Woods.”
Cole Lavalais reads from her novel, “Summer of the Cicadas,” which takes her heroine Viola Moon to a Southern HBCU (historically black college or university), where she confronts her heritage and her struggles with mental illness. Lavalais is currently teaching as visiting writer in the W’s low-residency MFA program in creative writing.
Randall Horton returns to the symposium with his memoir “Hook,” which tells of his spiral into a life of drugs and crime, and the redemptive power of writing, education, and poetry. Horton is teaching a course in the Black Arts Movement in The W’s MFA program this semester.
Jackson native James Kimbrell will present his third collection of poems, “Smote.” Kimbrell holds a Guggenheim Fellowship for his poetry, which has been praised by New Pages as “an apparition that haunts a racially segregated American South, told through the eyes of a boy confronted by ghosts.”
Paulette Boudreaux, a native Mississippian, reads from “Mulberry,” her novel about growing up in Civil-Rights-era Mississippi, which was awarded the Lee Smith Prize from Caroline Wren Press.
David Armand will read from “My Mother’s House,” his memoir of growing up with a schizophrenic mother, then being adopted, and ultimately reuniting with his mother after a failed suicide attempt.
Jazz poet and Mississippi State University English professor Richard Lyons returns to the symposium with his fourth collection “Un Poco Loco,” in which Lyons enlists portraits of artists, jazz musicians, entertainers and writers in a battle against intolerance and war, pride and desire.
Becky Hagenston, associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Mississippi State University, will read from her third collection of stories, “Scavengers,” which chronicles the secrets and lives of contemporary suburban characters from Mississippi to Russia. “Scavengers” was awarded the Permafrost Prize in Fiction from the University of Alaska Press.
Dana Chamblee Carpenter, winner of Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award, will read from her debut novel, “Bohemian Gospel,” which tells the story of Mouse, a young, magical Joan of Arc figure in 13-century Bohemia, who saves the life of a king and struggles to understand her own power.
Georgia poet Sandra Meek brings her fifth collection of poetry, “An Ecology of Elsewhere,” poems reflecting on her experiences in Botswana in the Peace Corps, her mother’s death, and her travels with her sister and ailing father through the Southwest
Symposium director Kendall Dunkelberg presents poems from “Barrier Island Suite,” inspired by Walter Ingles Anderson. “Alternatively serene and ominous, writes Lisa McMurtray for the Clarion-Ledger, “these poems offer the solace of the land that so inspired Anderson.”
All symposium events will be held on the Mississippi University for Women campus and are free to the public, with the exception of the Welty Gala Oct. 21. The symposium is made possible through the generous support of the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation.
For a complete program schedule, visit muw.edu/welty.
The annual Welty Gala, a ticketed event, will begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 on The W campus. The black tie optional fundraiser for the MUW Scholarship Fund begins with a cocktail reception with symposium authors, followed by dinner and a presentation by best-selling author and former CIA covert officer Valerie Plame. Plame’s identity was revealed to the press in 2003, triggering a political firestorm. In 2007, she published the details in her autobiography, “Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House.”
For more gala information or tickets, visit muw.edu/welty/gala, or contact the Office of Development and Alumni, 662-329-7148.
Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium 2016
Thursday, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m.
Brad Watson: “Miss Jane”
Book Signing with all Symposium authors
Friday, Oct. 21, 9 a.m.-noon
Patricia Boyett: “Right to Revolt”
Randall Horton: “Hook: A Memoir”
James Kimbrell: “Smote”
Cole Lavalais: “Summer of the Cicadas”
Friday, Oct. 21, 1:30-4 p.m.
Paulette Boudreaux: “Mulberry”
Rich Lyons: “Un Poco Loco”
David Armand: “My Mother’s House”
Ephemera Prize Readings
Saturday, Oct. 22, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Kendall Dunkelberg: “Barrier Island Suite”
Dana Carpenter: “Bohemian Gospel”
Sandra Meek: “An Ecology of Elsewhere”
Becky Hagenston: “Scavengers”
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