12th Oxford Book Conference honors Flannery OConnor, includes Delta tour
March 22, 2005
By Jennifer Southall
OXFORD, Miss. — The life and work of Flannery OConnor is just one focus of the 12th annual Oxford Conference for the Book, set for April 7-9 in and around Oxford and the University of Mississippi.
Leading fiction writers, poets, journalists, editors and publishing insiders are expected to be on hand for discussions on topics ranging from creating the perfect crime novel to politics to literacy issues, and some of them plan to participate in a Delta field trip April 4-7.
“The Oxford Conference for the Book offers something for everyone,” said Ann Abadie, associate director of UMs Center for the Study of Southern Culture, which organizes the conference with Oxfords Square Books each year. “It shows, too, that Oxford is not a one-author town.”
Besides panel discussions, there will, of course, be plenty of reading and book signing, this year from the likes of Mississippi native and National Book Award nominee Ellen Douglas, New Yorker writer Hendrik Hertzberg, International Crime Novel of the Year award winner George Pelecanos, Yale Younger Poets Prize winner Davis McCombs and Newbery Medalist Richard Peck.
Many of UMs own accomplished writers will also be on hand, including novelists Tom Franklin, visiting writer-in-residence, and Brad Watson, the John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence; poet Beth Ann Fennelly; and journalist Curtis Wilkie.
“I cant think of a better place in the country to hold this kind of conference, really,” said Watson. “Oxford is the best town for writers Ive ever lived in, and writers always love to come here and whoop it up.”
Although most conference activities, including all readings and panel discussions are free and open to the public, two scheduled opportunities for “whooping,” a Friday cocktail party and a Saturday catfish dinner with conference panelists, require fees of $50 and $25, respectively.
Other activities include a number of free special programs. A Friday afternoon session on OConnor will feature not only talks about her life and work by longtime friend William A. Sessions and scholar Paul Elie, but also a portion of a one-woman play based on the writers life and a slide presentation of her drawings.
“OConnors visual art was very much related to her literary art,” Abadie said. “The slide show in particular is sure to offer new insights for readers.”
Another special program will bring some 500 fifth-graders to campus Friday morning to hear Peck read from his book A Year Down Yonder, which won the 1999 Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in childrens literature. Thanks to efforts of the Lafayette County Literacy Council and the Oxford Junior Auxiliary, all Oxford and Lafayette County fifth-graders have been given copies of the book before the event and encouraged to write their own books, which will be displayed at the Young Authors Fair, to take place during the conference at Square Books Jr. and on the Oxford Square.
An open-mic event is scheduled Thursday night at the Oxford club Two Stick. The “jam session,” organized by novelist David Galef, administrator of UMs creative writing program, will allow aspiring writers to read their work aloud before other writers and book lovers.
Preceding the conference for the second year is the Delta Literary Tour, organized by CSSC and Greenwoods Alluvian Hotel. Based in Greenwood, the tour includes trips to Yazoo City, Greenville and Clarksdale for lectures on Walker Percy, William Alexander Percy, Tennessee Williams and Willie Morris, and a reading by Greenville native Julia Reed. Also scheduled are breaks for barbecue, live gospel and blues performances, and a tour of the Alluvians art work, guided by Mississippi artists William Dunlap and Maude Schuyler Clay.
A registration fee of $450 is required for the April 4-7 tour and includes eight meals and transportation to all events. Lodging is not included in the fee, although rooms at Greenwoods Alluvian Hotel can be reserved at the discounted rate of $135 per night by calling 866-600-5201 and asking for the Literary Tour rate.
For more information about the tour or to register, visit www.olemiss.edu/depts/south/literarytour/literarytour05.htm or call 662-915-5993.
Although no registration fee is required for the conference itself, participants should register to ensure seating. Registration is required for the cocktail party and catfish dinner. To register, for assistance related to a disability, or for more information on all conference events, visit www.olemiss.edu/depts/south/ocb or call 662-915-5993.
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