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Welcome to the Mississippi Writers Page Newsletter for June 6-12, 2003

In this issue:


THIS WEEK in MISSISSIPPI LITERARY HISTORY

The following events all happened during this week in Mississippi history.

Year:
1816: Writer Catherine Ann Warfield, née “Ware,” was born in Natchez, Mississippi. (June 6)

1904: Historian E. Wilson Lyon was born in Heidelberg, Mississippi. (June 6)

1915: Theologian J. Hardee Kennedy was born in Quitman, Mississippi. (June 12)

1917: Poet Charles Lamar Nelson was born in Lafayette County, Mississippi. (June 9)

1927: English professor William U. McDonald, Jr., was born in Meridian, Mississippi. (June 10)

1937: Tennessee Williams’ one-act play Me, Vasha! placed fourth out of the competition in his playwriting class at Washington University. (June 12)

1960: Poet and professor Robert W. Hamblin married Barbara Kaye Smith. (June 10)

1963: Civil rights leader Medgar Evers was shot and killed in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Mississippi. (June 12)

1988: Theologian Lee A. Belford died in Leland, Mississippi. (June 12)

1989: English professor Calvin S. Brown died in Sanibel, Florida. (June 10)


NEWS about MISSISSIPPI WRITERS

Country stars announce tour, perform at Faulkner’s home

Marty Stuart, Merle Haggard speak and strum at Rowan Oak

June 2, 2003

Country music stars Merle Haggard (left) and Marty Stuart play for a crowd of fans and reporters gathered at Rowan Oak.

By Deidra Jackson
University of Mississippi News Services

OXFORD, Miss. — As country music star Marty Stuart walked up the cobbled pathway leading to William Faulkner’s historic home Monday, he greeted fans and radio and television crews with melodic strumming from his chocolate-colored mandolin.

Some 200 people lingered on the front lawn of Rowan Oak on the edge of the University of Mississippi’s campus to hear Stuart and country music icon Merle Haggard announce plans for their “Electric Barnyard Tour,” a summer grassroots tour across America’s heartland.

Addressing the crowd, Stuart thanked William Faulkner: “Whether he knows it or not, there are a lot of hillbillies in his yard this morning.” Stuart, 44, is a native of Philadelphia, Miss.

Joined by their bands and other musicians on the tour, Stuart and Haggard, 66, performed at the event, which was broadcast live by Nashville’s 650 WSM-AM Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio and WSM Online.

The tour opens July 6 in Sierra Vista, Ariz., stretches to Boca Raton, Fla., and ends July 17 at Pueblo, Colo. Stuart bills the performances as a “tour of the backyards.” The singer-songwriters plan to concentrate their brand of traditional country music in smaller locales.

“We’re going back to remember the forgotten ones,” Stuart said. ”We want to set the stage for protecting the integrity of country music as an art form.”

As a writer and self-proclaimed lover of literature, Stuart said the Oxford setting was perfect to announce the tour with Haggard, “poet of the common man.”

Stuart said tickets for the concerts will be $25 each in advance and $30 at the door. For a concert schedule go to: http://www.martyparty.com. Waffle House was announced as the tour’s major sponsor.

Eddie Stubbs, WSM’s Grand Ole Opry announcer and fiddler for the Grammy-nominated Johnson Mountain Boys bluegrass band, said, “This tour is about taking country music with substance back to the people. There’s so much more to country music than what you’re being force-fed on the radio. People are starved for substance.”

Strumming his guitar, Haggard performed “Suddenly It’s Over,” a new song about the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its media coverage. “I’ve never sung this early in the morning before,” he said.

The tour also will feature the duo’s backup bands—The Fabulous Superlatives and The Strangers—as well as BR-549, Connie Smith, Rhonda Vincent and The Rage, and The Old Crow Medicine Show, who performed at the news conference. UM Chancellor Robert Khayat, an amateur guitarist and music fan, joined Haggard and Stuart on stage and strummed along.

Both artists are set to release new albums—Haggard’s Haggard Like Never Before and Stuart’s Country Music.

Haggard, whose involvement in music goes back to the 1960s, is hailed by many critics as “the greatest country artist of our times.” He became one of America’s most successful writers and singers of country music, and enjoyed an extraordinary streak of 37 straight Top 10 hits including 23 No. 1 singles in a 30-year career span.

Stuart is one of country music’s best known bluegrass and rockabilly artists. His hits include “Tempted” and “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’,” a duet with Travis Tritt. He has spent the past few years involved with film scores, (All the Pretty Horses, Hi-Lo Country and others); an album and book of words and photographs, Pilgrims; and working as president of the Country Music Foundation.

Related Links
Marty Party. The official Marty Stuart web site.
WSM Online.
William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak.” from William Faulkner on the Web.
 
 

Grisham writer-in-residence ends year with new works

June 3, 2003

Shay Youngblood

By Deidra Jackson
University of Mississippi News Services

OXFORD, Miss. — During her just-completed year as Grisham writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi, playwright Shay Youngblood offered experience to fledgling writers and came to know her colleagues in the Department of English.

The prestigious UM teaching post also afforded some rare and cherished time to the Columbus, Ga., native.

“My year in Oxford has been one of the most creative and productive times of my life,” said Youngblood, an award-winning novelist and poet. “The gift of time has been important to the development of my new writing experiments.”

The annual appointment is funded by best-selling author John Grisham and his wife, Renee. During her stint, Youngblood finished drafts of two novels and a collection of short stories. And, to her surprise, she completed more than 100 paintings and drawings.

She said she also prospered while teaching the writing craft to undergraduate and graduate students: “One of my most rewarding experiences has been working with a number of talented writing students, seeing them grow and learn to trust their own voices.”

Youngblood, whose haunting debut novel, Soul Kiss (1997), was nominated for the Quality Paperback Book New Voices Award, leaves the Oxford campus savoring the opportunity “to come home” and enjoy “the poetry in a turn of a Southern phrase” and the “thick smell of pine trees and a heavy rain coming.” She returns to New York University’s graduate creative writing program, where she will teach through an online mentoring program sponsored by the University of Minnesota. She also plans to finish a contemporary novel for publication.

Joseph Urgo, chair of the UM Department of English, said Youngblood has fulfilled the vision of John and Renee Grisham when they set up the writer-in-residence program a decade ago.

“It’s been a great pleasure hosting Shay Youngblood this year and watching her make a graceful, sensitive and quietly inspiring contribution to the community,” Urgo said. “Each Grisham writer enriches us, but Shay’s presence and the creative eye she has brought to northern Mississippi will linger long after she has gone.”

Youngblood’s time in Lafayette County motivated her to produce new work for the stage: “Oxford also inspired a new play project called the ‘Friendship Garden,’ based on some of the friendships I’ve made here and the gardens I’ve watched bloom in all seasons.”

Her short story, “Born With Religion,” won a Pushcart Prize. Last year, Youngblood, the author of The Big Mama Stories (1992), delivered a riveting reading from her book Black Girl in Paris (2000), at the Oxford Conference for the Book. Her play Talking Bones received the Kennedy Center’s Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award in 1993, and Shakin’ The Mess Outta Misery received best playwright, producer, director and supporting actor awards from the Hollywood NAACP Theater Awards in 1991.

UM’s 2003-04 Grisham writer-in-residence is Janisse Ray, whose first book, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood (1999), won the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, the Southeastern Booksellers Award for Nonfiction, the Southern Environmental Law Center Award and an American Book Award.

The appointment includes housing and a stipend. Recipients are required to teach writing workshops and participate in department activities.


Do you have a news item about a Mississippi writer? Please send your information to mwp@olemiss.edu.


NEW BOOKS by Mississippi Writers

Of Long Memory: Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers Of Long Memory: Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers

By Adam Nossiter

Da Capo Press (Paperback, $17.50, ISBN: 0306811626)

First published: 1994

Publication date: June 2002

Description from Publishers Weekly:

  In this resonant and absorbing narrative, Nossiter uses the 1963 murder of NAACP staffer Medgar Evers and the recent re-prosecution of assassin Byron de la Beckwith as a prism through which to examine the significant evolution in hearts, minds and government in Mississippi. Nossiter, who formerly covered Mississippi for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution , tells his story mainly in deft profiles: Evers, the resolute field secretary shunned by many of the black bourgeoisie in Jackson; Beckwith, the racist supported by the white establishment, whose first two trials led to hung juries; prosecutor Bobby DeLaughter, who slowly developed a consciousness of the past. By the late 1980s, with new political leaders in place and a collective introspection in process, the state exhumed the case: information about jury tampering became known, formerly reluctant witnesses testified and Beckwith was convicted. The need for this thoughtful analysis—a more comprehensive look at the Evers case than Reed Massengill’s recent Beckwith biography, Portrait of a Racist—is shown by a jury pool, black and white, almost universally ignorant of Evers. —Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.


AUTHOR EVENTS: Book Signings, Readings, and Appearances

June 19-22: Ford Center for the Performing Arts, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi

“Oxford Film Festival.” Oxford’s first community-sponsored film festival consists of 4 days of screenings, along with workshops on film-making, screen-writing, etc., for adults and children, juried professional independent and amateur films, presentations and awards. Ticket prices & details TBA. 10 a.m.-midnight daily. For more information, visit the festival web site, www.oxfordfilmfest.com.

June 26-29: The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi

The “Yoknapatawpha Summer Writers’ Workshop” is designed to give poets and fiction writers experience in the art of writing. The workshop features writing practice and critiques, as well as readings and craft presentations. By the end of the four days, participants should emerge with improved writing skills, as well as a greater appreciation for the process from thought to printed page. Open to anyone interested in writing. Pre-registration is required. Tuition for the workshop is $395 per person and includes workshops, lectures, panel discussions, readings, and one evening reception. The registration deadline is Friday, June 6, 2003. For more information, visit the workshop web site, www.outreach.olemiss.edu/summer/yokna_writers/.

If you know of upcoming literary events by or about Mississippi writers, please let us know by writing us at mwp@olemiss.edu. 


ON THE HORIZON

The following events are planned for the coming weeks and months. You may wish to begin planning now to attend or participate.

July 20-24, 2003

30th Annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi. Information and registration forms available at www.outreach.olemiss.edu/events/faulkner/.

October 16, 2003

Elmore Leonard, author of more than 30 novels (including Bandits, Get Shorty, and Tishomingo Blues), numerous film and television productions, essays and commentaries, will read and talk about his career. For more information on Leonard, visit www.elmoreleonard.com/. Elmore Leonard’s new book, When the Women Come Out to Dance, is to be published in November 2003. Johnson Commons Ballroom, The University of Mississippi, 7 p.m. Sponsored by the John and Renee Grisham Visiting Writers Series and the Department of English at the University of Mississippi.


If you know of additional news items for this newsletter or if you have suggestions, please write us at mwp@olemiss.edu.

For more information about events in the Oxford and University of Mississippi community, see the Ole Miss Community Calendar:
www.olemiss.edu/calendar/


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