The 2018 Mississippi Book Festival is just over a week away! In preparation for the Festival, we asked our authors to answer a few questions about our state’s literary and cultural legacy. This is the second of three blogs posts in which we share their responses. Click here for Part 1. Below, you’ll find our authors’ guide to the Festival, including which events they are most excited about, who they would cast in their dream panels, and where are their favorite spots to visit in Jackson. For a full list of panelists attending the Festival and the schedule of events, click here.
What events (besides your own) are you most excited about at the Book Festival? Whose autograph are you hoping to get?
Pearl Amelia McHaney, editor of Occasions: Selected Writings, Eudora Welty as Photographer, and A Writer's Eye: Collected Book Reviews, and author of A Tyrannous Eye: Eudora Welty's Nonfiction and Photographs: “I dream every week about coming to Jackson, so the Mississippi Book Festival is really a dream come true. I’m eager to see Glennray Tutor, whom we haven’t seen in years, though we think of him every day as we pass by a dozen of his prints in our home. I am also hoping to tell Jesmyn Ward how much her novel Sing, Unburied, Sing means to my undergraduate and graduate students and my book club friends. Then there’s John T. Edge, Bill Ferris, Minrose Guinn, the Eudora Welty friends, and Jackson First Lady Ebony Lumumba, a former student!”
William Dunlap, author of Dunlap: “I’m really looking forward to the Julia Reed/David Dibenadento panel. Julia’s writing in any venue is exceptional, but her work for Garden and Gun has been extraordinary. Also Jon Meacham and his new book Soul of America—I’ve heard him a couple times but will gladly come back again.”
Malcolm White, author of The Artful Evolution of Hal & Mal’s: “Jesmyn Ward for sure and the Willie Morris Afterparty. I haven’t seen the list of other events, so I will reserve comment.”
Timothy T. Isbell, author of The Mississippi Gulf Coast, Gettysburg: Sentinels of Stone, Shiloh and Corinth: Sentinels of Stone, and Vicksburg: Sentinels of Stone: “I love everything about the Mississippi Book Festival. Since I was born and raised in Jackson, I enjoy mingling in the crowd. I can usually find an old friend or a classmate from Provine High School. I enjoy the panel discussions, author’s alley, and the book signings. I would love to meet/get a book signed by Jon Meacham and Jesmyn Ward. I always love going to Eudora Welty’s house for the Friday evening author get together.”
Richard D. deShazo, MD, MACP, editor of The Racial Divide in American Medicine: Black Physicians and the Struggle for Justice in Health Care: “The reception at the Civil Rights Museum is at the top of my list. I’m not an autograph seeker.”
Ellen B. Meacham, author of Delta Epiphany: Robert F. Kennedy in Mississippi: “There are so many of them! I’m looking forward to the ‘Race and Identity: One Year After Charlottesville’ panel. ‘In the Southern Kitchen’ looks great, and ‘True Crime’ is always interesting for me because I am a former newspaper reporter. I am also looking forward to seeing so many people who had a role in my book coming to fruition, like Jane Hearn, William Dunlap, and Maude Schuyler Clay, and many others. Jesmyn Ward is amazing. I can’t wait to hear her.”
David G. Sansing, author of A History of the Mississippi Governor's Mansion, Making Haste Slowly: The Troubled History of Higher Education in Mississippi, and The University of Mississippi: A Sesquicentennial History: “The book festival is a validation that Mississippi is a Marvel in the World of Letters and I look forward to seeing the most famous and the most recent Mississippi writers.”
Susan Cushman, editor of Southern Writers on Writing: “I always go to as many author panels and keynote talks as possible. Since the schedule isn't up on the website yet, I can't really say which ones I'm most interested in yet, except maybe for Jesmyn Ward and Rick Bragg's talks. I also love speaking on a panel and hanging out with other authors.”
Catherine Egley Waggoner, coauthor of Realizing Our Place: Real Southern Women in a Mythologized Land: “Aside from the cocktail parties, I can't wait to see Julia Reed and get in some good belly laughs; from my experiences in the Delta, her insights are spot on, and where else can you get a tried-and-true recipe to go with them? I'll have to dash early from her panel to catch Jesmyn Ward. She's such a smart, perceptive writer; I'm thrilled to have her on the literary scene representing Mississippi. Following that, I'll head over to hear Jon Meacham and Karl Rove talk politics, hoping to gain a more nuanced understanding about our current national situation. Then, of course, I'll want to duck in to see Salman Rushdie; can't miss that opportunity. It'll be a busy day, to be sure. I'll pack some wipes for all of that running around in the Mississippi humidity. Whose idea was it to hold the festival in August, by the way?”
Design your dream book festival panel, with authors and artists, living or dead.
Pearl Amelia McHaney: “Easy question! I’d invite William Faulkner, Natasha Trethewey, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, and Richard Wright, the writers I call ‘The Mississippi Mountains’! With all of these, we’d have a Mississippi Mountain Range right here in the center of the state.”
William Dunlap: “It’s a roll of the dice, but wouldn’t it be nice to have the aforementioned Ms. Reed, Richard Wright, Jerry Clower, and Roy Blount Junior? That could make for some serious fun.”
Malcolm White: “I would love to see Donna Tart attend at some point. I’d love to see a poetry panel featuring our two living Poet Laureates, Natasha and Beth Ann.”
Timothy T. Isbell: “I think the Mississippi author I most identify with is Eudora Welty. We are both from Jackson, photographers and writers. It would be great to have a book festival panel with her. I’d love to have Shelby Foote, Willie Morris, Richard Wright, and William Faulkner join the panel too. We could just talk about Mississippi. Since I’m currently working on a Civil Rights book, I’d love to join a panel of historic figures such as Medgar Evers, Myrlie Evers Williams, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ed King, Bob Moses, and Gilbert Mason to name a few.”
Richard D. deShazo: “A group of national civil rights leaders who have written books with William Winter as host.”
David G. Sansing: “My dream book festival would include the Big Four: Faulkner, Welty, Wright, and Tennessee Williams, and John Grisham, Willie Morris, Natasha Trethewey, and Barry Hannah, and, and, and, . . . ”
Susan Cushman: “Memoirists: Pat Conroy, Mary Karr, and Augusten Burroughs.”
John Floyd, contributor to Southern Writers on Writing: “Mystery/suspense panel, with moderator Otto Penzler and panelists Nelson DeMille, Joe R. Lansdale, Lee Child, Robert B. Parker, and Harlan Coben.”
If you’re visiting Jackson for the Festival, what is something you look forward to doing while you’re here? If you live in Jackson, where are some of your favorite spots?
Pearl Amelia McHaney: “Definitely the Eudora Welty House and Gardens, the Welty Collection at MDAH, and we bought annual membership to the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. I always visit the Mississippi Museum of Art—maybe I’ll wear my Walter Anderson scarf instead of my Eudora Welty t-shirt. We are coming a few days early to fit all this into our visit.”
Malcolm White: “Visiting literary sites and being a part of the Mississippi Writers Trail launch.”
Ginger Williams Cook, illustrator of The Artful Evolution of Hal & Mal’s: “I think the answer to this question could yield several great days in the capital city. One of my favorite things to do is to grab a coffee and treat from Broadstreet in Banner Hall and walk upstairs to wander through Lemuria. Have lunch at Keifer's and later order a cocktail or milkshake from Fine & Dandy. If I have a full day to spend, it would definitely be at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.”
Timothy T. Isbell: “I’m a Jackson boy born and bred so it is always fun to come back to my childhood hometown. I usually drive by some of my old haunts. I'm currently helping plan Provine High School Class of 1979 40th class reunion so I often swing by my old school. I’ve always loved touring the Old Capitol. My new favorite is the Mississippi History/Civil Rights Museum. My wife and I grew up eating catfish at Cock of the Walk so we usually will make a trip to the reservoir for old time’s sake. I’m currently working on a Civil Rights book so my trips to Jackson usually means researching and taking pictures at historic locations like Medgar Evers’ house, Woolworth’s location, Greyhound Bus Station, or other historic spots.”
Ellen B. Meacham: “Lemuria, of course! Miss Eudora’s house is a must-stop, and the new Civil Rights Museum is a wonder.”
David G. Sansing: “I look forward to beholding the Beauty of the Old and the New Capitol Buildings and recalling their fascinating history.”
Susan Cushman: “I was born in Jackson and lived there for 37 years (until 1988). My favorite spots are the Fondren area (for cool shops and restaurants) and the Ross Barnett Reservoir (for natural beauty, boating fun, etc.).”
Anne Farris Rosen, editor of Deep South Dispatch: Memoir of a Civil Rights Journalist: “I was born in Jackson where some of my relatives still live, so I always look forward to coming ‘home.’ This year, I am particularly enthusiastic about vising the city's new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which places Jackson in good company with other first-rate cities that have embraced their role and evolution in the history of civil rights. I'm also excited to be touring Eudora Welty's home. The last time I drove by it, she was still alive and no visitors were allowed. So I'm glad to finally be able to tour it because I'll be able to see her bedroom where a photograph was once taken of her typing at a desk beside an unmade bed. That is a reaffirming message to all writers who neglect domestic chores to pursue their craft.”