Welty Symposium 2011 Begins

One of my favorite parts of my day job is directing the Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium. Each year we bring a dozen authors to campus, and tonight I had dinner with our first to arrive, Joy Castro, author of The Truth Book. We had a delightful conversation, and in typical Columbus style, ran into newspaper publisher and fellow Southsider, Birney Imes, at the Thai restaurant. We talked about literature, teaching, colleges, writing, Columbus, the W, Nebraska, you name it. And of course, we talked some about what she could expect over the next few days.

Joy came in early as our Common Reading Initiative author. All of our freshmen read her memoir, The Truth Book, in their Introduction to College class, and she’ll be meeting with honors students and the CRI students at a couple of sessions. She’ll also meet with a Human Sexuality class that read her book, and then she’ll get to participate in the full symposium when that really gets underway on Thursday.

It’s always nice to meet the authors and get to spend a little time with them before the events really get started. Of course, I have lots of details to attend to (checking on books that haven’t arrived, making sure everything is okay for the auditorium, printing out maps and instructions for the authors, getting the books where they need to go, etc., etc.). There’s a lot of organizing that goes on behind the scenes, and I hope it goes off as seamlessly as possible, so no one really notices all the effort behind the scenes.

That’s the way it should be. We try to make the authors as comfortable and happy as possible, then let them read and entertain. We try to reach as many potential audience members as possible and let them come and be entertained. It’s kind of like being the cruise director on a ship. If you’re successful, you’re practically anonymous. And if people remember you, it’s probably because you messed up! So here’s to anonymity and a very successful few days. The authors that have graciously agreed to come read and talk about their work are all fabulous. The audience is great and deserves to enjoy some great literature. Soon, if it hasn’t been done already, it won’t get done, and I’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the readings, too. As long as the sound system works and there aren’t any minor crises to deal with (which there always are). Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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