A week ago was the first day of the 32nd annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium at Mississippi University for Women. For the first time in those 32 years, our symposium was totally virtual, something that is happening with a lot of events this year. The photo we used for our cover was taken a few years ago when we were in person in Poindexter Hall. Doing a virtual event like this was surprisingly good. Our readings felt personal and intimate. Writers invited us into their homes and readers were able to connect from wherever they were and even watch after the fact. Videos are still available.
We used Zoom to bring the writers together, and we had two classes on the Zoom call who had all read most of the books. This allowed us to do a live Q&A, and we were able to start Zoom before the public event and let everyone chat a bit as I was getting the tech ready. We always encourage our authors to attend eachother’s readings, which also helps with cameraderie. It went almost as well as it usually does in person, except there was no book signing after our keynote (though we did promote book sales), and there were no conversations in the van that I usually drive authors in to and from the hotel. We didn’t get to have meals or drinks together either, but still it was a great time, and no one caught the virus.
Now that we’ve done one virtual symposium, we’re eager to have the next one back in an auditorium, yet we’ll also be strategizing about how we can stream the video so people who can’t travel to Mississippi University for Women can also join in.