MSMS students take top prizes at Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium


Courtesy of Taylor Lewis

Pictured left to right and top down: Richardson, McGee, Tabor, Henry, Isbell, Patel, Snodgrass and Spinks.

Chloe Dobbins, Staff Writer

From Oct. 21 to Oct. 23, the Mississippi University for Women hosted the Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium to allow Southern writers to present their work.

The symposium began with a keynote address by W. Ralph Eubanks, author of “A Place Like Mississippi,” on Oct. 21. The following day, writers Ashley M. Jones, Becky Hagensten, Joshua Nguyen and Angela Jackson-Brown showcased excerpts of their work. The final day of the symposium closed with Casey Kayser, John Russell, Lee Durkee and MSMS faculty member Thomas Richardson sharing their writing.

In addition to the professional writers’ presentations, the Welty Symposium presented the winners of the Ephemera Prize, a writing contest for Mississippi high schoolers. All five winners were MSMS students: Jordan Isbell, Kinjal Patel, J. B. Snodgrass, Emma Spinks and Benjamin Tabor. Two MSMS students were awarded honorable mentions, Jazmine Henry and Jacob McGee.

Patel said the symposium was enjoyable and informative.

“[The symposium] was a really fun experience to meet new authors and get to know more people that enjoyed writing,” Patel said. “I learned about new styles of poetry. There’s just so many different styles out there that we saw at the symposium.”

Patel’s winning poem, “The Lockdown,” is based on both her own experiences and a common occurrence in the South.

“I ended up writing about school shootings because it was difficult coming up with something to do with Mississippi. And I thought about what could be something that heavily represents the South and has a real meaning to it,” Patel said. “School shootings are something very real that happens in the South, and I’ve experienced one, so I wanted to write about my experience.”

Richardson, who teaches the MSMS creative writing class, has been taking students to the Welty Symposium since 2011. He said he hopes students were able to relate to the writers and see writing as a viable career.

“I think it’s important for students to see writers as working professionals and not these mythical creatures who are hidden behind a curtain. There are people we can talk to and learn from, and it’s always good to hear a writer read their work,” Richardson said. “Almost all the writers that come to the symposium are Southern, and so we can connect with them on that.”