Saturday, September 5, 2009

Southern Women Writers Conference Draws Top Authors, Emerging Talents

Some of the most distinctive voices in Southern literature will gather on the world’s largest college campus, Sept. 24-26, for the 2009 Southern Women Writers Conference. Two Pulitzer Prize winners – poet Natasha Trethewey and playwright Marsha Norman – will headline the biennial celebration, which is hosted by Berry College.

The Southern Women Writers Conference is dedicated to showcasing the works of well known and emerging Southern women writers, expanding the literary canon, and developing critical and theoretical understandings of traditions and innovations in Southern women’s writing. The theme for this year’s event is “Many Souths: Remembering, Sustaining, Creating,” which invites attendees to explore the distinctive ways in which Southern women have used the written word to evoke indelible images defined by such factors as geography, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, class, sexuality and spirituality.

Joining Trethewey and Norman on this year’s program are Natalie Daise and Connie May Fowler. Daise is one of the masterminds behind the Nickelodeon program Gullah Gullah Island, while Fowler’s novel, Before Women Had Wings, was adapted into an Emmy-Award winning film produced by Oprah Winfrey. Also on hand will be Sarah Gordon, one of the foremost experts on the life and work of Flannery O’Connor, and Melissa Fay Greene, winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and the Lillian Smith Award for Praying for Sheetrock and a two-time finalist for the National Book Award. Other featured authors include Allison Hedge Coke, a noted poet, memoirist and anthologist of Indigenous American and European descent; Judith Ortiz Cofer; Thulani Davis, Sharyn McCrumb; and Mab Segrest.

Also featured will be emerging writers with local roots. Several Berry alumni will participate, including Joanna Grant, Berry’s first Rhodes Scholar, and Alicia Clavell, editor of a new journal, Southern Women’s Review, inspired by her past participation in the conference. The journal made its debut in July and is available for download at It features a variety of material including poetry, fiction, non-fiction and photography. Submissions are welcome.

“As an undergraduate at Berry, I had the opportunity to work at the very first conference and have been back almost every year since,” Clavell explained. “This is my first year as a reader at the conference, and I couldn't be more excited … or nervous.”

Registration for the full conference is $175. Student and Saturday-only registration is $90. Call 706-368-6996 or e-mail for more information. Online registration and event details are available at

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