Literary, Cinema Celebration covers new ground

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 19, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; From appearances by actor, screenwriter, producer and director Billy Bob Thornton to the premiere of a film on blues great B.B. King, Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration is covering new ground this year.

Thornton will be in Natchez Saturday to accept the Horton Foote Award for Outstanding Screenplay Writing for, among other films, the Academy Award-winning &uot;Sling Blade.&uot;

The 6 p.m. awards ceremony will be held at the Natchez Convention Center. A showing of &uot;Sling Blade&uot; &045; and a panel discussion, to be led by Thornton, following the film &045; will then be held at the Natchez Community Center.

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Both events are free and open to the public.

Others to be honored at the ceremony will include authors T.R. Hummer of Athens, Ga., and Clifton Taulbert of Tulsa, Okla., this year’s recipients of the Richard Wright Literary Awards.

Hummer is the author of &uot;Useless Virtues,&uot; &uot;Walt Whitman in Hell,&uot; &uot;the 18,000-Ton Olympic Dream,&uot; &uot;Lower-Class Heresy&uot; and other books of poetry and serves as editor of the Georgia Review.

Tolbert is the author of &uot;Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored,&uot; &uot;The Last Train North,&uot; &uot;The Journey Home,&uot; &uot;Eight Habits of the Heart&uot; and &uot;Separate but Equal,&uot; among other books.

Hundreds are expected to attend the 14th annual celebration, &uot;and they’ll see a lot that’s new this year,&uot; said Carolyn Vance Smith, one of the event’s co-organizers. &uot;Every year, we make it as fresh as we can.&uot;

Perhaps that’s appropriate, given the event’s theme &045; &uot;Exploration and Discovery Then and Now: Saluting the Bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase.&uot;

New highlights include the location, the Natchez Convention Center, &uot;a beautiful location, and state-of-the-art,&uot; Smith said.

Also this year, the celebration will name its writing workshop in honor of Ellen Douglas &045; actually the pen name of author Josephine Haxton of Natchez and Jackson.

A naming ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, which has been proclaimed Ellen Douglas Day in Natchez. That will be followed by a presentation and book signing by Douglas herself.

The workshops themselves will be held Sunday.

For only the second time in the event’s history &045; the first being Natchez native and author Richard Wright &045; historic markers will be unveiled in honor of two important figures in Natchez history.

Those to be honored include writer and women’s rights organizer Judith Sargent Murray and Roane Fleming Byrnes, who spearheaded efforts to create the Natchez Trace Parkway.

On Friday &045; William Winter Day in Natchez &045; the former governor and NLCC supporter will be honored with an 80th birthday party at 9 p.m. at the convention center.

That will follow the 8 p.m. premiere of the documentary &uot;B.B. King Homecoming,&uot; also at the convention center.

Other highlights will include:

4A pre-conference seminar on Southern authors starting at 8:15 a.m. today at Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Natchez campus. The cost is $15.

4A sneak preview of the film &uot;Louisiana Š A History,&uot; at 8 p.m today.

4A reception honoring NLCC speakers from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Natchez Museum of Afro-American History and Culture. The cost is $10.

4 &uot;Music at the Time of the Louisiana Purchase,&uot; a concert by the St. Joseph Orchestra Ensemble, at 8 p.m. Thursday.

4Special panel discussions at Natchez High School and, for the first time, at Co-Lin, for students only.

All events are free and are being held at the convention center, unless otherwise stated.