Miss. natives honored

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

NATCHEZ — On Saturday evening the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration honored two Mississippi natives with the Richard Wright Excellence Award.

Authors Carolyn Haines and Natasha Trethewey were recognized for their excellence in writing.

Haines, a novelist, and Trethewey, a poet, were both at the event to accept their awards.

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While the authors credited Wright and Eudora Welty, the celebration’s honoree, as the initial inspirations for their works, both gave thanks to their fellow Mississippians for their ongoing inspiration.

“Mississippi has grown some of the finest writers,” Haines said.

Haines reflected on her childhood English class where she would hide novels behind her textbook to pass the time.

When she was discovered by her teacher, she wasn’t scolded.

She was given Welty’s, “The Wide Net.”

That changed everything, Haines said.

“I knew this is what I wanted to write,” she said of Welty’s book.

Trethewey told the audience of a similar experiencing when she first read Wright’s work.

“It showed me I wanted to be a writer,” she said.

Trethewey then treated the audience to one of her yet to be published poems.

Conference founder Carolyn Vance Smith said it was a wondrous coincidence that both of this year’s award winners were women and that this years celebration was meant to showcase the South’s female writers.

“It was a decision the committee agonized over,” she said. “There were so many nominations, but (Haines and Trethewey) are so deserving.”