Authors to receive NLCC awards

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 7, 2010

NATCHEZ — Three nationally known authors with Southern roots will win writing awards at the 21st annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration in Natchez.

The conference takes place Feb. 25-28, using the theme, “Humor in the Deep South.” Headquarters will be the Natchez Convention Center in downtown Natchez.

Authors winning the Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award are:

4The best-selling historian Robert S. McElvaine, professor at Millsaps College in Jackson

4The award-winning novelist Steve Yarbrough, a graduate of the University of Mississippi and now a professor at Emerson College in Boston

Winning the Horton Foote Award for Special Achievement in Screenwriting is Robert Harling of Natchitoches, La., and New York City.

All three will be present to receive the awards and make remarks at a free public ceremony at 4:30 p.m., Feb. 27.

“We are delighted to have these outstanding contemporary writers coming to Natchez,” said Carolyn Vance Smith of Copiah-Lincoln Community College, founder and co-chairman of the NLCC.

“The conference is indebted to the hard-working awards committees.”

McElvaine is author of “Grand Theft, Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America,” “Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” “Eve’s Seed: Biology,the Sexes and the Course of History,” “The Depression and New Deal: A History in Documents,” “What’s Left? — A New Democratic Vision for America,” “Mario Cuomo: A Biography,” “The End of the Conservative Era: Liberalism After Reagan,” “The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941” and “Down and Out in the Great Depression: Letters from the ‘Forgotten Man.’”

McElvaine’s books regularly appear on the New York Times best seller lists and on Notable Books of the Year lists. “Eve’s Seed” was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Yarbrough’s major works include the novels “Safe from the Neighbors,” published by Knopf in January 2010, “The End of California,” “Prisoners of War,” “Visible Spirits” and “The Oxygen Man.” He is also author of the short story collections, “Family Men,” “Mississippi History” and “Veneer.”

Harling, winner of the Horton Foote Award for Special Achievement in Screenwriting, is an American writer who often bases his plays and screenplays on his past personal experiences.

He lived afterwards in New York, acting and working as a voiceover artist before penning the script for “Steel Magnolias.”

He is best known for this play and film, which were inspired by his sister’s death from kidney failure in 1985. The story deals with a young woman stricken with an illness who is determined to live life to the fullest.

Harling, who wrote the play in 10 days, had never before written for publication.

In 1989 he adapted the play into a popular film starring Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah and Sally Field. Harling played a small role in the film as a minister.

A festive reception and dinner honoring the award winners will follow the awards ceremony at historic Stanton Hall. The entire menu is based on foods served in Harling’s Steel Magnolias, including a groom’s cake in the shape of an armadillo.

Tickets for the benefit event are limited. They are available at $135 each, with $100 tax-deductible, by calling 866-296-6522; going online to www.colin.edu/nlcc and clicking on tickets; by e-mailing NLCC@colin.edu; or by sending a check to NLCC, PO Box 1307, Natchez, MS 39121.