This year’s literary celebration was a success

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wonderful, generous compliments continue to pour in for the 21st annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration on Feb. 25-28.

Perhaps the most outstanding praise has just arrived. It came from the official evaluator of the conference, Dr. Cynthia Scurria, chairman of the English Department at Alcorn State University.

Dr. Scurria was invited to attend and write an official NLCC evaluation for the Mississippi Humanities Council, which annually helps fund the conference. This year’s MHC grant totaled $5,000.

Dr. Scurria’s evaluation states, “A major strength of the program is its broad appeal. The project attracts a wide spectrum of people and provides a welcoming and comfortable venue for sharing and discussing the humanities.

“Its appeal is due in part to the well-struck balance between what one might consider academic and more general-interest topics,” she wrote. “I overheard many favorable remarks (from) a group of out-of-town attendees discussing how much they had enjoyed the entire event.”

Dr. Scurria attended the conference for one day, Saturday, Feb. 27. She wrote, “The day’s program — including an actress, an actor, an author and a professor from University of Southern Mississippi — provided a nice balance of personal narrative and scholarly information.

“The program was well designed. Gerald McRaney talked about his relationship with Horton Foote, which was fitting as Saturday had been designated Horton Foote Day. This is but one example of the good organization and coordination that were evident throughout the day.

“The program was also well attended; audience members asked questions and participated in the discussion.

“Jane Feltus Welch seemed to be a particular favorite; she was well spoken, funny and charismatic, and she gave a vivid portrayal of her life as an actress, especially in talking about casting calls. Not only was her own life story interesting, but she also successfully used her experience to make broader points about acting as a career.

“My favorite presentation was Professor (Scott Dixon) McDowell’s speech and documentary. He is very knowledgeable about Horton Foote. I found the documentary to be fascinating, and I learned a great deal about Foote’s realistic/naturalistic style of filmmaking. (Afterward, I even called my son, who is completing his MFA in theater, to talk to him about Foote.)”

Dr. Scurria continued, “I did not note any weaknesses in the project. My impression is that the project is well-conceived and well-executed; after 21 years, it is thoroughly woven into the fabric of Natchez’s cultural life.”

Perhaps the highest compliment Dr. Skaggs paid the NLCC was her final statement.

“If other Mississippi communities are interested in hosting an annual arts festival the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration could serve as a model,” she said.

All these compliments to the NLCC would not be possible without the loyal support of the entire Natchez community.

This year’s theme, “Humor in the Deep South,” was one of the most popular ever, attracting hundreds of people each day. They attended more than three dozen programs, films, a play, writing workshops, a bookshop, exhibits, book signings and social events.

The mostly free NLCC is sponsored by Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Natchez National Historical Park, Mississippi Department of Archives and History and Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Additional support comes from the City of Natchez, the Adams County Board of Supervisors, the Natchez-Adams Public School System, Mississippi Film Office, foundations, banks, businesses, corporations, individuals and ticket sales.

My co-chairmen, Jim Barnett of MDAH, Kathleen Jenkins of NNHP and Sherry Johnson of MPB, join me in giving thanks to the community for helping the NLCC to be such a success. Donations of money, time, goods, advice and expertise, housing and other assistance make the conference a world-class event.

We enjoy our work on the NLCC, but it is made more enjoyable by having steadfast friends who help us.

We look forward to the 22nd annual conference, which will use the theme, “Fields of Dreams: Sports in the South.” Save the dates: Feb. 24-27, 2011. In September, the full conference agenda will be posted on the Website, Plan now to attend.

As always, we need your help. Just call us at 601-446-1208 or e-mail We want wonderful compliments to continue next year, but they can’t happen without you.

We look forward to working on one more project that all of Natchez can be proud of.

Carolyn Vance Smith is the co-chairman of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.