Bigger-than-life plans set for literary conference

Published 12:01 am Monday, November 10, 2014

NATCHEZ — The 26th annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration will recognize and honor a list of bigger-than-life Mississippians.

The theme of the NLCC, which will be hosted in Natchez Feb. 26-28 at the Natchez Convention Center, is “Bigger Than Life: Extraordinary Mississippians.”

“Since the state of Mississippi will celebrate its 200th birthday in 2017, the steering committee thought it was time to explore some of the famous people our state has produced,” said Carolyn Vance Smith of Co-Lin, founder and co-chairman of the NLCC. “Our problem was that there are so many extraordinary Mississippians.

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“We wound up choosing those who have new books written about them.”

Programs will include discussion regarding a variety of famed Mississippians, including literary figures William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Richard Wright, Willie Morris and Margaret Walker.

On Feb. 27, Walker will be honored with “Margaret Walker Day” that will include the premier of a musical during the conference based on Walker’s poetry written by pianist Randy Klein of New York and will be performed by Randy and Aurelia Williams of New York, with help from the Jackson State University Chorale.

Historical and political figures on the agenda are John Roy Lynch and L.Q.C. Lamar of the 19th century and Charles Evers and others of the 20th century.

Musical icons to be discussed are blues giants Robert Johnson and B. B. King, rock ‘N’ roll king Elvis Presley and country music star Jimmie Rodgers.

Entertainment, food and sports in Mississippi will be represented by programs about Muppets creator Jim Henson, culinary guru Craig Claiborne and football legend Archie Manning, among others.

“We’re doing something a little different in 2015,” Smith said. “Since Feb. 28 has free programs that appeal to all ages, focusing on food, sports, film and music, we’re calling that day family day at the NLCC. We invite entire families to spend the day at the conference.”

Speakers include Malcolm White, Mississippi Director of Tourism; David G. Sansing, historian of the University of Mississippi; Ted Atkinson, literature professor of Mississippi State University; Carolyn J. Brown, biographer of Jackson; Robert Bray, the Tennessee Williams scholar of East Tennessee State University; Maryemma Graham, the Margaret Walker biographer of University of Kansas; Regina Charboneau, author/chef of Natchez; Rick Cleveland, Executive Director of Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame; and Ted Gioia, music historian of Dallas.

Following Gioia’s remarks the evening of Feb. 28 about how Mississippi changed the music world, a concert based on this music will be presented by Vasti Jackson of Hattiesburg. Jackson is cultural ambassador of Mississippi and a member of the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame.

Richard Wright Literary Excellence writing awards will go to Natchez native Glen Ballard, whose lyrics have won six Grammy Awards, and Robert V. Haynes, Western Kentucky University, author of award-winning books about early Mississippi history.

The Horton Foote Award for Screenwring will go to Jeff Nichols, screenplay writer of Austin, Texas. Nichols’ award-winning “Mud” will be screened Feb. 26

Winning the Thad Cochran Humanities Achievement Award will be James F. Barnett Jr., of Natchez, retired division director of Mississippi Department of Mississippi Department of Archives and History, retired co-chairman of the NLCC and author of two books about Indians in Mississippi. Sen. Cochran will present the award.

Up to two continuing education units are available for teachers, Smith said.

To register for those units, email

The conference is free except for three tickets, which must be purchased in advance, including: the Margaret Walker concert ($10), a luncheon based on Craig Claiborne’s favorite foods ($25) and the NLCC’s only fundraiser, a reception and dinner at King’s Tavern ($145, with $100 tax-deductible). A reception at the Natchez Association For The Preservation Of Afro American Culture Museum is $10 at the door.

Tickets, the agenda and other information are available at by email at or by calling 866-296-NLCC.