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High profile historian-turned-writer makes Columbus visit Thursday

 

The Columbus Arts Council's Mississippi Writers' Series presents author Katy Simpson Smith at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Rosenzweig Arts Center. Historian and writer Joseph J. Ellis has called Smith

The Columbus Arts Council's Mississippi Writers' Series presents author Katy Simpson Smith at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Rosenzweig Arts Center. Historian and writer Joseph J. Ellis has called Smith "the most sophisticated historical novelist of her generation." Photo by: Courtesy photo

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

Before long, Katy Simpson Smith will travel to Rome, a land of ancient cultures, divine art and inspiration. But first, the New Orleanian and Jackson native a Vogue magazine article dubbed that year's "most buzzed-about debut author" makes a stop in Columbus Thursday to share insights into her craft. 

 

Smith is the latest guest of the Columbus Arts Council's Mississippi Writers' Series, an official Mississippi Bicentennial project presented with grant partners Mississippi University for Women's Department of Languages, Literature and Philosophy, and Main Street Columbus. Smith speaks at 7 p.m. at the arts council's Rosenzweig Arts Center at 501 Main St. Her talk is free and open to the public. 

 

"I'm really looking forward to my visit to Columbus," Smith said Wednesday. "I was last there in 2014 for the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium organized by MUW and had a delightful time. It's such a lovely, welcoming town." 

 

The author's upcoming sojourn in Italy is for research for her third novel, set in the Mediterranean country's capital city. Her first two novels, "The Story of Land and Sea" (2014) and "Free Men" (2016), both published by HarperCollins, have garnered wide praise. "The Story of Land and Sea" reportedly triggered a bidding war among 10 publishing houses. Of "Free Men," Ron Charles of the Washington Post wrote, "With this collage of experiences twisted together and soaked in blood, Smith cuts to the bone of our national character." Prize-winning author Hannah Pittard said, "'Free Men' will have you gasping for breath."  

 

Smith will read from her work Thursday. "And I'll answer any and all questions from the audience," she said. She'll also talk briefly about a project she organized this past spring called Write for Mississippi. It put local writers into high school classrooms around the state to lead creative writing workshops. "We have a book of student writing that emerged from those workshops, and it's being published this month. I can't wait to share their perspectives," she said. 

 

Smith's first career path was as a historian. After enrolling in a master's program in fiction, she used that historical knowledge to tell imaginary stories.  

 

Arts Council Program Manager Beverly Norris remarked, "Katy writes beautiful, lush historical stories and creates fascinating characters with incredibly rich detail and emotions. ... Their stories are totally captivating." 

 

Following her Columbus visit, Smith will be in Jackson Saturday as a featured panelist at the Mississippi Book Festival. 

 

Author Deborah Johnson of Columbus has helped facilitate the Writers' Series which is made possible by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council, through support from the Mississippi Development Authority. Support also comes from the Mississippi Arts Commission, Visit Columbus, The Dispatch and an anonymous sponsor in memory of Lilla Pratt Rosamond and John Brown.  

 

For more information, contact the CAC, 662-328-2787.

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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