Southern Literary Festival Celebrates 85 Years

Held in Oxford for first time in a decade, event coincides with Oxford Conference for the Book

OXFORD, Miss. – For the first time since 2014, the University of Mississippi will host the Southern Literary Festival April 4-6. The event, which is celebrating its 85th anniversary, annually brings some 150 Southern writers together for community building, workshops and networking.

"At the heart of what we do with the fest is we celebrate young talent – young creative writers who are perhaps emerging or who have just won a contest for their writing," said Beth Spencer, SLF board president and an Ole Miss English professor. "We hold an annual competition where the winners come and read their work at the festival, which could be poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction or one-act plays."

The festival coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Oxford Conference for the Book, which runs April 3-5.

"This is just a wonderful homecoming for Southern writers and students of Southern literature," Spencer said. "I don't want to brag, but we have a great lineup.

"We think that the experience for students to come to Oxford in the spring is unparalleled – there are 40-plus authors and speakers in the OCB alone, plus those that we're bringing to the festival for breakout sessions."

Acclaimed author Andre Dubus III will give a keynote speech for both events at 3 p.m. April 5 in the Gertrude C. Ford Ole Miss Student Union. Dubus is the author of nine books, three of which are New York Times bestsellers: "House of Sand and Fog," "The Garden of Last Days" and "Townie."

Dubus has been a finalist for the National Book Award and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, The National Magazine Award for Fiction, two Pushcart Prizes and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature.


Andre Dubus III

During the festival, University Libraries will host an archive exhibit, "Celebrating 85 Years of the Southern Literary Festival." Housed on the second floor of the J.D. Williams Library, the exhibit will feature photography, programs and other materials from SLF events over the decades.

Other highlights on the agenda include an open mic event featuring Derrick Harriell, poet and outgoing African American studies director, and a panel highlighting Master of Fine Arts programs and "establishing a community beyond the undergraduate experience," Spencer said.

"I'm excited that this festival has withstood the test of time for 85 years, and we're glad to offer opportunities for our undergraduate creative writers to hear from our best local writers to improve their craft," said Angela Green, event organizer and core lecturer in the UM Department of Writing and Rhetoric.

"We're lucky that we live in a place that is chock full of writers."

Most festival events will be held at or near the Oxford-University Depot. For more information and a full agenda, visit the SLF website.


Erin Garrett



March 28, 2024