Ann Abadie will be the first to correct anyone who misidentifies the 1996 Oxford Conference for the Book as the Conference of the Book.

Although a small preposition, the word makes all the difference.

Abadie, associate director for the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and one of the spearheaders of the fourth annual conference, stresses that the conference is not of the book, but rather for the book. “It’s just in favor of the book and to promote the book,” she said.

Sponsored by the Ole Miss Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the Oxford Conference for the Book, April 12-14, will welcome book lovers from across the nation to discuss issues that affect the book through lectures, panel discussions and readings. Hot topics for this year’s conference include the fate of the book, the history of the book in the South, and if and what students read.

Richard Howorth, a founder and organizer of the conference, said the event aims to take discussions of publishing and writing out of the offices of writers and agents and put them into the public. “I think what happens in the publicity world is fascinating and pertinent to academic study,” he said.

The owner of Oxford’s famous Square Books, Howorth attends several book trade shows and conventions which he said sparked the idea for the conference. “The foremost idea behind the whole conference is to focus on the life and importance of the book,” Howorth said.

And what better place to hold the conference than in the university community of Oxford which is home to such noted writers as John Grisham, Larry Brown, Barry Hannah and William Faulkner.

Since its beginning in 1993 the conference averages about 300 full-conference registrants and even more have been on hand for special events. In 1994 John Grisham and Stephen King packed the 900-seat Fulton Chapel as did Pat Conroy who spoke last year.

Although this year’s conference does not have what Abadie calls a “stampede writer” it does welcome a number of noted literary and journalistic figures.

“From top to bottom the participation in the conference is really interesting and diverse,” Howorth said.

Among this year’s noted participants who will read and speak about their books are John Berendt, journalist and author of the two-year bestseller “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”; Edwidge Danticat, a 1995 nominee for the 1995 National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award for her story collection “Krik? Krak!”; Reginald Gibbons, poet and editor of the literary magazine, TriQuarterly; and Bailey White, author of bestsellers, “Mama Makes Up her Mind” and “Sleeping at the Starlite Motel.”

Another highlight of the conference will be a discussion on literacy led by former Mississippi governor William Winter. Also in recognition of April as the first National Poetry Month, there will be several sessions on poetry.

The conference will get under way Friday with two writing workshops directed by Ole Miss writer-in-residence Barry Hannah, author of “Geronimo Rex” and “Bats Out of Hell.” The workshops will be open to all conferees at no additional costs and with no preregistration requirements.

Beginning at 9 a.m. in the Student Union ballroom, the first workshop, “How to Submit Manuscripts and Work with an Editor” will be conducted by Gibbons and Cynthia Shearer, author of the recently published non-fiction novel, “The Wonder Book of the Air.” Following at 10:30 a.m. Berendt and Padgett Powell, author of the novels, “Edisto” and “Edisto Revisited” will lead the workshop, “From Author to Reader.”

For children’s sake

In conjunction with the conference the Oxford Junior Auxiliary and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture will sponsor the 1996 Young Authors Fair on April 11.

The fair will give nearly 500 children the opportunity to hear how writers create stories and to show off their own books. Begun by the Junior Auxiliary in the late 80s to encourage reading and creative thinking, the Young Authors Fair is in its third year with the Oxford conference.

Nationally known children’s authors Stella Pevsner and Sharon Creech will speak to students as a highlight of the fair. Pevsner, a Chicago author and playwright, will speak to fifth-grade students at Oxford Elementary and Lafayette Elementary about her career as well as critique books created by the students. Creech, the winner of the 1995 prestigious Newbery Medal, will visit with students later that day at a public reception in downtown Oxford.

Pevsner and Creech both will lead discussions in the Conference for the Book. Pevsner will speak on “Books for Young Readers” on April 13 and Creech will give a lecture titled “Fishing in the Air: A Writer’s Journeys.”

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