The W hosted a series of events on campus from Oct. 20-22, including a writers’ symposium, a press conference and a gala.
The Eudora Welty Writer’s Symposium began Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. in Poindexter Hall. Brad Watson, author of “Miss Jane,” was the keynote speaker. Other writers included Patricia Boyett, Randall Horton, James Kimbrell, Cole Lavalais, David Armand, Paulette Boudreaux, Dana
Chamblee Carpenter and Kendall Dunkelberg. This year’s theme was “Overcoming the Silence: To Speak Out When ‘It Warrants No Stir.’” This title was inspired by Welty’s 1966 novel, “The Demonstrators,” which dealt with racial issues and integration.
“Miss Jane,” the subject of Watson’s speech, is a novel about a young woman who suffers from an anatomical disability and learns how to live her life in spite of it. The central character, Miss Jane, was based on one of Watson’s family members.
“This was inspired by a great aunt who I didn’t know but I did see once when I was younger, and, uh, I then wrote a story about her greatest affliction,” said Watson. “Whatever her birth defect was, no one who was alive knew, and people knew not to talk about it.”
Valerie Plame, a former CIA agent and nuclear proliferation expert, was the guest speaker for the Welty Gala. Now an author herself, Plame met with students and media to answer questions regarding her position on several government issues, including her opinions on political relations with North Korea and Russia. She stressed that it is important for our government to responsibly handle its use of nuclear weapons.
At the Gala, Plame spoke about her career as a CIA agent and how she was outed by the government. Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, was chosen to investigate reports that Iraq was buying uranium from Niger to create nuclear weapons. He returned from a trip to Niger and reported that no uranium was transported to Iraq. The administration released information that contradicted Wilson’s findings. In retaliation, Wilson wrote an article and boldly stated that the government manipulated the American people to go to war against Iraq.
Less than a week later, Robert Novak, a journalist with the Washington Post, wrote an article in retaliation that led to the reveal of Plame’s secret identity.
“I knew certainly that my covert career in the CIA was over, and it began, frankly, a year’s long character assassination campaign,” said Plame. “We were called liars, traitors. I was called a glorified secretary, because, you know, I’m a girl.”
She published her memoir, “Fair Game,” in 2007.
“In regards to ‘Fair Game,’ it allowed me to use my voice for the first time,” said Plame. “There were a couple of times where I could not speak out because I was still working for the CIA, so I got to tell my story with my own words.”
Plame closed her speech by urging audience members to vote in the upcoming presidential election and to make sure their voice is heard.
Bayleigh Herron attended the event. Herron was fascinated by Plame’s story.
“I mean, really just everything that was going on was just so interesting,” said Herron. “I was just so blown away from the moment she walked up to the podium to when she stopped for questioning. It was just so amazing. I was on the edge of my seat.”
The Welty gala and writer’s symposium are held each fall at The W.