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History of SWWC

The Southern Women Writers Conference began in 1994 under the co-directorship of Drs. Dean Cantrell and Emily Wright, with Katherine Powell serving as assistant director. Beginning in 1996, Emily Wright and Katherine Powell co-directed the conference, with Dr. Jim Watkins serving as assistant director in 2000. Along the way, many others have assisted the conference directors, including members of the Berry College secretarial staff (most notably Alisa Ray and Susan Burr), members of the college faculty, and a cadre of volunteer student workers. The conference would not have lasted beyond its first year were it not for the resourcefulness, enthusiasm, and tireless efforts of Emily Wright and Katherine Powell, to whom the current co-directors, Christina Bucher and Jim Watkins, express their appreciation.

2009 Conference 

2007 Conference: English Department faculty members Dr. Christina Bucher and Dr. Sandra Meek co-directed the 2007 conference, whose theme was “Homecomings.”  The highlight of the conference for many was the lecture by Maya Angelou at the Forum in Downtown Rome, which capped off a community read of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, sponsored by the One Book, Many Voices organization.  Three of the plenary speakers, Kaye Gibbons, Lorraine Lopez, and Brenda Marie Osbey, lived up to the conference theme by making return appearances after having read at earlier SWWCs.  The other featured speakers were Barbara C. Ewell, Vertamae Grosvenor, Minrose Gwin, Jill McCorkle, Harryette Mullen, and Minnie Bruce Pratt.  Spoken word artist Minton Sparks gave a memorable performance to close out the conference.  A generous donation in memory of poet and educator Evelyn Hoge Pendley helped to make the conference possible. 

2005 Conference: English department faculty, Dr. Ellen Johnson and Dr. Lara Whelan, took the helm of the 2005 conference and orchestrated a successful event with the theme “Southern Women Writers and the World.”  The slate of plenary speakers included Christina McElroy Ansa, Carmen Deedy, Trudier Harris, Sandra Meek, Elaine Neil Orr, Ann Savoy, Elizabeth Spencer, Sidney Wade, and Patricia Yaeger. Artist Susan Cofer displayed her mixed-media work and gave a gallery talk at the Rome Area Council for Arts Gallery in downtown Rome; Ann Savoy and her band, the Magnolia Sisters, provided musical entertainment as did an array of performers at the conference’s closing Women’s International Music Festival headlined by Texas-based singer-songwriter Patricia Vonne.  Approximately 80 scholars and creative writers presented their work at the conference’s breakout sessions.

2003 Conference: With the theme, “Self Locations/Dislocations,” the conference featured Dorothy Allison, Marilou Awiakta, Kelly Cherry, Rosemary Daniell, Frances Smith Foster, Faye Gibbons, Lorraine Lopez, Tayari Jones, Jan McDaniel, Karen McElmurray, Sandra Meek, Carlyle Poteat, Janisse Ray, Melanie Sumner, Helen Taylor, Natasha Tretheway, and C.D. Wright. Singer-songwriter Marshall Chapman also performed.
Highlights and Photos of 2003 SWWC
Student Workers Prepare for 2003 Conference  

2000 Conference: In 2000, we featured a diverse array of novelists, poets, songwriters, and scholars, including Matraca Berg, Marshall Chapman, Lorraine Johnson-Coleman, Nikki Giovanni, Susan Ketchin, George Ella Lyon, Brenda Marie Osbey, Carolyn Perry, Peggy Prenshaw, Lee Smith, June Spence, and Mary Louise Weaks. In addition to these featured speakers, over eighty scholars from around the country presented papers and participated in discussions about southern women's writing.
Highlights and Photos of 2000 SWWC 

1998 Conference: This colloquium attracted fourteeen of the best-known, most respected writers and scholars in modern Southern women's literature to the Berry College campus: Judith Ortiz Cofer, Evelyn Coleman, Janice Daugharty, Thadious Davis, Ellen Douglas, Sally Fitzgerald, Anne George, Mary Hood, Virginia Lanier, Lucinda MacKethan, Dannye Romine Powell, Dori Sanders, and Bettie Mixon Sellers.

1996 Conference: Featured writers Pearl Cleage, Janice Daugharty, Carmen Deedy, Sally Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Kaye Gibbons, Mary Hood, Anne Goodwyn Jones, Rosemary M. Magee, Susie Mee, Melanie Sumner, and Ellen Bryant Voigt. These remarkably talented women intrigued conference attendees with lively readings from their works and thought-provoking lectures and panel discussions.

1994 Inaugural Conference: Participant writers were Pam Durban, Sally Fitzgerald, Melissa Fay Greene, Mary Hood, Rosemary Magee, Susie Mee, Dori Sanders, and Bailey White.

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