Award-winning author Lee Smith, who has penned 13 novels and four collections of short stories, keynoted the Eudora Welty Foundation inaugural Bettye Jolly Lecture Series on Tuesday, March 31, in the Garden of the Eudora Welty House. Some 130 people attended the talk, followed by a book signing and reception.
Smith is the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. A collection of her essays, entitled Dimestore, will be published in 2016. Her novel The Last Girls was a New York Times bestseller as well as the winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. She is a proud daughter of the North Carolina Appalachian Hills and is a charter member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Lee Smith photo © Susan Woodley Raines
Honoring the love of reading and good writing, the series was inspired by the late Bettye Jolly of Jackson, Mississippi, a long-time docent at the Eudora Welty House and Garden. A faithful member of a book club that was initiated in a Great Topics Seminar led by Suzanne Marrs, Welty Foundation scholar-in-residence at Millsaps College, Jolly “held the group together,” says member Becky Youngblood. Susan Shands Jones credits Jolly with being a great researcher for the reading selections and keeping the group on task.
The group has been meeting monthly for almost ten years, Marrs says, and “Bettye was our organizer and kept us focused. When I told Lee about Bettye and this extraordinary group, she was delighted to come and honor Eudora and Bettye.” Marrs meets with the group and is, herself, inspired by their interest in good writing, solid research, and the rewards of reading.
Shown at a book club gathering celebrating Marrs’s book on the letters of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell, Jolly is in the top row, fourth person. Other club members pictured are, top row, Linda Lane, Martha Blount, Susan Shands Jones, and Julianne Summerford; seated, Sister Simmons, Suzanne Marrs, and Judy Parker. Not pictured are Lynn Evans and Becky Youngblood.
The author, most recently, of Guests on Earth, Smith is a New York Times best-selling author and the recipient of the North Carolina Award for Literature and a Southern Books Critics Circle Award. She is also a member of the Eudora Welty Foundation National Advisory Board. The lecture is sponsored by the Welty Foundation/Millsaps College Partnership. To make gifts to the endowment for the lecture series, send contributions to the Eudora Welty Foundation, P. 0. Box 55685 Jackson, MS 39296-5685 designating that it is for the Bettye Jolly Lecture Series.