MSU employees, alums part of Jackson literary festival

Contact: Sammy McDavid

Michael Kardos (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State is being well-represented again at the annual Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson.

A nonprofit founded by reading advocates, this year’s free 9 a.m.-5 p.m. “literary lawn party” takes place Aug. 19. Invited speakers may be seen and heard in rooms of the historic downtown state capitol and nearby Galloway United Methodist Church.

Of some 60 featured authors, three are current employees of the land-grant university: associate professors Michael Kardos and Catherine Pierce, co-directors of the English department’s creative writing program, and Sid Salter, chief communications officer and Office of Public Affairs director.

Now its third consecutive year, the festival has grown from an initial attendance of 3,700 to some 6,200 in 2016. More are expected for 2017’s weekend gathering.
A broadcast crew from the Washington, D.C.-based Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network—C-SPAN—also is returning to cover portions of the event.

For convenience of participants and visiting authors, a special book-signing tent is being installed on the capitol grounds. Rounding out the day will be bookseller offerings, live music performances, tours, and children’s activities—and food trucks available nearby.

Catherine Pierce (Photo by Megan Bean)

Panel discussion times, topics and locations for the MSU trio include:

—Kardos, 2:45 p.m., “The Enduring Mystery with Otto Penzler,” Capitol Room 113. His book signing begins at 4:15 p.m.

—Pierce, 9:30 a.m., “Poetry,” Capital Room 201H. Her book signing begins at 11 a.m.

—Salter, 9:30 a.m., “Things Like the Truth,” Capitol Room 113; and 2:45 p.m., “A Year in Mississippi,” Capitol Room 201A. His signing begins at 4:15 p.m.

Kardos is author of, among others, “The Three-Day Affair,” an Esquire best-book-of-the-year selection, and a textbook, “The Art and Craft of Fiction: A Writer’s Guide.”

Pierce’s “The Tornado Is the World” and “The Girls of Peculiar” won Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters poetry prizes, while “Famous Last Words” garnered a Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. Like Kardos, she is a University of Missouri doctoral graduate.

Salter, a former MSU John C. Stennis Scholar in Political Science, is a Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame inductee also named by the Washington Post as “one of the nation’s best state political reporters.” His successful biography of the Bulldogs’ legendary broadcaster made possible an endowed communication department scholarship that additionally honors the late Jacob S. “Jack” Cristil.

Sid Salter (Submitted photo)

Others on the festival program with direct MSU connections include:

—William Dunlap, author of “Short Mean Fiction: Words and Pictures” and the MSU art department’s inaugural artist-in-residence. His festival panel is titled “Art in Mississippi” and begins at 9:30 a.m. in the Galloway Fellowship Center. His book signing begins at 11 a.m.

—Phillip D. “Phil” Hardwick, retired program coordinator for the Stennis Institute of Government and Economic Development and author of the “Mississippi Mysteries Series.” His panel will examine “A Different Angle,” beginning at 10:45 a.m. in the Galloway Foundery. No signing time for Hardwick is listed.

—Jeffrey B. Howell, an MSU master’s and doctoral graduate now teaching history at East Georgia State College. Titled “Mississippi History,” his 2:45 p.m. panel will be covered by C-SPAN in the capitol’s Old Supreme Court Room. Howell is the author of “Hazel Brannon Smith: The Female Crusading Scalawag,” and his book signing begins at 1:45 p.m.

—Michael Farris Smith, MSU communication graduate, current associate professor of English at Mississippi University for Women and author of, among others, “Desperation Road,” picked for both Amazon Best Books and Barnes & Noble Discover; and “Rivers,” a Mississippi Author Award for Fiction winner. His 1:30 p.m. panel, “Larry Brown, the South and the Modern Novel,” will be held in Capitol Room 113. His signing begins at 12:15 p.m.

—Timothy B. Smith, MSU doctoral graduate and former National Park Service ranger now teaching history at the University of Tennessee at Martin. His 10:45 a.m. panel, “The Heritage of Mississippi,” also will be covered by C-SPAN in the Old Supreme Court Room. Among his works are “Mississippi in the Civil War: The Home Front,” “Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation,” winner of both a Fletcher Pratt Award and McLemore Prize; and “Shiloh: Conquer or Perish,” honored with the Richard B. Harwell, Tennessee History Book and Douglas Southall Freeman awards. His signing begins at 9:45 a.m.

For a complete list of 2017 speakers and events, visit; presenter biographies, at

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, also available online at