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Hawthornden Foundation Provides Support for OCB

In honor of its upcoming 30th year, the Oxford Conference for the Book has received a surprise gift from Hawthornden Foundation.

Jimmy Thomas, director of the conference, which is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, welcomed the news.

“We are both thrilled and incredibly grateful for this generous support of $35,000,” Thomas said. “We are committed good stewards of these funds and to use them in ways that lift up readers and writers in north Mississippi.

“We thank Hawthornden Foundation so much for this opportunity to imagine new and exciting ways of bringing the written word to the Oxford and University of Mississippi communities.”

Hawthornden Foundation is a private charitable organization supporting contemporary writers and the literary arts. Established by Drue Heinz, a noted philanthropist and patron of the arts, the foundation is named after Hawthornden Castle in Midlothian, Scotland. There, an international residential fellowship program provides monthlong retreats for creative writers from all disciplines to work in peaceful surroundings, according to its website.

Ellyn Toscano
Ellyn Toscano

“Hawthornden Foundation has begun to support organizations in the literary arts, including literary presses and journals, book festivals, literary centers, literary presenters, literary service organizations, public libraries and organizations that support the development of youth as readers and writers,” said Ellyn Toscano, the foundation’s executive director.

“Through our research and discussions with other leaders in the field of literary arts, the Oxford Conference for the Book came to our attention because of its thoughtful literary lineup and exemplary productions.”

The 30th Conference for the Book is set for April 3-5, 2024, with three days of panels, lectures, a Noir at the Bar event, National Book Foundation award finalists and long-listers, the Willie Morris Awards and a joint keynote with the Southern Literary Festival. Events are slated for downtown Oxford and on the Ole Miss campus.

Highlighting the achievements of both seasoned and emerging Southern writers, the conference has paid tribute to a number of authors over the years, including Willie Morris, Richard Wright, Tennessee Williams, Stark Young, Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Shelby Foote, Larry Brown, Zora Neale Hurston, Walter Anderson, Barry Hannah and Margaret Walker Alexander.

“The conference was chosen because it is aligned with the values and interests of Hawthornden Foundation, as it curates the annual literary gathering bringing together teachers, publishers, booksellers, writers, scholars, agents, editors and book lovers all with the goal of uplifting the literary arts,” Toscano said. “Our hope is that funds will be used generally to support the 2024 Oxford Conference for the Book and its related activities.”

Hawthornden also supports a second historic property, Casa Ecco, on Lake Como in Italy, the site of years of “Conversazioni” among writers. It is developing a third location, a nonresidential writers’ retreat in Ditmas Park in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

Katie McKee, director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, also expressed gratitude for the foundation’s gift.

“It is a tribute to years of successful programming and an invitation to imagine new ways of engaging readers, writers and bookmakers,” McKee said. “Thank you to Hawthornden for supporting the humanities.”

To learn about supporting Oxford Conference for the Book, contact Claire Moss, associate director of development, at or 901-409-5991.