Ava Leavell Haymon

St. Francisville, with a population of 1,765 give or take a few, has become a mecca for artists, musicians, designers, authors relishing its peaceful atmosphere.

February is enlivened by a well-established gathering that draws interested readers and writers from a wide area, said author and St. Francisville native Anne Butler.

Bulter said St. Francisville’s Writers and Readers Symposium: A Celebration of Literature and Art reflects a new diversity in the community.

The day-long symposium has given writers a chance to speak about their creative processes and mingle with enthusiastic fans, Butler said.

Added features include writing workshops for students and professionals, a juried exhibit of literature-related photography, monthly readings and other activities leading up to the main event Feb. 21.

Featured writers presenting at this year’s Symposium are Moira Crone, a New Orleans novelist and short story writer; Louisiana’s Poet Laureate Ava Leavell Haymon; mystery writer Abigail Padgett, whose latest book is set in St. Francisville; and writer-photographer Richard Sexton, whose most recent book explores and illustrates with images the Creole connections between New Orleans and the Latin Caribbean.

Louisiana State University Press has published four collections of poetry by Haymon, who is editor of the Press’ Barataria Poetry Series.

A Mississippi native, Haymon grew up in Kansas City with a Baptist preacher father who made her memorize ten verses of scripture each week and recite them perfectly before the television set could be turned on, Butler said.

Haymon attended Baylor University but moved to Baton Rouge so her husband could attend LSU Law School and she could obtain her master’s degree in English.

Haymon said she found Louisiana a “poet’s dream, a wonderful place to write poetry about. It has exotic weather, all sorts of ethnic groups and fabulous music. It’s sensory.”

Editing studies of the Louisiana coast for a scientific consulting firm, Haymon’s first in-state job showed her “what a really exotic place Louisiana is. It was my first time to have an attachment to the physical place.”

Haymon’s most recent book is “Eldest Daughter.”

Haymon’s other poetry collections include: “Why the House is Made of Gingerbread,” “Kitchen Heat,” which illustrates the “charm and bite of domestic life,” and “The Strict Economy of Fire,” along with five chapbooks.

Haymon has received the Louisiana Literature Prize for poetry, the L.E. Phillabaum Poetry Award, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Poetry, and has been featured in a number of publications.

At home in Louisiana, Haymon teaches poetry during the school year, and during most summers, leads retreats and workshops at her home in the mountains of New Mexico.

Haymon joins the three other authors from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 21 at Hemingbough Convention Center in St. Francisville as they share their creative processes individually and in moderated panel discussions with audience participation encouraged.

Butler says Hemingbough provides an intimate setting allowing avid readers and prospective writers the chance to interact with the authors who will have new books to discuss, sell and autograph.

The award-winning authors have been chosen to represent various genres: fiction, non-fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry.

Haymon, a committed poetry educator, will also teach a poetry workshop for Bains Elementary School students on Feb. 20.

In addition, Haymon will join Padgett, who has taught creative writing at Harvard and other colleges, in presenting a writers’ workshop for aspiring and professional authors at Butler Greenwood Plantation from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 28. The workshop includes lunch and refreshments. Tickets are $125 for this event, and a maximum of 20 people can participate.

Other programs leading up to the Symposium are planned as well.

Tickets for the Writers and Readers Symposium include parking, individual author presentations as well as moderated panel discussions, book signings, refreshments, lunch and a dessert reception with the authors.

If purchased by Jan. 31, tickets are $40. In February, tickets are $50, and $60 at the door. To purchase online, visit www.brownpapertickets.com. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute members can purchase tickets through LSU at www.outreach.lsu.edu/olli. Seating is limited.

To volunteer or for information, email Olivia Pass at oliviapass@bellsouth.net.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council and administered by the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge.

Funding also has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency.