School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

ESPN senior writer headlines inaugural Willie Morris Writer’s Series event

Posted on: March 8th, 2019 by ldrucker

A senior ESPN writer will headline an inaugural event created to honor a late Mississippi writer and University of Mississippi professor.

Wright Thompson, author of the new book The Cost of These Dreams, will host the first Willie Morris Writer’s Series event Friday, April 5 at 11 a.m. in the Overby Center Auditorium in Farley Hall on the UM campus.

“We’re so excited for our students and the campus community to have this chance to hear from Wright, who’s had such a remarkable career across all platforms—from long-form writing to documentary producing to hosting a television series,” said Cynthia Joyce, assistant professor of journalism at the UM School of Journalism and New Media. “Already he has served as an inspiration to so many who aspire to great writing and great journalism — that will certainly continue throughout this series.”

Over the past decade, Thompson has carved out a niche as one of the most successful sportswriters in America. His work includes the most-read articles in the history of ESPN Magazine, and he’s been anthologized in The Best American Sports Writing books 10 times.

His new book The Cost of These Dreams: Sports Stories and Other Serious Business by Penguin Books will be on sale April 2. It is a collection of portraits ranging from sports superstars past and present, legendary coaches, and Thompson’s own father.

“Thompson strips away the myths and fantasies around the sports icons we think we all know, rendering the hard lessons we can learn from the humans beneath the fabled façades,” Penguin Books reports. “From NBA legend Pat Riley, who goes to amazing lengths to escape a troubled past, to Tiger Woods’ complex duel between his public and private lives, to Michael Jordan’s grappling with the big 5-0, Thompson’s flawless storytelling reveals a universal truth: that the tools required to gain greatness can often prevent a person from enjoying it.”

In one of the essays, Thompson, a Mississippi native, revisits the fall of 1962 in the state – when Ole Miss was embroiled in riots over the racial integration of its campus, but simultaneously enjoyed its only perfect football season in history.

Dean Will Norton Jr., Ph.D., said Wright is one of the great writers in America today.

“Those who attend the lecture, I hope will have read some of his work,” he said. “When they listen, they will begin to understand how he has gotten so many great interviews and done so many wonderful pieces. He not only is a great writer, but he is a personality in his own right.”

Thompson, who lives in Oxford, Mississippi with his family, has tried to better understand the complexities of Mississippi through his writing, much like the man the series is named after.

The Willie Morris Writer’s Series honors Jackson native Willie Morris, an American writer many know nationwide because of the movie adaptation of his popular book My Dog Skip. Morris’ family later moved to Yazoo City, which he immortalized in his writing.

Morris was known for his lyrical prose style and reflections about the American South and the Mississippi Delta. He attended the University of Texas in Austin and later became a Rhodes Scholar, studying at Oxford University. In 1967, he became the youngest editor of Harper’s Magazine, according to the Mississippi Writer’s Page.

In 1980, he returned to Mississippi as a writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi, where he encouraged writers Donna Tartt and John Grisham.

He also wrote The Ghost of Medgar Evers: A Tale of Race, Murder, Mississippi, and Hollywood published in 1998. His writing and fascination with the Evers case helped him convince a longtime friend and movie producer to make the film “Ghosts of Mississippi,” the Mississippi Writer’s Page reports.

Like Morris, Norton said Wright is a great oral storyteller.

“You can be around him for hours and not realize how much time has passed,” he said. “He knows so much.  He has read so much, and he brings an uncommon perspective to almost every topic. I think he and Willie could have been twin brothers. They would not be identical, but they truly would be unusually similar.”

For more information about the event, contact Cynthia Joyce, associate professor of journalism, at cjoyce@olemiss.edu or 662-915-8787.

This article was written by LaReeca Rucker. For more information about the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.

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