News

  • Montgomery, AL -- The life and writing of Mobile-native, writer, music critic, and inaugural Alabama Writers Hall of Fame Inductee (2015) Albert Murray will be celebrated Thursday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m. in Bernheim Hall at the Ben May Main Library, 701 Government Street, Mobile.

    An outreach program of the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame, with funding from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state agency of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the program is free and open to the public. The program is also a featured stop on the Southern Literary Trail’s “Trailfest!”

    Featured speaker will be Murray scholar and long-time friend of the writer Paul Devlin of New York, NY. Devlin has written about Murray and recently edited two collections of his works.  Devlin accepted the Alabama Writers’ Hall of Fame medal for Murray, who died in 2013.

    Devlin is co-editor (with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) of the Library of America's definitive edition of Albert Murray's work. Volume one, non-fiction and memoirs, was published in October 2016. Volume two, fiction and poetry, will be published in 2018.

    Devlin also recently edited a collection of Murray's previously uncollected and unpublished interviews and music writings, Murray Talks Music: Albert Murray on Blues and Jazz (University of Minnesota Press, 2016).

    “Alabamians often don’t know about Albert Murray, one of Alabama’s most innovative and energetic writers, because he lived his adult life far from his home state,” Jeanie Thompson, Executive Director of the Alabama Writers’ Forum, said.  “His books have impacted sociology, fiction, and musical biography in profound ways. His musical, artistic, and literary friendships are legendary. Paul Devlin will be able to paint the picture for us of the Murray apartment in Harlem that was a meeting place for writers, scholars, and musicians for decades.”

    Thompson will moderate a public discussion following Devlin’s presentation. In 1997 Murray received the inaugural Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville.

    Murray Talks Music brings together many of Albert Murray’s finest interviews and essays on music—most never before published—as well as rare liner notes and prefaces. A celebrated educator and raconteur, and co-founder of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Murray engages with a variety of scholars and journalists while making insightful connections among music, literature, and other art forms—all with ample humor and from unforeseen angles.

    Devlin also edited Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones as told to Albert Murray (Minnesota, 2011), a finalist for the Jazz Journalists Association's book award. Devlin’s writing has appeared in many publications, including newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals. He teaches at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York.

    The program is a collaboration among the Mobile Public Library, the Alabama Writers’ Hall of Fame, and the Southern Literary Trail, and is funded by Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mobile Public Library, and the Alabama Writers’ Forum.

    Following the program, people are invited to gather in the Armbrecht/Biskman Meeting Room for cake and punch in celebration of Mr. Murray’s 101th birthday coming up May 12. For more information, please call 251 208-7097 or email jeaniethompson@bellsouth.net

  • News Release
    Contact: Jeanie Thompson, Executive Director, Alabama Writers’ Forum
    334-221-5013, jeaniethompson@bellsouth.net

    University of Alabama alumnus Brad Watson wins Harper Lee Award

    MONTGOMERY, Ala.— Award-winning writer and University of Alabama alumnus Brad Watson has been selected to receive the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2017. The award is made to a living, nationally recognized Alabama writer who has made a significant lifelong contribution to Alabama letters. Watson will receive the honor during the Gala Dinner at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, Alabama, on April 20, 2017.

    “The honor of receiving the Harper Lee Award includes not only following the many great writers who've already received it, joining their ranks in that regard, but of course the association with Harper Lee, herself, and her great novels,” Watson said. “Thank you for this most distinguished recognition and award.”

    The recipient of numerous honors and distinctions, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and appointment as lecturer in fiction at Harvard University, Watson received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and has worked as a reporter and editor for state newspapers, including The Montgomery Advertiser. He is currently an associate professor in the creative writing program at the University of Wyoming.

    Watson’s first novel, “The Heaven of Mercury,” was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2002 and won the Southern Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction. His most recent novel, “Miss Jane,” was longlisted for the National Book Award last year. His first book, the “Last Days of the Dog-men,” won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and his second short-story collection, “Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives,” was a finalist for the Pen/Faulkner Award in Fiction.

    “Brad Watson is most deserving of the Harper Lee Award,” said Don Noble, host of “Bookmark,” Alabama Public Television’s literary interview show. “He is the best Southern fiction writer of his generation.”

    The Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year, presented annually by Coastal Alabama Community College at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, is made possible through a generous grant from George F. Landegger, chairman, Parsons & Whittemore.

    The Alabama Writers’ Forum, a statewide literary arts organization and partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, coordinates the process to select the Harper Lee Award recipient annually from nominations from the field.

    To register, contact Alisha Linam at 251-575-8271 or alinam@ascc.edu. For more info, visit the website for the Alabama Writers Symposium 2017.

    Photo by Nell Hanley

  • Montgomery, AL – A Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative, “Carried Home” is produced by the Alabama Humanities Foundation , Alabama Writers’ Forum, and Troy Public Radio (WTSU, 89.9 FM in Montgomery and Troy; WRWA 88.7 in Dothan and the Wiregrass; WTJB 91.7 in Columbus and Phenix City) in five short radio documentaries. The first broadcast on Troy Public Radio will be December 26th - 30th from Noon to 12:30. Other airings are scheduled for January 2017.

    Five thirty-minute radio programs highlight fifteen Alabama writers who have either won or been recognized as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, which turned 100 in 2016. Their excerpted works and commentary sheds light on contemporary events. The five-part series is hosted by Don Noble, host of Bookmark on Alabama Public Television.

    “It is an interesting time to consider the best journalistic and creative writing from Alabama – by Pulitzer standards,” said Kyle Gassiott, supervising producer of the series. “Writers help us make sense of our world by recasting events and points of view for us to consider,” he said.

    “The journalists and creative writers featured in ‘Carried Home’ have addressed many issues that citizens in the United States are still talking about today – such as race relations, questions of immigration, the role of the press, and equitable taxation.

    “Although our program started out investigating the prize’s impacted on a writer’s life, it moved to more broad-ranging discussions in development. Although it was not intended to be a comment on current events per se, the writers and their subjects may help people see some issues in a new light,” Gassiott said.

    “Carried Home” is part of a major national initiative in conjunction with the Pulitzer Prizes Board, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Alabama Humanities Foundation The public radio programs include segments of interviews, reported pieces, and excerpted works.
    According to Jeanie Thompson, executive director of the Alabama Writers’ Forum, and co-producer of the series, the five programs sample brief interviews, reported pieces and excerpts of work that paint a picture of how Alabamians and Southerners think about themselves and their world.

    “From Harper Lee talking about small town life shortly after publication of To Kill a Mocking Bird to an excerpt from “Grady’s Gift,” Howell Raines’ memoir of growing up in segregated Birmingham, listeners will find food for thought, “ Thompson said.

    “They may wonder -- is this how I see the world, too? If not, what do I think? Writers like Rick Bragg, Diane McWhorter, Cynthia Tucker, Winston Groom and the others create and report stories that remain true. That is why the Pulitzer committee awarded them prizes and recognition over the years,” Thompson said. “They are indispensable to our cultural life.”

    Some of the themes the series explores include: black and white relations, the 21st century issue of immigration, poverty, taxes, and the inevitable reporting about place – primarily rural or small town.

    The creative writers awarded Pulitzers in fiction, poetry, and song-writing explore these topics through the hearts and mind of characters set in easily identifiable fictional towns. In lyrical works, the speakers focus on the pain of racial injunctive or just plain human heartbreak in long-remembered lyrics that people everywhere identify with Alabama.

    Other non-fiction writers have addressed more objective matters such as what it means to live and thrive within different economic systems in Alabama, the South, and ultimately the world.

    Writers featured include: Brett Blackledge, Rick Bragg, Hazel Brannon Smith, Shirley Ann Grau, Rheta Grimsley-Johnson, Winston Groom, Hank Klibanoff, Joey Kennedy, Harper Lee (archival), Diane McWhorter, T.S. Stribling, Howell Raines, Natasha Trethewey, Cynthia Tucker, and E. O. Wilson.

    Sponsorship: “Carried Home: Alabama Writers and the Pulitzer Prize” is part of the Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative, a joint venture of the Pulitzer Prizes Board and the Federation of State Humanities Councils. “Carried Home” made possible through a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation. Additional funding was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford, Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Columbia University.

    For further information, contact Kyle Gassiott, Troy Public Radio at 334-670-3568 (office for general public; cell for media only 334-787-0754) or kgassiott@troy.edu

A Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative, “Carried Home” is produced by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the Alabama Writers’ Forum, and Troy Public Radio (WTSU, 89.9 FM in Montgomery and Troy; WRWA 88.7 in Dothan and the Wiregrass; WTJB 91.7 in Columbus and Phenix City) in five short radio documentaries.