Skip to main content

Blogs

This year, 2016, marks the 100th year of the Pulitzer Prize. For the first thirty-one years only novels were eligible for the fiction prize. Then the category was expanded to include short story collections. The fiction prize has gone to an Alabamian three times. Most famously, the 1961 Pulitzer was awarded to Harper Lee. The other two winners are T.S. Stribling for The Store in 1935 and Shirley Ann Grau for The Keepers of the House in 1965. In keeping with the Pulitzer centennial, I thought it would be interesting to have a look at one of the Alabama winners. (Not Mockingbird; enough has been said there.) READ MORE…

By Gregg Swem

Wade Hall, who established the Hall-Waters Award for Southern writers, had many literary interests—from Southern fiction to American history to poetry. He had been involved in poetry ever since he met a group of Kentucky poets in the 1960s when he was a young college professor. These people were committed to poetry, and through the leadership of Joy Bale Boone they began putting out a publication of poems by Kentuckians. It was titled approaches. Read More

By Edward Reynolds

I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.
—Helen Keller

Prologue

On the evening of July 8, 2015, a dozen literary notables with ties to Alabama received long overdue official recognition when the first class of the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame was inducted. Major sponsors of the Hall of Fame include the Alabama Center for the Book, the University of Alabama Library Leadership Board, and the Alabama Writers’ Forum, a partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts. The Gala was held in the Bryant Conference Center at the University of Alabama, with close to 300 in attendance. Read More

By Don Noble

On June 8, 2015, Zora Neale Hurston will be one of twelve writers taken into the newly established Alabama Writers Hall of Fame. Over the years I have admired much of Hurston’s work and taught the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God but had not read Valerie Boyd’s highly acclaimed biography, Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston (Scribner, 2003). It was time to learn more about Hurston, a larger than life, nearly mythological figure, whose simple biographical facts were in doubt or dispute. Read More

Editor’s Note: Hank Lazer accepted the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year at the 18th annual Alabama Writers Symposium Awards Luncheon held in Monroeville on April 24, 2015.

Good afternoon. What do you say after [Jackie Trimble’s introduction]? I think I was told what to do. I was supposed to channel Sally Field. I'm just not capable of that, so let me try to channel myself for a little bit. First of all I want to thank Alabama Southern Community College for its very, very warm reception here and for an absolutely amazing organization of the conference. And from working with Creative Campus, I deeply appreciate good organization. It's not something that happens everywhere. I want to thank George Landegger for his generous support. It means a great deal. I want to thank Don Noble for a superb and engaging TV interview. I'm deeply appreciative of your preparation for the interview and for our interactions and friendship. Read More

In March 1922 F. Scott Fitzgerald published his second novel, and Burton Rascoe, an enterprising editor at the New York Tribune, went to the Plaza where the Fitzgeralds were living and asked Zelda to review it. Review a spouse’s book? How? This was unheard of!

Right this minute I find on various surfaces around the house my wife’s attractive new collection of stories, Tell the World You’re a Wildflower. Friends have dared me to review it. If Zelda can, I can. Read More

The first time I heard of the Alabama Writers’ Forum was at Briarwood Christian High School. At the time, I was finishing my senior year. I was busy with extra-curricular activities and college applications. If it weren’t for my creative writing teacher, Jon Carter, I might have missed my chance entirely. He had always been a supporter of my writing, and he never missed an opportunity to help me improve. He called me aside in the hallway one day and reminded me of a scholarship contest I said I would enter. It required a portfolio of my creative writing, and the postmark deadline was that day. Of course, being the thinly spread high school student I was, the contest had entirely slipped my mind. However, instead of admonishing me or leaving me to drown in my own inadequacies and failures, Mr. Carter stayed after school to help me compile the required portfolio. We talked through my writings and I printed the strongest pieces on the library printer from my flash drive. We compiled the stories in an envelope and filled out the proper forms, and, at the eleventh hour, I submitted to the contest. In a turn of events that surprised no one more than me, I won a scholarship. Read More

By Michael Patton

Recently, Alabama native and beloved author William “Bill” Cobb read from his collection of short fiction Sweet Home: Stories of Alabama (SixFinger Publishing, 2013) at Eclipse Coffee & Books, the bookstore I own with my wife Cheryl, in Montevallo, Alabama.

We’ve hosted Bill there many times before in the thirteen years we’ve been open, but this time was different in one important way that I’ve been thinking about ever since. This time, Bill was also selling his book as an eBook. Read More

By Jacquie Wee Brasher

I was fired from the small-town newspaper I was working for in 2008—apparently a banner year in layoffs at newspapers—and, by that time, I had been working in print journalism in two states for twelve years. Read More

By Kirk Curnutt

One of the first things I did after my father died unexpectedly in 1992 was count calendar squares back to his final birthday. He lived exactly forty-nine years and 108 days, I discovered. The precise number was important because I knew a time would come, if I managed to eke it out, when I would have to admit that I had lived longer than he ever did. Read More

by Kathleen Thompson

Author’s Note: This remembrance was first presented on January 25, 2014, at the Chapel at Highland Farms, Black Mountain, N.C. Some anecdotes were published in an essay for the Book Page, Mobile Press Register. Read More

By Lindsay Hodgens

I could start by telling you about where I come from. I could tell you about the small, unincorporated community from which I sprang, about the twenty minute drive to the next town over's post office, about graduating in a class of 99 (about ten of which went on to university). I could tell you about all of the afternoons I spent looking out of my bedroom window at the thirty-six acres behind my house, how I counted the days until I could get out of that house, which was at least one step closer to getting out of Alabama. Read more

By Christopher Chambers

Yo ye pharaohs let us walk through this barren desert in search of truth….

— Southern Culture on the Skids

The other day while I was driving past the wharves and warehouses and colorful stacked metal shipping containers that line the river side of Tchoupitoulas Street, a song came on the radio and I suddenly remembered that I had not yet replied to an e-mail from an old friend regarding an upcoming book tour which will be bringing him to New Orleans in October. The song, “Camel Walk.” The band, Southern Culture on the Skids. The friend, Tim Parrish, a writer originally from Baton Rouge, upriver, though now in Connecticut, where he has taught and lived for many years. I made a mental note to e-mail him when I got home. I have not seen him in years. I usually only see him at the massive annual literary conference which for the past few years I have not attended, unable to muster whatever it takes to brave the cold weather and the frenetic literary mob. What I do miss about the conference is meeting up with old pals, most of them from my days in Tuscaloosa. Tim is one of these. Read More

By Don Noble

Editor’s Note: The Alabama Humanities Foundation awarded Don Noble its Wayne Greenhaw Service Award at its annual luncheon on October 7, 2013.

I’ll start, as an English professor should, by quoting from a classic of American fiction: “It is deeply satisfying to win a prize in front of a lot of people.”

As many of you will recognize, those words are the thoughts of the farmer, Mr. Homer L. Zuckerman, when his prize pig, Wilbur, wins first prize at the county fair in E B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Read More

By Richard Anderson

Mary Ward Brown of Perry County died on May 14, 2013. She was our most acute literary observer of life in Alabama. In her two volumes of exquisitely-crafted short stories, she captured a panorama of a specific place during a particular time: the Alabama Black Belt in the second half of the twentieth century. By so doing, she offers us a moving and sympathetic depiction of a region and a people under strain and in flux. Read More

By Suzanne Hudson and Joe Formichella

He was a permanent fixture in Fairhope’s funky world of artists, a gentle literary giant, authoring nine novels and a children’s play before communing with Edgar Cayce, who guided his final turn at the craft. The result of that collaboration was The Return of Edgar Cayce. C. Terry Cline Jr., though, would not take credit. “I didn’t write it,” he laughed, “Edgar Cayce did.”

Born in Birmingham “on a train going out” he always said of his short stay there, Terry would have been 78 on July 14. A memorial is being planned for June 30 at Henry George Park in Fairhope at 10:30 a.m. He would insist that he hasn’t really left us, but the physical body did early Tuesday morning, May 21. A few days before, we left him a note and are comforted to know that he heard our bon voyage. What we don’t know for sure is whether he wrote his final book in the buff, as he claimed he always did, but it makes us giggle to think so. Read More

By Trudeir Harris

Words sing to me. And I am responsive to the tunes they want me to create. Sometimes they evoke the blues, sometimes they call forth a rousing gospel, and sometimes they’re just sheer harmonies of celebration. I hear patterns or rhythms for sentences in my head, and those rhythms find their way onto my computer screen, or, when I am traveling, onto my note pad. Words sing to me, and I am a devotee of their songs. It is the singing power of words that enabled me to articulate what it means for me to move from being a black person living in the South to being a Black Southerner. The words sang a song of family history, one rooted in Deep South Alabama, and they dared me to claim that history in spite of Alabama’s uncomplimentary history in race relations. Words sing to me in my study, elsewhere in my home, or when I’m a long way from home. They always let me know that I have Alabama in my bones. Read More

By Kerry Madden

Mary Ward Brown lives out in the country in Marion, Alabama, and people used to say to her after her husband died, “You still writing out there? You ought to join the D.A.R. or the Garden Club. Move to town.” They quit asking after she published in one of the “big slicks.” Read More

A number of people have commented on my earlier Facebook post about my seeing the movie, Argo, and how it reminded me of my own experiences in being evacuated from Iran in 1979. I've been asked for more details, so here goes. First, more on the movie, which does get pretty Hollywoodish towards the end, but I liked that because it helps to create in the audience the kind of anxiety we all faced in getting out of Iran and the uncertainty of our circumstances. If you see the movie, you can compare what I say to what you see. Read More

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Mobile Press-Register on September 1, 2012.

Hurricanes and harbors — those of the heart and spirit — manifest themselves in Michael Morris’s novels, his newest, Man in the Blue Moon,” acclaimed by author Pat Conroy as a “portrayal of small town Southern life where poverty, tragedy, and human love engage in a ritualistic dance.”

A finalist for Christianity Today’s book of the year award, Blue Moon revolves around a young mother abandoned by her husband, facing financial ruin, and finding help from a strange man who appears mystically to help repair her world.

That stranger has magical powers to heal, which make him revered by some in the community, scorned by others. Read More

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in The Birmingham News on August 12, 2012

Growing up in Mobile, I learned Alabama's regions are remarkably different demographically, culturally and socially. But kudzu was everywhere! Church affiliations, music types and food preferences may contrast to a large degree between Florence and Foley or Anniston and Andalusia, and no matter if you live in Prichard or Fort Payne, there is another kudzu-like constant whose roots run deep—a coming together of vastly different cultures in the single pursuit of learning. Read More

Editor’s note: Marlin “Bart” Barton delivered these remarks at the 2012 Alabama High School Literary Arts Awards ceremony.

I teach creative writing every week to my students at Mt. Meigs juvenile facility and to my students at Converse College, who I work with face to face twice a year and then long distance during the semester that follows. Some days I feel like I know what I’m doing; other days, when I struggle with my own writing, I wonder if I know what I’m doing at all. (This isn’t hyperbole.) But I think it’s good for me as a teacher to have these struggles and doubts because it helps me remember what my students are going through. Read More

Editor’s Note: Ralph F. Voss delivered these remarks at the Montevallo Literary Festival on April 13, 2012, and elsewhere.

Long ago, on Saturday night, November 14, 1959, I was a sixteen-year-old high schooler on a date in Plainville, Kansas, with my girlfriend Alice, also sixteen, who had to be home at midnight. The movie ended around ten, so we didn’t have much time to drive around, honking at friends and listening to music. I took Alice home by midnight, neither of us aware that 200 miles southwest of us, at the farm home of Herb and Bonnie Clutter near the tiny town of Holcomb, another sixteen-year-old, Herb and Bonnie’s daughter Nancy, was about to be murdered, along with her parents and her fifteen-year-old brother Kenyon. In some significant ways, my life changed that night because of the Clutter murder case. Read More

Editor’s note: Jennifer Horne gave these remarks as part of a presentation at the AAUW Adelante Book Club, held at Eclipse Coffee & Books in Montevallo, Alabama, on April 11, 2012.

I want to start by saying that both our books, All Out of Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality and Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality, focus on spirituality in the sense of personal experience more than belief systems—not as a substitute or contradiction but as a parallel line of discovery.

When the first book was published, my coeditor, Wendy Reed, and I did expect more controversy, just because the South tends to be more religious than the rest of the country and more conservative. We had included, among other things, a woman who calls herself a Baptist-Buddhist! Is there such a thing as a Southern fatwa? Read More

By Emily Cutler

I have had a passion for creative writing ever since I was a little girl. I have always loved words in general, and throughout my life their power has never ceased to amaze me. From the American Girl books to the Harry Potter series to The Help by Kathryn Stockett and A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, literature has given me characters to sympathize with and look up to, new ways to view the world, and concepts to stand up for and believe in. The world of books has always been an incredibly important part of my life, and one of my goals in life is to contribute to that world as a writer. Read More

Editor’s note: Tomas Tranströmer received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature on October 6.

I first met Monica and Tomas Tranströmer in 1983, in Houston. I had left my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, to attend a graduate writing program and nominated myself to pick them up at the airport. We immediately had a connection, since I had met Robert Bly in the 1970s and published a special feature on his poetry in Aura Literary Arts Review, a magazine I edited for the English Department of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They were delighted as their close relationship with Bly dated back to the 1960s. Read More

I’m not a doctor, but I am constantly surprised at the number of people who suffer from metrophobia. I’m talking about educated, literate professionals in many writing related fields of endeavor, who–if asked–involuntarily gasp and stammer, “Oh no, I can’t…. I don’t…. I could never do that!” Read More

Editor’s Note: Dr. Elaine Hughes, Professor Emerita of English at the University of Montevallo, received the Alabama Humanities Award on September 26, 2011. Following is a transcript of her acceptance speech.

My life-long love of literature and libraries began when I was ten years old. That was the summer I had resolved to read a book a day. The public library in my home town in west Jefferson County consisted of a small oak book case in the living room of Miss Mamie West, second grade teacher, who encouraged students to frequent her home library when school was not in session. Each morning I would get on my bicycle and pedal up Highway 78 West to Miss Mamie’s house, select my book, and scurry home to begin reading. This particular morning, Miss Mamie discovered I had read all the selections in the youth materials, and the bookmobile had not been by to replenish her shelves. So she dutifully went through the titles and selected one she thought appropriate for me to read, The Bishop’s Mantle. When I read the first sentence in the novel—“The priest was surprised when he opened the door to find an infant on the front steps of the rectory.”—a new world was opened for me. Read More

Perhaps the most frequently given advice beginning writers receive is “write what you know.” On the face of it, that seems to be exactly the right philosophy to espouse, but I realized some time ago that it fell short of being as complete and piquant as one might think.

For example, one might ask, what exactly does a beginning writer, especially a very young beginning writer, know? Read More

I was a child editor. Or that’s how I’d like to think of it. Almost 22, I entered the MFA program at The University of Alabama in January 1974 and ended up as editor-in-chief of a magazine in the making: The Black Warrior Review. (Years later, another set of editors would drop that “The.”) My team of rag-tag creative writing peers and I managed to launch a magazine that led off with poems by Norman Dubie and included work by Rodney Jones and Gary Soto. We published two short stories, one from the prize-winning Alabama fiction writer H.E. Francis. We learned on the job how to be editors, to work with printers, and to market our product. There were no courses in this, and we probably wouldn’t have taken one if there had been. Read More

I’m not from Montgomery, and meeting someone who knew Martin Luther King Jr. is still a thrill. I work one block away from where Rosa Parks caught that famous bus. Walking by the former Greyhound Bus Station, where the Freedom Riders were beaten for trying to integrate interstate transportation, still chills and astounds me. A century before the Civil Rights Movement, the same area welcomed Jefferson Davis and saw the birth of the Civil War. Read More

This question has plagued me for a long time, and I saw it recently on a writing Web site, so I am not the only one who has asked it. For a long time, I was unpublished and wrote in the “closet.” I was afraid if I admitted to doing it (writing, folks) I would have to face that dreaded question: “Oh, what have you published?” To which, I’d have to say, “Well, nothing… but my mother loves my stuff.” And then go crawl under a rock. Read More...

June 4, 2011

For the past few days, I pondered what brought Wayne Greenhaw and me (and Bill Baxley for that matter) together today. Different people from different places with different careers. After considerable speculation, I settled on one unifying movement containing many separate parts. Born only a year apart, the three of us left the culture into which we were born during our teenage years and entered through the gates of history into the most powerful freedom movement of the twentieth century. If the Depression and the Second World War defined our parents’ generation, the Civil Rights Movement defined ours. Read More

In her essay “Connie May Is Going to Win the Lottery This Week” in Sonny Brewer’s new collection, Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Connie May Fowler, while talking about the awful jobs she held before being able to write full time, throws in, nearly offhandedly, “Writing is a rough vocation made all the more difficult by changing delivery systems, archaic business models, and imploding economies. You write your heart out and some clown you don’t know takes a sucker punch at you in the media, and manners and tradition dictate that you remain silent.”

To the best of my knowledge, I have never reviewed a book by Fowler, so I am not, literally, the clown she is referring to, but I have reviewed several hundred other books, so I am surely that “clown” to some writers. Read More

Like most students I entered college to earn a degree because Degree = Career. And like most students in this day and age, particularly those like myself whose field of choice happened to be in the liberal arts, I realized that this equation is more appropriately written as such:

Degree = Go back and get a Masters Degree in something useful and talk to us in three years. Read More

Of all the elements of craft, the one I seem to know least about is plot. However, that’s what I feel I need to know most about. I’ve been struggling with a sprawling novel for over a decade. I heard Madison Smart Bell read at Bread Loaf, then devoured his section on plot in his creative writing text. It was so well-written that I read about the narrative arc as if it were fiction, but I couldn’t put his advice into practice. The same with Janet Burroway. Advice just didn’t translate. Read More

Carolyn Nyman, my mother’s best friend growing up, was my high school English teacher. I was named after her. Aside from the family connection (and the fact that she didn’t rat me out when she caught me reading novels in class) Carolyn gave me my first Eudora Welty book. She changed my life. Read More

  • DYS
    DYS
Close