MEET THE 2018 HSLAA JUDGES
Jesseca Cornelson comments on her experience reviewing new talent in the Senior Portfolio category for the Alabama High School Literary Arts Awards
“I enjoyed reading all the entries and found the judging difficult because they were all so good.”
Jesseca Cornelson is an Associate Professor of English at Alabama State University where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Botticelli Magazine, Mid-American Review, Parody, Platte Valley Review, and Salamander. She is an alumna of the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, has twice been a writer-in-residence at the Catskill Center’s Platte Clove Preserve, and is a recipient of a Fellowship in Literary Arts from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.
Susie Paul comments on her experience reviewing new talent in poetry for the Alabama High School Literary Arts Awards
“Their work delights and always surprises me: To write poetry is to engage oneself, often through the personal, in the wider world, to seek to express and thus understand something about it and one's place in it. Our young people are ordering and expressing what is often confusing, inchoate, infuriating. Every year I see Alabama's high school poets exploring what is both beautiful and painful in our contemporary lives. I always find solace in their work.”
Susie Paul is associate professor, emerita, and Distinguished Teaching Associate in the AUM Department of English and Philosophy and has served as an adjunct instructor at Huntingdon College and Troy University in Montgomery. For the 2018 HSLAA, Paul generously volunteered to coordinate the awards, selected judges, and judged the Poetry awards again. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Alabama Writers’ Forum.
W. B. Gerard comments on his experience reviewing new talent in the literary magazine category for the Alabama High School Literary Arts Awards
“It was a pleasure sampling the poetry and stories in these journals as well as the artwork in these journals. The students who contributed have a remarkable imaginative range. I hope many keep up their craft—it’s hard work, but worth it.”
W. B. Gerard is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Auburn University at Montgomery and Coordinator of Creative Writing. He teaches the Four Genres and Fiction Workshop courses and directs creative writing Masters theses. He has published fiction in The Pennsylvania Review, Danse Macabre, Black Lantern, and elsewhere, and is General Editor of THAT Literary Review as well as the scholarly journal, The Scriblerian, and The Kit-Cats.
“If the submissions are any indication of the future of creative writing, the State of Alabama has a bright future indeed. Emma Camp's third place story, “Grace”, had characters who were well developed and identifiable. Second place winner, “Sunset on the Cloud Kingdom” by Cecelia Poehlman, possessed trenchant dialogue that advanced the narrative. Jane Ann Baggett's first place winner, “A Policeman and a Man in a Hazmat Suit Walk into a Building”, leaped from the page with originality and panache. Unfortunately, only three winners could be chosen. But all who submitted work will carry bright literary lights wherever graduation leads them.”
James E. Cherry is the author of a poetry chapbook, two full collections of poetry, a collection of short fiction and two novels. His novel, Edge of the Wind, was a 2016 Foreword Review Book of the Year Finalist for Fiction. He has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award, a Lillian Smith Book Award and was a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Award. Cherry has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso and resides in Jackson, Tennessee where he is Artist in Residence with an after-school program for at-risk youth.
Poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers wins 2018 Harper Lee Award
MONTGOMERY, Ala.— Award-winning poet, fiction-writer, educator and graduate of the University of Alabama’s MFA Writing program, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers has been selected to receive the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2018.
The award is made to a living, nationally recognized Alabama writer who has made a significant lifelong contribution to Alabama letters. Jeffers will receive the honor during a gala dinner at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, Alabama, on April 19, 2018.
“I am beyond thrilled and honored to receive this prestigious award,” Jeffers said upon receiving the news. “The people and rich culture of the state of Alabama are very beloved to me, and the work of the great Harper Lee has been so essential to my growth as a writer and human being,” she said.
A 1996 graduate of the University of Alabama’s MFA Writing program who completed her undergraduate studies at Talladega College, Jeffers is a tenured full professor and has taught creative writing at the University of Oklahoma for fifteen years. The recipient of numerous honors and distinctions, her books include The Glory Gets (Wesleyan University Press, 2015), Red Clay Suite (Southern Illinois University Press, 2007), Outlandish Blues (Wesleyan University Press, 2003), and The Gospel of Barbecue (Kent State University Press, 2000) which was selected by Lucille Clifton to win the Stan and Tom Wick poetry prize and in 2001 was a Paterson Poetry Prize finalist.
Her work has also appeared in a wide range of contemporary journals including Ploughshares, Crab Orchard Review, Georgetown Review, Callaloo, Iowa Review, Oxford American, Prairie Schooner, and Poetry. Her poems have been part of anthologies edited by some of the most important poets working today: Kevin Smith, Cornelius Eady, Toi Derricote, and Nikki Finney.
“Honorée Jeffers is exactly the type of writer who deserves the Harper Lee Award. She is prolific, engaged in discourse on social justice, talented, and not nearly finished,” said Dr. Jacqueline Allen Trimble, Chair of the Department of Languages and Literatures at Alabama State University. Noting Jeffers’ strong ties to the state of Alabama through education and the context and subject matter of her poetry, as well as her breadth of talent in literary genres, Dr. Trimble said Jeffers is interested in allowing those who have been voiceless to tell their stories as an integral part of American history.
Trimble quoted the publisher’s jacket blurb on The Glory Gets, Jeffers’ latest book: Jeffers “turns to the task of seeking and reconciling the blues and its three movements – identification, exploration, and resolution – with wisdom.” Trimble also commented that there is considerable anticipation for Jeffers’ current work in progress, “The Age of Phyllis,” a book-length persona poem study of Phyllis Wheatley, a woman who began both African American and African American womanist literary tradition.
An accomplished prose writer as well, Jeffers has published essays and short stories in Black Renaissance Noire, Callaloo, Common-Place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life, Indiana Review, JENda: A Journal of Cultural and African Studies, The Kenyon Review Online, New England Review, StoryQuarterly, The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks on Race (Scribner 2016), and Virginia Quarterly Review.
Other career awards include the Emerging Fiction Fellowship from the Aspen Summer Words Conference, the Tennessee Williams’ Scholarship in Fiction from the Sewanee Writers Conference, and the Goodheart Prize for Fiction from Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review. Jeffers has been awarded poetry fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Witter Bynner Foundation through the Library of Congress.
The Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year, presented annually at Coastal Alabama Community College during 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 selection of the Harper Lee Award recipient annually from nominations from the field.
MONTGOMERY, AL -- “Teaching in the Writing Our Stories program is the most important and rewarding work I’ve done,” said Marlin Barton, teaching writer for Writing Our Stories at the Alabama Department of Youth Services (DYS) Mt. Meigs campus. This week Barton and his student writers will launch “Open the Door 20,” poems and stories, in an on-campus event.
The book launch, set for October 19 on the Mt. Meigs campus for students, faculty and special guests, celebrates twenty years of the literary arts and juvenile justice partnership known as Writing Our Stories. “For the students in this program, writing isn’t just something they want to do, it’s something they need in an almost visceral way,” Barton said. “It allows them to examine and know themselves and their world better, to communicate who they are and to understand others more deeply, and to say ‘I matter’ in a way that validates and gives them a sense of self-worth,” he said.
Barton is an award-winning fiction writer whose short stories and novels have been widely published during his tenure as a teaching writer in the program. “The work of these young writers is a continual reminder to me of how much writing matters, and it inspires me to write at my very best every time I sit down at my desk,” he said.
Alabama Department of Youth Services executive director Stephen P. Lafreniere applauds Writing Our Stories as an important part of the educational plan for the students who take part on an elective basis. “The Department and our students have benefited tremendously from the vision and partnership created with the Alabama Writers Forum more than 20 years ago. This creative writing program was ahead of its time then and remains one of the best programs offered to our youth,” Lafreniere said.
He noted that the sense of accomplishment and pride experienced by the students participating in Writing Our Stories, “can be motivating and a source of confidence for their rehabilitative and educational goals while they are in custody.”
“Writing Our Stories was started in 1997 with just one class at Mt. Meigs and then grew over time to a program at three of the DYS campuses,” Jeanie Thompson, executive director of the Alabama Writers’ Forum and founder of the writing program, said. “As a writer myself, I know how poetry can change lives,” Thompson said. “I am also very proud of the fact that Alabama’s arts/juvenile justice program is a national model.”
The program is also in place on the Vacca campus of DYS in Birmingham where poet Jerriod Avant has just started his new year of teaching. On November 2, Avant and the new class of Vacca students will launch “Mapping my Truth,” the 2017 anthology edited by former Vacca teaching writer Tony Crunk from the past year’s class of writers.
Like Barton, Crunk published collections of poems and other work during his 9-year tenure with the program. Crunk relocated to St. Louis this past summer with his family.
Speaking about the students he taught at Vacca, Crunk said, “For them, writing has been a powerful tool of self-exploration, a vehicle allowing them to first discover their own deepest truths, and then to express these truths in a form that is not only clear but powerful, that resonates with what we readers know to be true about our world and about ourselves.”
Noting that Writing Our Stories gives her hope that young people who have strayed off the path will find their way back through creative writing, Thompson said, “This program is not just for adjudicated youth. We are demonstrating its value in Shelby County with Writing Our Stories residencies in seventh grade classes that are popular and fun for young people who naturally lean toward self-expression at that age. We want it to be a positive experience that may discourage less productive ways of expressing themselves. The Shelby County Arts Council partners with us to make this possible, and in the spring we hope to have residencies at three schools. There’s no reason why we couldn’t do this in every school system in the state,” she said. “Every Alabama child deserve to write well.”
For information about Writing Our Stories, please contact the Alabama Writers’ Forum at (334) 265-7728. www.writersforum.org
Alabama Writers Symposium celebrates 20th anniversary
Brad Watson, Kirk Curnutt and Michael Knight take home awards in 2017
Every spring since 1998, all literary roads in Alabama have led to Monroeville, where each year the Alabama Writers Symposium brings together some of the state’s most distinguished writers and scholars for readings, lectures, and workshops in the town that Harper Lee put on the map.
Over the years, countless readers, budding authors and lifelong learners have made that journey to the “literary capital of Alabama.” And this April, many of the town’s frequent visitors made the pilgrimage again to celebrate the event’s 20th anniversary—and to attend the annual awards dinner.
“Both awards—the Harper Lee and Eugene Current-Garcia awards—are 20 years old this time,” said Jeanie Thompson, executive director of the Alabama Writers’ Forum, at the Gala Dinner on April 20 at the Monroeville Community House. “John Johnson and George Landegger worked together to make sure that these two awards would be funded. And they have been funded for 20 years, and that does include the clock tower. So that’s a pretty amazing thing.”
In addition to the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer and the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar, this year’s event also included the second annual presentation of the Truman Capote Prize for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of Non-Fiction or the Short Story.
Brad Watson wins 2017 Harper Lee Award
With its theme of “Coming Home” and recognition as a state literary destination and tradition for two decades, this year’s AWS had special significance for Watson, who traveled from Wyoming to receive the Harper Lee Award, and for Thompson, who was his classmate in creative writing at the University of Alabama.
“It is really meaningful to me that the 20th award is going to this year’s recipient,” Thompson said during her introduction of Watson. “Brad came to the M.F.A. program in Alabama at about the time that I was leaving. He was identified and tapped as a writer that we were really going to want to watch. In 1996, when ‘Last Days of the Dog-men’ was published, there was so much happiness for Brad that things were coming to the fruition that we had known they would.”
That first book, a collection of short stories, won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His next work and 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 second short-story collection, “Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives,” was a finalist for the Pen/Faulkner Award in Fiction. His most recent novel, “Miss Jane,” was longlisted for the National Book Award last year.
“‘To Kill a Mockingbird is an iconic American novel,” Watson said when receiving the Harper Lee Award. “I don’t think anyone has read that book without being changed by it. To be given this award named after her is a really gratifying honor.”
The recipient of numerous honors and distinctions, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and appointment as lecturer in fiction at Harvard University, Watson was born in Mississippi, received his M.F.A. in creative writing from UA, and has worked as a reporter and editor for state and local newspapers in Alabama, including The Montgomery Advertiser. He is currently an associate professor in the creative writing program at the University of Wyoming.
Presented annually by the Coastal Alabama Community College, the Harper Lee Award recognizes the lifetime achievement of a writer who was born in Alabama or whose literary career developed in the state. The award, which includes a $5,000 cash prize and The Clock Tower Bronze statue by Frank Fleming, is made possible through a 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 award recipient annually from nominations from the field. Recent recipients have included E.O. Wilson, Mark Childress, Fannie Flagg, Gay Talese, Winston Groom and Rick Bragg.
Kirk Curnutt wins 2017 Eugene Current-Garcia Award
The recipient of this year’s Eugene Current-Garcia Award was Kirk Curnutt, professor and chair of the English department at Troy University. Author of fourteen books, including three novels, most of his scholarly work has focused on F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein.
Curnutt was introduced by Steve Hubbard of Lurleen B. Wallace Community College’s English Department, who represented the Association of College English Teachers of Alabama, which is responsible for selection of the award’s recipient each year.
“Kirk has a natural voice when discussing the most complex of ideas, which I believe is the hallmark of excellence in academic writing,” stated Suzanne del Gizzo, editor of The Hemingway Review and who Hubbard quoted during his introduction. “Most of all, he is a true man of letters, writer, scholar, and teacher. And it’s Alabama’s good fortune that he has chosen to do his work there.”
The Eugene Current-Garcia award recognizes Alabamians, or those whose academic careers have developed in the state, who have distinguished themselves for scholarly reflection and writing on literary topics. It is also funded by Landegger and includes a $5,000 prize and a clock tower bronze statue.
After thanking his mother, who was in the audience, and remembering his late father, Curnutt described his work ethic and the reason for it.
“I came from a stock of farmers, and when 5 a.m. came, you were up and you were working,” he said. “I’m very honored that my parents instilled those values in me.”
The award is named after Eugene Current-Garcia, who had a long and distinguished teaching career at Auburn University, where he founded and co-edited the Southern Humanities Review.
Michael Knight wins 2017 Truman Capote Prize
This year’s Truman Capote prize was awarded to Michael Knight, whom Don Noble in his introduction called “the Anton Chekov of Mobile Bay.”
The author of two novels, three collections and a book of novellas, Knight lives in Knoxville, where he teaches creative writing at the University of Tennessee.
“I’ve always appreciated those writers who could work with equal grace in more than one genre,” Knight said. “That’s certainly obviously true of Truman Capote. He could strike so many different emotional notes and get under our skin as readers in so many different ways. I’m filled with envy every time I read his words on the page. It is such a genuine honor to be associated in even a minor way with such a fantastic writer.”
The Capote Prize recognizes distinguished work in the short story or creative nonfiction by a writer with a strong Alabama connection. And it has been a long time in the making, said Noble, a retired English professor at UA and host of the literary interview show “Bookmark” on Alabama Public Television.
“As far back as the planning meeting for this conference in 1997, chaired by then-president of [CACC], Dr. John Johnson, I have believed that there should be a parallel prize to honor the splendid work of Monroeville’s writer Truman Capote,” he said.
After an anonymous donor came forward to sponsor the prize several years ago, Noble said he contacted the Capote estate.
“Throughout the process, the legal representation of the Capote estate was intrigued by the proposal, and they were cooperative, friendly, and a little surprised this had not been done before.” There was no charge for the use of Capote’s name—“just good wishes”—Noble said.
The recipient of the award is selected by an anonymous committee of writers and scholars and presented annually by Noble, according to AWS materials.
AWS honors Yaa Gyazi, winner of 2017 PEN/ Hemingway Award
The 2017 AWS included lectures, panels and workshops by nearly two dozen writers and scholars. And the April 21 luncheon featured Yaa Gyazi, whose novel, “Homecoming,” received the 2017 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, among other awards. Born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Gyazi holds a B.A. in English from Stanford and an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
“When you put your pen to paper, magic is created,” said CACC Regional President Gary L. Branch, of authors such as Watson, Curnutt, Knight and Gyazi, at this year’s awards dinner. “So I stand in awe as we recognize these writers tonight.”
The 21st Annual Alabama Writers Symposium will take place on April 19-20, 2018. For more information, visit faulknerstate.edu/about/alabama_writers_symposium, or call 800-381-3722.
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 email@example.com
Contact: Jeanie Thompson, Executive Director, Alabama Writers’ Forum
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.
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.
At its June meeting in Montgomery, the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) awarded sixteen arts fellowships and one arts administration fellowship. Fellowships are awarded to individual artists based on merit of work, career achievement, professional development, and service to the state. This round of grants will support activity taking place between October 1, 2016, and September 30, 2017. Jacqueline Allen Trimble of Montgomery and Ash Parson of Auburn received Literary Arts Fellowships. READ MORE…
Novelist Mark Childress has told the tale before, but at the request of panel moderator Don Noble he told it again. The story goes something like this: When
On June 3, the Department of Youth Services (DYS) dedicated the new treatment facility for girls in honor of former DYS Executive Director J. Walter Wood Jr. Wood was the longest serving state juvenile corrections executive in the United States when he retired on June 30, 2014. During his tenure as executive director of DYS, Wood implemented a number of juvenile justice reforms and improved treatment options for young offenders.
Books-A-Million will commemorate the 23rd anniversary of Mark Childress’ award-winning novel, Crazy in Alabama, with a special event on Tuesday, June 28 at 6 p.m. A Celebration of Crazy in Alabama will take place at the beautifully-restored Lyric Theatre, located at 1800 3rd Avenue North in downtown Birmingham. The event will feature a group discussion with Childress and a panel of his favorite Southern writers. Guests will enjoy a witty, insightful, and historically relevant commentary on literary themes from the book, book signings, a cash bar, and complimentary hors d’oeuvres. READ MORE…
At its June meeting in Montgomery, the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) awarded sixteen fellowship grants including one arts administration fellowship totaling $80,000, and seven Arts and Cultural Facilities grants totaling, $177,500, for a grand total of $257,500. Fellowship grants are awarded to individual artists and are based on merit of work, career achievement, professional development, and service to the state. Arts and cultural facilities grants are awarded for planning, design or construction of an arts space. All projects must involve top professionals with demonstrated expertise in urban and/or community planning, architecture, landscape design, or historic preservation. This round of grants will support activity taking place between October 1, 2016, and September 30, 2017.
Jacqueline Allen Trimble of Montgomery and Ash Parson of Auburn received Literary Arts Fellowships. READ MORE…
During its June quarterly meeting, Thursday night, June 9, was reserved to celebrate the Alabama State Council on the Arts’ (ASCA) 50th anniversary at a reunion dinner for past and current Council members and staff. A revolving photo-expose reflected faces and events dating back to the creation of the Council in 1966. A Council history was compiled and presented to the alumni gathered, along with a Senate Resolution sponsored by Senator Tom Whatley (R-District 27, Opelika). READ MORE…
Natasha Trethewey, two-time U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, received the Hall-Waters Prize on April 23 following the Alabama Book Festival, where she read in the South Tent before a rapt crowd of poetry fans. The Hall-Waters Prize was established by the late Wade Hall at Troy University to honor his parents Wade H. Hall Sr. and Sarah Waters Hall. It is given annually to a Southern writer by Troy University, Wade Hall's alma mater. Each recipient receives $5,000. READ MORE…
Students from two South Shelby County Schools celebrated the release of a pair of poetry books with contributions from nearly 150 student writers. Pantheon of Dreams, edited by Elizabeth Birdsong, includes work by Columbiana Middle School students. Birdsong is the seventh grade English teacher at CMS. Students from Montevallo Middle School produced New Life, edited by teaching writer Tony Crunk, who taught for five years at CMS before turning the reins over to Birdsong. This is his second year at MMS. Evelyn Moore, seventh grade English teacher, serves as cooperating teacher. The books are a product of the Writing Our Stories program. READ MORE…
High school students are invited to enrol in the Ada Long Creative Writing Workshop, a three-week workshop that offers a rare opportunity for high school students to learn from published authors. Every day, students will work closely with nationally acclaimed novelists, essayists, and poets, all of whom have extensive teaching experience. The 2016 workshop will take place on June 6-24, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. READ MORE…
The Alabama Writers Conclave has announced that nominations are open for the office of Poet Laureate of the State of Alabama. The Alabama Poet Laureate is an uncompensated honorary position created by the Alabama Legislature in 1931. Nominees must be Alabama residents who have published at least one volume of poetry with a commercial, educational, or small press and are prepared to promote poetry throughout the state during a four year term. Nominations must be received by June 1, 2016. READ MORE…
The Pulitzer Prize Board announced the recipients of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize at Columbia University on April 18. The announcement marked the 100th anniversary of the award that commemorates outstanding work in journalism and the arts. The award was begun by named for newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. READ MORE...
Writers and literary enthusiasts alike will gather for readings, celebrations of literature, and literary trivia during the Slash Pine Writers Festival on Friday, April 29, and Saturday, April 30, in venues around Tuscaloosa including the University of Alabama and Downtown Tuscaloosa. The Slash Pine readings and events are free and open to the public. READ MORE…
In the pouring rain, with the threat of severe thunderstorms and the possibility of tornadoes, the state’s literary faithful gathered at the Vanity Fair Golf and Tennis Club in Monroeville on March 31 to celebrate Harper Lee Award recipient E.O. Wilson and Eugene Current-Garcia Award winner Fry Gaillard during the 19th annual Alabama Writers Symposium (AWS). READ MORE…
The Alabama Writers Hall of Fame will induct nine authors in its second class this fall. Jeanie Thompson, executive director of The Alabama Writers’ Forum, a co-founder of the Hall of Fame, said the next class will again represent authors from a broad range of Alabama history.
The 2016 inductees include one born in the 18th century, one born in the late 19th century and seven born in the 20th century. Four of these are living and are invited to the September 29th event in Tuscaloosa. READ MORE…
Former U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey, author of several volumes of poetry and a nonfiction meditation on Hurricane Katrina, will receive the Hall-Waters Prize from Troy University in conjunction with the 11th annual Alabama Book Festival on April 23. The Hall-Waters Prize was endowed by late Troy alumnus Dr.Wade Hall, an author, former member of the faculty at the University of Florida, and professor emeritus of English at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ken. Hall died in September. READ MORE…
The Alabama Alliance for Arts Education (AAAE) and the Alabama Arts Advocacy Commission (AAAC) will present Celebrating Alabama ARTS, a festive evening honoring Alabamians who have made a difference in the Arts. The event takes place on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, 6 p.m. at the Capital City Club, 201 Monroe St., Montgomery. Hors d’oeuvres & a cash bar will be available. Tickets are $50 in advance, $75 at the door. READ MORE…
To celebrate its twenty-first year of honoring student writers, the 2016 Alabama High School Literary Arts Awards and Scholarship Competition (HSLAA) went through a bit of a metamorphosis. As the Forum moves toward online submission for all award categories, it limited this year’s competition to the Senior Portfolio Scholarship—with seven recipients—and the outstanding student literary magazines. Also new this year was a luncheon to honor the students, their families, teachers, and guests. READ MORE…
The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences, along with the journalism department, has named historian and author Dr. Harvey Jackson III, winner of the 2016 Clarence Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing. Jackson received the award at a luncheon on March 4 at the Hotel Capstone in Tuscaloosa. READ MORE…
Marlin “Bart” Barton has been named the first recipient of the Truman Capote Prize for Short Fiction by an Alabama Writer. The prize will be given during the annual The Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville at Alabama Southern Community College on March 31-April 1.
“I've always loved Capote's work, especially his stories,” said Barton, “and I'm of course thrilled by this news.” READ MORE…
The author lineup for the 2016 Alabama Book Festival on April 23 in Montgomery’s Old Alabama Town includes a Pulitzer Prize winner, a former NASA aerospace engineer, and popular newspaper columnists. More than fifty authors will be part of the 11th annual event, which takes place at Montgomery’s historic Old Alabama Town and will help celebrate the Year of Alabama Makers. Presenters at the festival include authors who will be familiar to many. Books by festival authors will be available for purchase courtesy of Books-a-Million. READ MORE…
The 11th annual Alabama Book Festival will be held in historic downtown Montgomery at Old Alabama Town on Saturday, April 23, 2016, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The free public event is the state’s premier book festival, with more than 4,000 people from around Alabama and the South converging on the capital city to meet and mingle with forty-five celebrated authors.
Author readings will be followed by book signings, giving attendees the opportunity to purchase books and get to know their favorite writers. The children’s activity area will feature storytelling, arts and crafts, and fishing for books. READ MORE…
I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.
Nelle Harper Lee shied from publicity after her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was published to great acclaim in 1960. She avoided the press when her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, was released—amid some controversy—in 2015. She could have answered the questions, cleared the debate. She didn’t. It’s not that Lee was reclusive or snobbish. She was just plain folks. And just plain folks don’t discuss their successes.
People in her hometown of Monroeville treated her likewise—just plain folk. They’d see her puttering around downtown or eating breakfast in her favorite fast food joint, but that was just neighbor Nelle. No reason to get excited.
Lee died in her sleep at the Meadows, an assisted living facility, in Monroeville, on the morning of Friday, February 19, 2016. She was 89. READ MORE…
Mark your calendars for the 19th Annual The Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, March 31-April 1, 2016. This year’s theme is The Elephant in the Room. Nobody’s talking about it, but everyone knows it’s there. Are you brave enough to bring up the obvious or just Southern enough to try sweeping it under your grandmother’s braided rag rug? Either way, you won’t want to miss E.O. Wilson’s timely observations on the environment, Kirk Curnutt’s eye on Aphrodite, Kim Cross’s emotional stories of loss and survival, and Greg Neri’s whole new look at the childhood friendship of Monroeville’s own writing titans. READ MORE…
On Monday, February 15, 2016, students from high schools all over the state converged in Montgomery to compete in the Alabama finals of the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Competition. Students, parents, and teachers arrived at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival to recite and to hear the poems. These students, already winners in their own regions, gave moving renditions of poetry from well-known poets such as Jimmy Santiago Baca, Mark Doty, Phillis Wheatley, and Matthew Arnold. First place went to Raina Versa, a sophomore at New Century Technology High School in Huntsville. READ MORE…
The Alabama Humanities Foundation (AHF) is partnering with the Alabama Press Association (APA) to present Pulitzer Prize-focused programming at APA's Journalism Summit and winter convention in Tuscaloosa on Feb. 19. The partnership and program are part of a $24,000 grant awarded to AHF from the Pulitzer Prize Board to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes.
"We are blessed in this state to have many Pulitzer Prize winners, and we intend to showcase them and the works that earned them the nation's highest journalistic achievement award," said Alabama Humanities Foundation Executive Director Armand DeKeyser. READ MORE…
The Alabama Humanities Foundation (AHF) elected a former Forum board member and Huntsville-based biotechnology executive as its new chair. AHF elected Lynne Berry, vice president of Advancement for HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, as its new chair. Berry served on the board of the Alabama Writers’ Forum in 2009 and 2010. READ MORE…
Alabama Poet Laureate and Writers Hall of Fame inductee Andrew Glaze died in his sleep at home in Birmingham on February 7. He was 95.
Governor Robert Bentley commissioned Glaze as the eleventh Poet Laurette at a ceremony in the Old Supreme Court Archives in the State Capitol in November 2012. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame in June 2015. READ MORE...
The Alabama State Council on the Arts makes cash awards to individual writers in the literary arts based on merit of work, career achievement, career potential, and service to the state. The Fellowships recognize artistic excellence as well as professional commitment and maturity. It is intended to contribute to the further development of the literary artist and the advancement of his or her professional career. Applicants are encouraged to be as specific as possible about the proposed use of fellowship funds. Applications must be submitted electronically via eGRANT by 4:45 p.m. March 1, 2016. READ MORE…
The 2016 Mid-Winter Writers Conference will meet on February 27, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at Seddon Baptist Church in Pell City. Early registration is $60, $25 for students.
This year’s conference will include two keynotes, a panel discussion, highly qualified presenters, and eighteen workshops to choose from Regardless of your genre, there’s bound to be something there for you. READ MORE…
South Arts seeks grant panelists
South Arts is searching for leaders in the presenting field from its nine-state region to serve as panelists for grant programs. In partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, South Arts supports multiple funding programs through the South Arts Fund. Touring grants support performing arts and literary arts presenting organizations for engagements by guest touring artists from outside of the presenter's state. Eligible projects (theater, music, opera, musical theater, dance and literature) include publicly accessible performances or readings and educational activities that provide opportunities for diverse audiences to participate in the arts.
Submitted panelist nominations are held for consideration for two years. Regional Touring Grants Panelists should submit nominations by March 15, and Literary Arts Grants Panelists should submit nominations by June 15. To submit a nomination, please complete the online form. Please contact Nikki Estes at (404) 874-7244 ext 16 with questions or for details.
On Saturday, January 30, 8:30am – 3:30 pm at Wallace Community College in the Hank Sanders Technology Building in Selma, Alabama, the Black Belt Community Foundation (BBCF) with the support of the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) will present the Stronger Festivals in Alabama’s Black Belt Workshop to aid community festival planners across the Alabama Black Belt region. READ MORE…
The Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) awarded grants totaling $368,938 at its December meeting. The Council makes grants to non-profit organizations, schools, universities, cities, and a wide range of community groups. ASCA funds are matched by contributions from businesses, individuals, local government, and earned income by the grantee. Arts programs assisted by Council grants have a track record of enhancing community development, education, cultural tourism, and overall quality of life in virtually all regions of the state. The next deadline for the submission of grant applications is March 1, 2016 for Individual Fellowships and Art and Cultural Facilities, covering activities taking place between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017.
Literary grants were awarded to WORD UP!/Birmingham Public Library Foundation, Bard & Brews/ Birmingham Public Library Foundation, and the 19th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium.
Among the reappointments to the Council is Forum Board member Julie Friedman. READ MORE…
The Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) Young Writers’ Literary Awards is open to all Alabama students in grades 6 – 8. Categories include poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. First Place: $100; Second Place: $75; Third Place: $50. Deadline: February 28, 2016.
ASFA’s Aspiring Minds Poetry Contests are designed to spotlight talented high school poets in specific areas of the state. Region 1: Lauderdale, Colbert, and Lawrence; Region 2: Birmingham City Schools; Region 3: Hale, Perry, Greene, Tuscaloosa, Bibb, and Marengo.
Students: Do you love stories—writing them, watching them, dreaming them up? Have you written poems you’ve never shown anyone? Does the thought of reading a new book excite you more than just about anything else? Then these half-day camp are for you. Pick either the morning or afternoon session; these camps are perfect for mixing and matching with ASFA’s other half-day camps this week! In either session, ASFA’s award-winning Creative Writing faculty will introduce rising 6 – 12th grade students to the fundamentals of poetry and prose, offer generative prompts and provide constructive feedback. Other sessions include spoken word/slam poetry and filmmaking. Tuition includes a writing journal, an anthology of work created during the week, and a daily snack. COMPLETE GUIDELINES…
Noted biologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O. Wilson has been selected to receive the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2016. The award is made to a living, nationally recognized Alabama writer who has made a significant, lifelong contribution to Alabama letters. Wilson will receive the honor during the Awards Dinner at the The Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, Alabama, on March 31, 2016. READ MORE…
The Forum is making a change to this year’s Alabama High School Literary Arts Awards and Scholarship Competition as we move toward online submission for all categories. Since we need a year to complete this process, we are downsizing to two submission categories for 2016, still offering the Senior Portfolio awards—with 7 this year—and the literary magazines competition. As a result, we will extend the deadline to January 31, 2016. READ MORE…
Birmingham Public Library celebrates Alabama’s Poet Laureate Andrew Glaze
The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) presents an exhibit of photographs and memorabilia of Andrew Glaze, Alabama’s Poet Laureate. The exhibit opens on November 6 and runs through December 31 at the Central Library located at 2100 Park Place.
Further celebrating Glaze’s newest published collection of poetry, local poets will honor Glaze in two readings in November: BPL’s Bards & Brews Open Mic on November 6, 2015, at the Central Library (honorary readings during half-time) and The Nitty Gritty Magic City poetry group on November 8, 2015, at The Desert Island Supply Company. READ MORE…
Addressing the Writing Our Stories audience, DYS Executive Director Steven Lafrenier said, “Having arts programs in the schools is important. These programs give students a chance to take a break from academics to discover what they have inside that they may not have known that they had before. It’s important that we're here today. It’s important to celebrate these young writers. ” READ MORE…
“How do we pull this thing off called ‘life’?” asked Christopher Thomas, a self-described entrepreneur, addressing the assembled students, guests, faculty, and staff in the Chapel on the Department of Youth Services Mt. Meigs Campus for the eighteenth annual Writing Our Stories (WOS) anthology release on October 22. “Successful people read.”
Writer, educator, and literary philanthropist Wade Hall died on September 26. He was 81. A native of Union Springs, Alabama, Hall moved to Louisville, Kentucky, in 1962 after serving a two-year stint in the U.S. Army in the mid-fifties. In Louisville, he taught English and chaired the English and Humanities/Arts programs at Kentucky Southern College and Bellarmine University. He has also taught at the University of Illinois and the University of Florida. He holds degrees from Troy State University (BS), the University of Alabama (MA), and the University of Illinois (PhD). In 2006, he retired to Union Springs with his longtime partner, Gregg Swem. Hall is the author of books, monographs, articles, plays, and reviews relating to Kentucky, Alabama, and Southern history and literature. His most recent books include A Visit with Harlan Hubbard; High Upon a Hill: A History of Bellarmine College; A Song in Native Pastures: Randy Atcher’s Life in Country Music; and Waters of Life from Conecuh Ridge. Other writings include hundreds of articles, poems, essays and reviews published in historical and scholarly journals as well as popular magazines and newspapers.
"Dr. Wade Hall made his commitment to the appreciation of Southern literature visible by endowing the Hall-Waters Prize, named after his parents, at Troy University,” said Kirk Curnutt, Forum Board member and chair of the English Department at Troy, Montgomery. “Every time it was my honor to organize the event honoring the recipient, I looked forward to working with Dr. Hall. His enthusiasm for great writing, readily apparent in his own work, was infectious. I'll miss him deeply."
Hall was featured in the Fall 2007 issue of First Draft.
(photo by Jamie Martin)
Alabama poet Ashley M. Jones will receive a 2015 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, given annually to six women writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers. Celebrating its 21st year, the Rona Jaffe Awards have helped many women build successful writing careers by offering encouragement and financial support at a critical time. The Awards are $30,000 each and will be presented to the six recipients on September 17, 2015, in New York City. READ MORE…