A partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts
April 2023 Newsletter
Alabama Writers’ Forum Extends Executive Director Search
The Alabama Writers’ Forum has extended its search for a new executive director to June 1, 2023. The application process is open, and an updated job description can be found here.
To apply, please send a letter of application and resume/CV to Alabama Writers’ Forum Search Committee, Jay Lamar, chair, email@example.com, or by regular mail to Alabama Writers’ Forum Search Committee, PO Box 4777, Montgomery, AL 36103-4777. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Alabama Writers’ Forum was established in 1993 to honor the state’s distinguished literary heritage and support its ongoing, vibrant literary culture. Building on 30 years of success, it is poised to launch its next phase of advocacy and engagement on behalf of Alabama’s vibrant and expansive literary arts.
The Gathering: Alabama Writers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony March 10, 2023
By Edward Journey
Donald L. Gilstrap, Dean of University of Alabama Libraries, succinctly summarized the fifth Alabama Writers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony shortly before it started – “It’s our opportunity,” he said, “to celebrate the many outstanding writers of the state of Alabama.” Indeed, “Celebrate Books” became the unofficial theme of the gathering, co-sponsored by the Alabama Center for the Book and Alabama Writers’ Forum. Michael Pearce, director of Alabama Center for the Book, said “The Alabama Writers Hall of Fame is a living monument to the toil and craft involved in creating lasting literary works that explore the culture and folkways of our great state.”
The Alabama Writers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony took place on Friday, March 10, at the Bryant Conference Center on the University of Alabama campus. The event added eight writers – all of whom were born in Alabama – to an already impressive group of thirty-six previously-inducted literary luminaries who can claim Alabama as part of their legacy.
The evening was an inspiring celebration of books and the people who write them. The 2023 inductees represent award-winning works spanning many literary genres and stylistic approaches. Inductees include Tom Franklin, author of fiction that is praised for its “great sense of place and character development”; scholar Trudier Harris, whose nonfiction, essays, and memoirs focus on an impressive spectrum of the Black experience and literary tradition; Angela Johnson, a writer of books and poetry that are primarily crafted for young audiences, but appeal to readers of all ages; journalist Howell Raines, whose work crosses over into fiction, nonfiction, and memoir; Michelle Richmond, the writer of “crisp and exact” fiction and essays that are praised for their emotional intelligence; and Daniel Wallace, whose transcendently down-to-earth work in many genres illustrates his contention that “life is hard, and laughter is good.”
Two much-missed Alabama writers were inducted posthumously. The unlikely career of “Mobile’s Renaissance Man” Eugene Walter (1921-1998) was international in scope and far-reaching in influence – he knew everybody, it seems. Kathryn Tucker Windham (1918-2011) began her writing career in newspaper journalism and achieved lasting affection and acclaim as a storyteller, photographer, and chronicler of ghosts and Southern life.
This induction was especially memorable, having been postponed due to the pandemic. Julie Hall Friedman, 2023 Gala Chair and a member of the Alabama Writers’ Forum Executive Committee, said, “I felt that because we had to delay the event, the mood was joyful and positive because we were able to be back together again.” At the pre-induction reception, the Northridge Quartet of Tuscaloosa City Schools provided string music as people met again after a long time or for the first time. Because of the nature of the event, my pre-dinner conversations tended to be peppered with references to current trends from extremists across the political spectrum to try to ban, censor, tamper with, and otherwise threaten written texts. Such concerns, however, did not dampen the spirit of celebration as honorees, their families and friends, and lovers of the book paid homage to unfettered achievement in the literary arts.
For the full feature story, click here.
Alabama Literary News
University of West Alabama’s Livingston Press announces the Changing Light Prize for a novel-in-verse. The award comes with $500 and publication. There is no entry fee. The deadline is May 25. Send a Word attachment including contact information, brief bio, and letter to Joe Taylor, email@example.com. Please list Novel-in-Verse on your subject line. For more information about the press and its catalogue, visit Livingston Press.
This March the Monroeville Literary Festival celebrated two distinguished writers. Three-time U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo received the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer while acclaimed short fiction writer Michael Martone was awarded the Truman Capote Prize for Distinguished Work in the Short Story or Literary Nonfiction. Both writers were on hand in Monroeville to receive their awards and speak. Molly Lee, niece of Harper Lee, presented the award named in honor of her aunt. Frye Gaillard, Harper Lee Award selection committee member, called Harjo “one of the great American writers of our time” and noted the Muscogee (Creek) poet and musician’s “deep ties, familial and spiritual, to the state of Alabama.” Don Noble, chair of the Capote Prize selection committee, noted, “Michael Martone is one of America’s funniest short story writers and one of our most prolific and faithful. Never even tempted by the novel, he has written 14 volumes of stories, hundreds of them, most blurring the line between dubious fact and invented fiction, and all delightful.”
In February, African Town co-authors Irene Latham and Charles Waters received the 2023 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The award, established in 1982 by O’Dell, the author of Island of the Blue Dolphins and more than 20 other books for children and young adults, encourages writers to focus on historical fiction. The award committee called African Town “a powerful and stunning novel-in-verse.”
A brand-new website focused on capturing and preserving history and on community and character building, The Story Acorn is designed for use by schools and individuals who want to get local stories down and share them. Created by writer and filmmaker Billy Field, the website focuses on teaching students to gather stories from their communities and share them through poems, fiction, art, music, and podcasts. A series of well-produced films lead students in guided instruction on writing, songwriting, conducting oral histories, and podcasting. Podcasts feature Alabama School of Fine Arts teacher and poet T.J. Beitelman, AWF teaching writer Marlon Barton, Alabama Poet Laureate Ashley Jones, songwriter Sarah Lee Langford, and University of Alabama history professor Julia Brock. The site also features an extensive collection of podcasts on Tuscaloosa’s Bloody Sunday, as well as an interview with Civil Rights activist Rev. H.K. Matthews, produced by students at T. R. Miller High School in Brewton, AL. The Story Acorn celebrates the power of story while helping teachers fill a gap in historical resources using innovative and compelling forms.
Well Read Magazine is out with its new issue. An interview with Harper Lee Award winner and best-selling writer Carolyn Haines, a feature story on Donna Everhart, and an abundance of new work fill the pages of the “literary journal for readers, writers, and booklovers everywhere.” Well Read also offers timely information about events and opportunities, such as Murder Creek Writing Retreat. Well Read also offers a companion YouTube channel. Visit Well Read Magazine to see more.
Alabama Writers’ Forum teaching writer Salaam Green is leading workshops around the state for Alabama Humanities Alliance’s Humanities and Healthcare initiative. Designed for healthcare professionals, the workshops use literature and poetry, notably Kwoya Maples’ extraordinary collection, Mend, to foster understanding and empathy with patients and colleagues. Green is also hitting the road for National Poetry Month and speaking about innovation and creativity for health and wellness as an AHA Road Scholar. Check AHA’s Road Scholar tab and the AWF calendar for upcoming talks.
Green and Alabama Poet Laureate Ashley Jones, who serves on the AWF board, were featured along with Tina Mozelle Braziel, Halley Cotton, and Jessica Temple in Alabama The Beautiful magazine’s feature “Alabama Poets: Celebrating National Poetry Month.”
The Magic City Poetry Festival is also celebrating National Poetry Month with a full month of programming. From Poetry in the Park at the Birmingham Civil Rights Monument to a conversation between Connecticut Poet Laureate Marilyn Nelson and acclaimed—and Alabama born—poet Harryette Mullin to a workshop with “be gentle with black girls” author Tania De’Shawn and Jones, the month is brimming with opportunities to hear, read, and write poetry. Check the Magic City Poetry Festival and the AWF calendar for events.