Ala. Writers' Forum Newsletter May 2009
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AWS organizers Lee Taylor (left), Melinda Byrd-Murphy, and Donna Estill present ASCC president John Johnson with a Frank Fleming bronze. (photo by Tom Mason)
The Alabama Writers Symposium (AWS) celebrated a bittersweet twelfth anniversary April 30-May 2 on the campus of Alabama Southern Community College (ASCC) in Monroeville . While audiences applauded Harper Lee Award recipient Rick Bragg, Eugene Current-Garcia Award recipient John Hafner, keynote speaker Tim Dorsey, singer/songwriter Allison Moorer, and the many poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, and scholars who participated in the event, AWS staff and long-time conference goers said farewell to ASCC president John Johnson and Donna Estill, Humanities Division Chair and Assistant Director of the Alabama Center for the Literary Arts.
Johnson will retire at the end of spring semester after serving as president of ASCC for twenty years. He was instrumental in establishing the Alabama Writers Symposium and the Alabama Center for Literary Arts on the ASCC campus.
"Creating and hosting the Alabama Writers Symposium for the last twelve years has been a labor of love and a joy for Alabama Southern," said Johnson. "Annually, we pay homage to the great legacy of Harper Lee and Truman Capote by recognizing Alabama 's disti nguished writers and literary scholars. The annual pilgrimage to Monroeville , the Literary Capital of Alabama, inspires readers, scholars, and current writers to share the bond created by literature."
"In today's world, the word 'visionary' is thrown around a lot-to the point that I rarely believe it about a person," said Lee Taylor, ASCC Vice President for Learning/Academic Affairs, "but in the case of John Johnson, not only would I describe him as a visionary, but also as a mind reader. He not only sees what should be-and the exact steps that need to be taken to get there-he sees potential in humans.... I would like to personally thank him for the opportunity to be a part of something so completely magical, to have met so many extraordinary people over the years, and for the opportunity to observe, day after day, the examples of a true leader-one who is visionary, optimistic, and bold."
Taylor presented Johnson with a special Frank Fleming bronze of the old Monroe County Courthouse clock tower, typically reserved for recipients of the Harper Lee and Eugene Current-Garcia Awards.
Estill will also leave in June to assume duties as Dean of Instruction at Fort Scott Community College in Fort Scott , Kansas . "I have loved getting to know Alabama in a whole new way, through the amazing writers and scholars who breathe life into my home state, " said Estill. "This is an exciting move for me, but I am deeply saddened about leaving my literary family and my Alabama Southern family."
During the Friday awards luncheon, Bragg and Hafner-both known for their witticisms-brought levity to the dais.
"Don Noble is my acid test," said Bragg, referring to the host of the literary talk show Bookmark. "But he likes everything I write. One day, I'm going to write a book that Don Noble doesn't like, and then I'm going to leave the country."
In his acceptance speech, Hafner quipped, "After next year, I'm going to retire from Spring Hill College . With the proceeds from this award, I plan to purchase a hammock and a huge stack of really trashy novels, get a bottle of bourbon, and hire someone to fan me."
The Harper Lee and Eugene Current-Garcia Awards carry a cash prize and the Frank Fleming bronze. The honors are funded by George F. Landegger, Alabama River Pulp Company, Inc.
Willie King (photo by Joel Beeson)
The Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) will honor eight outstanding Alabamians at the 2009 Celebration of the Arts awards ceremony on May 13 at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre, Renaissance Hotel & Spa in downtown Montgomery . The honors recognize Alabama artists for their work and contribution to the arts in Alabama , across the United States , and beyond.
Offering his congratulations to this year's recipients, Governor Bob Riley said, "I commend these special Alabamians for their efforts, time, and investment to im prove the quality of life for all citizens of our great state. They join an outstanding list of other luminaries who have been recognized by the State Council on the Arts over the past thirty years."
This year's recipients include noted artists, arts philanthropists, and arts educators. Their contributions over a sustained period have greatly enhanced the cultural landscape in Alabama . This year's recipients are Kathryn Tucker Windham, Selma, The Alabama Living Legacy Award; Dot Moore, Guntersville, The Jonnie Dee Little Lifetime Achievement Award; Beth Nielsen Chapman, Montgomery/Nashville, Alabama's Distinguished Artist Award; Dr. Mabry Miller, Huntsville, Governor's Arts Award; Hugh Williams, Auburn, Governor's Arts Award; Alvin Sella, Tuscaloosa, Governor's Arts Award, Ward Swingle, Mobile/France, Governor's Arts Award; and Willie King, Old Memphis, The Alabama Folk Heritage Award.
ASCA Executive Director Al Head said, "This awards program is an opportunity for the state of Alabama to recognize some exceptional individuals who earned significant achievement and have brought great credit to their respective communities and to our state through their work."
(l-r) Al Head, ASCA Executive Director and Ralph Frohsin, ASCA Chairman, look on as Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and Massimo Mallegni, Mayor of Pietrasanta, Italy , prepare to make Sister City documents official. (Photo by Barbara Reed)
From April 16-May 2, Pietrasanta, Italy, brought to Alabama a group of sculptors,20artisans, musicians, and dancers; four exhibitions; film presentations; and a delegation of city officials as part of an international cultural exchange, hosted by the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA). Pietrasanta is a major center in the production of both stone and cast sculpture, as well as a variety of other art processes. Michelangelo worked in the area using Carrara marble from the mountains above the town, leading to the theme of this year's exchange: Michelangelo and His Heirs. Events of the exchange focused in Montgomery , where a Sister City program was signed and celebrated on April 29. In Sylacauga a Marble Festival took place with a Pact of Friendship ceremony on April 28. The two-week Marble Festival in Sylacauga included exhibitions and an opportunity for sculptors to carve with an Italian master. Italian artists and musicians participated in the Magic City Art Connection in Birmingham and attended the production of To Kill a Mockingbird in Monroeville .
According to ASCA Executive Director Al Head, "Even though separated by great distance, language, and history, the State of Alabama and the City of Pietrasanta , Italy , have much to share and celebrate. Our people appreciate great art, know the arts elevate the joy of living, and value culture as an essential element of community life. Our20common threads bring us together and our differences present opportunities to learn from one another."
In the summer of 2008, Alabama artists, musicians, and exhibitions travelled to Italy for a series of events focusing on the Civil Rights history of Alabama . This event was featured in the Fall 2008 issue of First Draft.
Gin Phillips (photo by Brad Daly)
The 2009 conference of the Alabama Writers' Conclave will convene July 17-19 at the Hilton Birmingham Perimeter Park Hotel. Faculty members Thomas Lakeman, Pamela Duncan, Peter Huggins, and Gloria Ballard will teach hands-on workshops in the areas of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction travel writing.
Friday night features members of the Mississippi Writers Guild, performing their one-act play STEPS. The play puts literary giants Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and others on the steps of a brownstone in New York City . Saturday night's keynote address will feature Gin Phillips, whose book The Well and the Mine recently received the Barnes & Noble Discover Award.
Contest results will be announced following the final workshop Sunday morning.
Sight Unseen by Rich Curtis
Multimedia artist Rich Curtis was recently named the winner of the Helen Keller International Prize. The major art prize was established in Scotland with funds donated by Helen Keller. Curtis, from the Muscle Shoals area, was one of more than 150 artists who submitted work for the award. Keller grew up in nearby Tuscumbia.
His exhibit-Sight Unseen-received the £1,500 prize and a trophy at a special ceremony in Glasgow . His twenty textured paintings were designed to be felt as well as seen. Curtis has worked with students from the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, playing them music and asking them to respond by drawing marks on paper. He has also worked with students in Writing Our Stories as a visiting writer.
Keller visited Scotland in 1933 as part of an awareness-raising tour which took her and her teacher Annie Sullivan around the world. In Scotland , Keller received an honorary degree from the University of Glasgow and set up a trust fund to be used for the interests of other deaf and blind people.
Curtis' exhibition ran at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and at Sense Scotland 's Touchbase Centre.
The Encyclopedia of Alabama (EOA) needs writers who have a keen interest in local and state history, culture, and events; are familiar with conducting research in reliable print and Web-based sources; and are able to work with a predetermined set of guidelines and article format.
EOA is adding entries on topics in the following areas: county seats; the largest and second largest cities in each county, not including county seats; local figures who have had a significant impact statewide and nationally, for example, an area resident elected to a federal office; events, festivals, historical sites, etc. that draw statewide and nationwide visitors and attention.
Suggestions about other possible entries are encouraged, as long as they also come with an author suggestion and fit EOA's current needs. Please visit the EOA Web site before you volunteer for or suggest a topic to make sure that it is not already covered in an existing entry specifically or as part of another entry.
EOA is an online resource offering original, edited articles on Alabama 's history, culture, geography, and natural environment. It was recently name by Library Journal as a "best of free reference."
If you are interested in writing for EOA, contact Pat Kaetz, managing editor, at KAETZJP@... or 334-844-4007.
The Alabama Writers' Forum (AWF) is offering Whatever Remembers Us: An Anthology of Alabama Poetry with new memberships or membership renewals during May. This hardcover edition, edited by Alabama Poet Laureate Sue Brannan Walker and J. William Chambers and published by Negative Capability Press, is a $30 value. The book offers 150 selections of Alabama 's finest poetry.
The first twenty readers who phone to reserve a copy will receive the book as a premium. Then simply click JOIN on the AWF homepage, print and complete the form, and mail it with a check or money order to the AWF office, P.O. Box 4777 , Montgomery , AL 36103-4777 . Or renew by credit card. Reserved books will be mailed upon receipt of the membership fee.
Remember, to take advantage of this offer, please respond by May 31. For more information, phone toll free 1-866-901-1117 or e-mail writersforum@....
May reviews feature new poetry from Jeanie Thompson, Louie Skipper, Sebastian Matthews, and Vanessa A. Jackson Austin; fiction by Kathryn Stockett; and nonfiction by Warren St. John, Steve Dupont, and Mary Lois Timbes.
Each month First Draft Reviews Online features reviews of books by Alabama authors, books about our state, and books by local publishers. Each review offers a Web link to authors, publishers, and reviewers when available. The page also features a searchable archive to benefit readers, students, and scholars.
While our editorial board plans the fall magazine, review your Spring 2009 issue of First Draft. The issue offers a cover story by Don Noble on Rick Bragg, this year's Harper Lee Award winner. The magazine also explores the nature of chapbooks in a feature by Jennifer Horne. Carolyn Haines and Jim Murphy discuss literary community in their respective stories on writing groups and literary festivals. Glenny Brock takes a look at recent films born in our state. And Philip Deaver offers his musings on poet William Matthews.
In addition, read about the 2008 Writing Our Stories book release celebrations and look for the popular Board Member's Page, written for this issue by Daryl Brown of the University of North Alabama .
The Spring 2009 issue again features Greetings, Salutations, and Goodwill, correspondence from our members, associates, and readers. We want to hear from you. Submit such letters to Managing Editor Danny Gamble at gambledanny@....
First Draft mails to AWF members in good standing. Make certain your