Alabama Writers Symposium honors Gay Talese & Dr. Sue Walker

Pictured from left to right: Cynthia Tucker, Julie Hall Friedman, Alabama State Council on the Arts; Gay Talese, Harper Lee Award Winner; Jeanie Thompson, Alabama Writers’ Forum; Sue Brannan Walker, Eugene Current-Garcia Award Winner; Judge John Rochester, Alabama Humanities Foundation; and Kirk Curnutt, Alabama Writers Forum

Cynthia Tucker; Julie Hall Friedman, AL State Council on the Arts; Gay Talese, Harper Lee Award Winner; Jeanie Thompson, AL Writers’ Forum; Sue Brannan Walker, Eugene Current-Garcia Award Winner; Judge John Rochester, AL Humanities Foundation; & Kirk Curnutt, AL Writers Forum

By Mike Qualls, Monroe Journal

Thursday, May 2, 2013

MONROEVILLE – About 150 writers, scholars and community leaders attended the Alabama Writers Symposium’s awards banquet at the Monroeville Community House last Friday to honor Gay Talese and Dr. Sue Walker.

Talese, 81, received the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer, and Walker received the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar. In 1953, after graduating from the University of Alabama with a journalism degree, Talese accepted a job as a copy boy for The New York Times.

In 1964, he published his first book, “The Bridge: The Building of the Verranazo-Narrows Bridge.” Two years later, he wrote the article, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” for Esquire magazine. The article is considered to be one of the most influential American magazine articles of all time, and a pioneering example of new journalism and creative non-fiction.

More recently, in 2008, The Library of America selected Talese’s 1970 account of the Charles Manson murders, “Charlie Manson’s Home on the Range,” for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime. He went on to write numerous books and articles during his career and is still an active writer.

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 recipient must be a writer of national reputation whose work has been recognized by critics, publishers and editors as clearly superior. Evidence of such may be publications in major magazines and literary journals and books published with major houses or reputable smaller literary presses. In addition, the recipient should have received awards, prizes and other accolades from recognized experts in the field of literary arts. This annual award, funded by George F. Landegger, includes a $5,000 cash prize and The Clock Tower Bronze by Frank Fleming.

Harper Lee is the author of one of the best-loved classics of all time, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville. She attended local schools and the University of Alabama. She has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, several honorary degrees, and many other literary awards.

Walker is the Stokes Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama and Director of the Stokes Center for Creative Writing. She was also the Poet Laureate of Alabama from 2003 through 2012. She is a scholar, poet, playwright, professor and publisher of Negative Capability Press. She has nine books of poetry, has edited four national literary anthologies, had work published in more than 30 anthologies, published some 50 critical articles and is known for her work on southern writers Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor and James Dickey as well as published works on Marge Piercy, Margaret Atwood, Richard Eberhart and Karl Shapiro. Her forthcoming book, “The Chiasmic Ecology of James Dickey” will be published this year by Mellen Press. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama where she received a B.S. degree in Education and subsequent M.Ed, M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Tulane University. The annual Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar recognizes and rewards Alabamians who have distinguished themselves as men or women of letters, specifically in scholarly reflection and writing on literary topics. This annual award, which is also funded by Landegger, includes a $5,000 cash prize and The Clock Tower Bronze by Frank Fleming.

Sponsor of this year’s symposium were Alabama Southern Community College, George Landegger, Alabama Humanities Foundation, Alabama State Council on the Arts, Radley’s Fountain Grille and the City of Monroeville. The symposium is a project of the Alabama Center for Literary Arts, which is located at Alabama Southern, and is produced in cooperation with the Alabama Writers’ Forum, Association of College English Teachers of Alabama, Auburn University Center for the Arts and Humanities, Monroe County Heritage Museums and Monroeville/Monroe County Area Chamber of Commerce.

This year’s featured writers and scholars include Rick Bragg, Gay Talese, Cassandra King, Chantel Acevedo, Marlin Barton, Kirk Curnutt, Anita Miller Garner, Peter Huggins, Nancy Dorman-Hickson, Jay Lamar, Lisa Graves Minor, Don Noble, Wendy Reed, Jeanie Thompson, Adam Vines, Sue Walker, Lila Quintero Weaver and Margaret Wrinkle, as well as songwriter Tom Kimmel and artist Betty Kennedy.