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Harper Lee Award

Alabama Writers Awards

The presentations of the Alabama Writers Awards is a highlight of the Monroeville Literary Festival.  The recipient of the Harper Lee Award (named after the author of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird) is chosen by a committee selected by the Festival leadership. The award is funded by the generous sponsorship of Harper Lee LLC. The Truman Capote Prize for Alabama's Distinguished Writer of Literary Non-Fiction or the Short Story is awarded by a selection committee chaired by Dr. Don Noble of Tuscaloosa. This award is made possible by the generous sponsorship of Ms. Dianne Lawson Baker.

The Harper Lee Award
For Alabama's Distinguished Writer

The Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer is awarded each year at the Monroeville Literary Festival, a project of the Monroe County Museum in Monroeville. The annual award recognizes the lifetime achievement of a writer who was born in Alabama or whose literary career developed in the state. The recipient is chosen by a committee selected by the Festival leadership

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2024 - Tom Franklin

Tom Franklin has read from his works and talked about his life as a writer at four previous Monroeville Literary Festivals. He returns this year to receive the Harper Lee Award! He is the New York Times bestselling author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger Award. His previous works include Poachers, Hell at the Breech and Smonk. He teaches in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program. 

Tom Franklin was born and raised in rural Dickinson, Ala. He held various jobs as a struggling writer living in South Alabama, including working as a heavy-equipment operator in a grit factory, a construction inspector in a chemical plant and a clerk in a hospital morgue. In 1997 he received his MFA from the University of Arkansas. His first book, Poachers was named as a Best First Book of Fiction by Esquire and Franklin received a 1999 Edgar Award for the title story.

"I'm so honored to win this award. I grew up about 45 minutes from Monroeville, in Dickinson, Ala., and first read To Kill a Mockingbird in my early twenties," Franklin says. "I couldn't believe she was from Monroeville. I love that book, and the movie of it, and I love coming to Monroeville whenever I can. This will be an especially exciting trip. I'm such a fan of the writers who've won this before. I'm so happy for this honor."

Watch this 2013 conversation with  Don Noble on Bookmark where they discuss his career, writing and books.

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2023
Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She served three terms as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States from 2019-2022. Winner of the 2022 Academy of American Poets Leadership Award, she examines the power of words and how poetry summons us toward justice and healing.

    The author of nine books of poetry, including the highly acclaimed An American Sunrise, several plays and children’s books, and two memoirs, Crazy Brave and Poet Warrior, her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, two NEA fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

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2022
Cynthia Tucker

        Cynthia Tucker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist. Her weekly column, which appears in newspapers around the country, focuses on political and cultural issues, including income inequality, social justice and reform of the public education system.

Tucker has spent most of her career in newspapers, working as a reporter and editor. For seventeen years, she served as editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, overseeing the newspaper’s editorial policies on everything from local elections to foreign affairs. She also worked as a Washington-based political columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

     Cynthia’s first published book, The Southernization of America: A Story of Democracy in the Balance (NewSouth Books, 2/15/2022), co-authored with Frye Gaillard, is a compelling series of linked essays considering the role of the South in shaping America’s current political and cultural landscape. 

Past
Harper Lee Award Winners

1998 - Albert Murray
1999 - Madison Jones
2000 - Helen Norris
2001 - Sena Jeter Naslund
2002 - Mary Ward Brown
2003 - Rodney Jones
2004 - Sonia Sanchez
2005 - Andrew Hudgins
2006 - Wayne Greenhaw
2007 - William "Bill" Cobb
2008 - Rebecca Gilman
2009 - Rick Bragg

2010 - Carolyn Haines

2011 - Winston Groom

2012 - Fannie Flagg

2013 - Gay Talese
2014 - Mark Childress
2015 - Hank Lazer
2016 - E.O. Wilson
2017 - Brad Watson
2018 - Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
2019 - Daniel Wallace
2020 - Patti Callahan Henry
2021 - Angela Johnson

2022 – Cynthia Tucker

2023 – Joy Harjo

2024 – Tom Franklin

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2021
Angela Johnson

Born in Tuskegee, Angela Johnson is a nationally recognized children’s author and poet. Since her first publication in 1989, the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers Award-winning Tell Me a Story, Mama, she has published more than 40 books. Her works include pre-school and picture books, young adult novels, poetry and short stories. She has been recognized with three Coretta Scott King Author Awards, the Printz Award and numerous recognitions from the American and Alabama Library Associations, among others. She was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2003.

Truman Capote Prize

The Truman Capote Prize 
For Distinguished Work in the
Short Story or Literary Non-Fiction

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2024 - Kim Cross

Kim Cross is a New York Times best-selling author and journalist known for meticulously reported narrative nonfiction. A full-time freelance writer, she has bylines in the New York Times, Nieman Storyboard, Outside, Bicycling, Garden & Gun, CNN.com, ESPN.com and USA Today. Kim’s first book, What Stands in a Storm, chronicles the biggest tornado outbreak in history, the April 2011 storm that unleashed 349 tornadoes on 21 states, killing at least 324 people. The book won the Fitzgerald Museum Literary Prize for Excellence in Writing and the American 

Society of Journalists and Authors nonfiction book award.

Her current book is In Light of All Darkness, Inside the Polly Klaas Kidnapping and the Search for America’s Child. Paced like a thriller and full of insider information on the history and science of crime scene investigation, In Light of All Darkness embeds readers in one of the most famous true-crime stories of our generation – the kidnapping of Polly Klaas – a case as pivotal in the history of the FBI as the Unabomber or Oklahoma City bombing.

Don Noble compares Kim Cross' new book to Capote's groundbreaking non-fiction style. "Although this is not a novel, the facts in this meticulous true crime report are as enthralling as they were in Capote’s In Cold Blood, carrying the reader along and showing the emotional effects of the kidnapping and the investigation on everyone involved: family, friends, police. All over the country, millions were emotionally engaged in the search. It is not an exaggeration to say that for a while Polly was “America’s Child.”

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2023 Winner
Michael Martone

       Michael Martone is a widely published writer of short fiction, known for his humor and skillful word play.  Born in Fort Wayne, Ind., he is the author of nearly 30 books and chapbooks. He was a professor at the Program in Creative Writing at the University of Alabama, where he taught from 1996 until his retirement in 2020. He also taught at Iowa State University, Harvard University and Syracuse University.

        Michael Martone’s fiction books include Plain Air; Art Smith; The Moon Over Wapakoneta; Winesburg, Indiana; Four For A Quarter;  Double-wide; Michael Martone; The Blue Guide to Indiana; Seeing Eye; Pensées; Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List; Safety Patrol and Alive and Dead in Indiana.

    Martone has won two NEA Fellowships and a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation. His stories and essays have appeared and been cited in the Pushcart Prize, The Best American Stories and The Best American Essays anthologies.

    His stories have won awards in the Italian Americana fiction contest, the Florida Review Short Story Contest, the Story magazine Short, Short Story Contest, the Margaret Jones Fiction Prize of Black Ice Magazine, and the first World’s Best Short, Short Story Contest.

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2022 Winner
Rheta Grimley Johnson

      Rheta Grimsley Johnson is an award-winning reporter, columnist, and travelogue and memoir writer whose subject matter includes seemingly average southern people whose stories she elevates to the universal. Johnson writes compassionately about the often overlooked and rapidly disappearing contemporary rural South.

       Born in Colquitt, Georgia; she grew up in Montgomery. She attended Auburn University, where she won the National Pacemaker Award, an award for excellence in student journalism, in 1974, while editor of The Auburn Plainsman. She moved to Monroeville in 1975 to work at The Monroe Journal – a launching pad for a career at some of the South’s largest papers: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, and Scripps Howard News Service. 

       One of the longest-running female syndicated columnists in the nation, Rheta Grimsley Johnson wrote a weekly essay for King Features Syndicate of New York that was distributed to about 50 newspapers nationwide. Her words are, in turn, fiery or poignant, touching on people, places and life predicaments, often on subjects not found elsewhere.

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2021 Winner
Allen Wier

Allen Wier has published four novels: Tehano (Southern Methodist University Press, 2006), A Place for Outlaws (Harper & Row, 1989), Departing as Air (Simon & Schuster, 1983), and Blanco (LSU Press, 1978, Avon/Bard 1980, and Harper & Row 1989), and two collections of stories: Late Night, Early Morning (University of Tennessee Press, 2017) and Things About to Disappear (LSU Press, 1978 and Avon/Bard, 1980). He's edited an anthology, Walking on Water and Other Stories (University of Alabama Press, 1996), and co-edited Voicelust, a collection of essays ‘on style in contemporary fiction’ (University of Nebraska Press, 1985). Wier’s fiction, essays, and reviews appear in such publications as The Southern Review, Five Points, The Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, and the New York Times. He was named Travel Writer of the Year 1994 by the Alabama Bureau of Travel.

Past
Truman Capote
Prize Winners

2016 - Marlin Barton

2017 - Michael Knight

2018 - Michelle Richmond
2019 - BJ Hollars

2020 - Charles Gaines
2021 - Allen Wier

2022 – Rheta Grimsley Johnson

2023 – Michael Martone

2024 – Kim Cross

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