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 selected through a process coordinated by the Alabama Writers’ Forum, a statewide literary arts organization funded by the Alabama State Council on the Arts. The recipient of the Eugene Current- Garcia Award is selected by the Association of College Teachers of Alabama (ACETA), a diverse organization representing faculty at all of Alabama’s two-year, four-year, and doctoral institutions. Both awards are funded by the generous sponsorship of Mr. George F. Landegger. 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, hosted by Coastal Alabama Community College 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 selected through a process coordinated by the Alabama Writers’ Forum, a statewide literary arts organization founded in appreciation of Alabama’s strong literary heritage with a commitment to its continuation. 

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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

        After leaving the newspaper, Tucker spent three years as a visiting professor at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she was also a Charlayne Hunter-Gault writer-in-residence. She is currently the journalist-in-residence at the University of South Alabama, where she teaches in the English and Political Science departments.  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.  Tucker and Gaillard will be among the select group of authors presenting their books at the 2022 Monroeville Literary Festival with readings and discussions in the courtroom made famous by the film version of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Read more here.

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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.

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2020
Patti Callahan Henry

A New York Times bestselling author of fifteen novels including the critically-acclaimed historical novel, Becoming Mrs. Lewis – The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis, Patti Callahan Henry is also a USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and the Globe and Mail bestseller. Henry hosts the popular seven-part original "Behind the Scenes of Becoming Mrs. Lewis Podcast Series" launched in October 2019. She is also the recipient of The Christy Award — A 2019 Winner "Best Book of the Year."

 

Henry’s novels include Losing the Moon; Where the River Runs; When Light Breaks; Between the Tides; The Art of Keeping Secrets; Driftwood Summer; The Perfect Love Song: A Holiday Story; Coming Up for Air; And Then I Found You; The Stories We Tell; The Idea of Love, The Bookshop at Water’s End, Becoming Mrs. Lewis (written as Patty Callahan), and The Favorite Daughter. In March of 2021, a new historical fiction novel based on the true story of the Steamship Pulaski wreck will be released.

 

Other awards for her fiction include a finalist in the Townsend Prize for Fiction, an Indie Next Pick, an OKRA pick, and a multiple nominee for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Novel of the Year.

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2019
Daniel Wallace

Daniel Wallace is the author of five novels. His first, Big Fish, was made intoa motion picture of the same name by Tim Burton in 2003, and a musicalversion on Broadway in 2013. He is a contributing editor to Garden & Gun magazine and is the J. Ross MacDonald Distinguished Professor ofEnglish at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he teaches anddirects the Creative Writing Program.

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

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

 
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2022 - Rheta Grimsley 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 recognized by the eighth grade that she wanted to become a journalist and began working on her school newspaper at Robert E. Lee High School. 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. In 1989 she wrote Good Grief, the authorized biography of Charles Schulz. In 2008 she published the book Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana and in 2010 came Enchanted Evening Barbi and the Second Coming: A Memoir.  Her work up to that point was recognized and she received the 2010 Clarence Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing. Rheta’s latest book, The Dogs Buried Over the Bridge, uses a parade of beloved dogs to take readers on a colorful journey. It’s not really a dog book in the Old Yeller sense; it’s a personal story that uses dogs as metaphors for love, loss and life.

        Johnson has made her home and creative home base in a remote hollow near the Tennessee River in Northeast Mississippi. From this unlikely perch – and front porch – she has written about politics, Paris, people and two donkeys that one day wandered into the yard. Her latest creative venture was a play about the childhood of Hank Williams, Hiram Becoming Hank, produced in 2016 by the Pell City (Alabama) Players and at the Monroe County Museum in Monroeville by a local cast in 2021.

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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.

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2020 Winner
Charles Gaines

Charles Gaines was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and at the age of ten moved with his family to Birmingham. He received his undergraduate degree from Birmingham-Southern College. His first novel, Stay Hungry, was published in 1972 and focused on the subculture of bodybuilding during the early 1970s. The book was made into a motion picture in 1976 starring Jeff Bridges, Sally Field and, Arnold Schwarzenegger (in his first film). An award-winning writer across multiple genres, Gaines has written other produced screenplays and adaptations, other fiction and numerous articles about fishing and outdoor life in magazines including Outside and Garden and Gun. In 1980, with his friend Hayes Noel, he became a co-creator of the game of paintball. Gaines is a 2018 inductee of the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame.

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2019 Winner
BJ Hollars

B.J. Hollars is the author of several books, most recently The Road South:
Personal Stories of the Freedom Riders, Flock Together: A Love Affair With
Extinct Birds, From the Mouths of Dogs: What Our Pets Teach Us About Life,
Death, and Being Human, as well as a collection of essays, This Is Only A
Test. Additionally, he has also written Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence and the
Last Lynching in America, Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the
University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa,
Dispatches from the Drownings: Reporting the Fiction of Nonfiction, and
Sightings. Hollars serves as a mentor for Creative Nonfiction, and the
founder and executive director of the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild. He is an associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Past
Truman Capote
Prize Winners

2016 - Marlin Barton

2017 - Michael Knight

2018 - Michelle Richmond
2019 - BJ Hollars

2020 - Charles Gaines
2021 - Allen Wier

 

The Eugene Current-Garcia Award
For Alabama's Distinguished Literary Scholar

The Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama's Distinguished Literary Scholar is selected annually by the Association of College English Teachers of Alabama. It is awarded to notable scholars with Alabama roots, or who have made significant contributions to the study of the literary arts in Alabama. It is named in memory of the founding editor of the Southern Humanities Review, Eugene Current-Garcia.

NOTE: The Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama's Distinguished Scholar was presented in Monroeville from 1998 - 2021. The award is still selected and presented by the Association of College English Teachers of Alabama at their annual conference.

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2021 - Alan Gribben

Dr. Alan Gribben devoted forty-five years to university teaching experience and administration, most recently as Professor of English, Auburn University at Montgomery, 1991-2019. He also spent a number of years at the University of Texas at Austin, and he began his teaching career as an English instructor at the University of California at Berkeley.  From 1967 to 1974, Dr. Gribben was an assistant research editor for the Mark Twain Project, Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley. 

Dr. Gribben’s main scholarly work is Mark Twain’s Literary Resources: A Reconstruction of His Library and Reading (3 vols.). Volume One appeared in 2019. This fifty-year project to locate, catalog, and evaluate Mark Twain’s literary resources received praise from Publishers’ Weekly (“scrupulously researched”), Frederick Crews (“masterwork”), Joe B. Fulton (“definitive guide to Mark Twain’s intellectual universe”), Maxine Hong Kingston (“magnificent”), and Kevin Mac Donnell (“a model for all future enquiries into the wellsprings of the creative process”).

Dr. Gribben has been recognized for exceptional classroom teaching and university service. He was the inaugural recipient of the “Excellence Through Diversity Award,” Auburn University at Montgomery, 2015; the “Nance Alumni Professorship,” Auburn University at Montgomery, 2006-09; the “Alumni Faculty Service Award,” Auburn University at Montgomery, 2005; the “Distinguished Research Professorship,” Auburn University at Montgomery, 1998-2001; and the “President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award,” University of Texas at Austin, 1983.

Dr. Gribben was the Editor and Publisher of the Mark Twain Journal: The Author and His Era (scholarly journal), 2009-2020.  Dr. Gribben has been a frequent contributor to scholarly journals.

In 2019 he was awarded the rank of Professor Emeritus by Auburn University at Montgomery. In 2020 he was named Editor Emeritus of the Mark Twain Journal and serves on its editorial board.

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2020
Robert Evans

Author of eight books and hundreds of articles, Dr. Evans’s prolific literary scholarship has advanced the field of Renaissance Studies. Over the years, Dr. Evans has been the recipient of numerous research fellowships and has served as an editor for several journals and more than forty books. Although his scholarship began with a focus on Ben Johnson, his research at the Yale library in 1993 recovered a lost Renaissance author, Martha Moulsworth – a discovery that garnered the attention of the Alabama Humanities Foundation and the inclusion of her poem in two of Norton’s anthologies of literature. Over the years, Dr. Evans’ scholarly inquiry has expanded to include work on Kate Chopin, Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, and most recently, Ralph Ellison.

Just as notable, however, has been his commitment to students, not only as an admired professor, but also as a mentor to more than a hundred graduate students and student writers. While at AUM, he has received numerous awards, including the Faculty Excellence Award, Distinguished Research Professor, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Who’s Who among College Professors nomination, and Professor of the Year by the South Atlantic Association of Departments of English.

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2019 
Christopher Metress

Christopher Metress has published more than one hundred essays and
reviews in such journals as the South Atlantic Quarterly, the Southern
Review, the African-American Review, and Studies in the Novel, as well as in
collections such as The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture and The
Cambridge Companion to American Civil Rights Literature. He has published
six books, including The Lynching of Emmett Till, a university press bestseller
that was featured in news stories in the Washington Post, the New York
Times, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and Nation magazine. He is a
University Professor at Samford University.

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2018
David Cowart

Author of eight scholarly books and over a hundred articles, notes, and reviews, David Cowart is the Louise Fry Scudder Professor Emeritus at the University of South Carolina. He has
held NEH fellowships and Fulbright Distinguished Chairs at the University of Helsinki and the
University of Southern Denmark. A native of Tuscaloosa, Cowart was graduated from Huntsville High School and the University of
Alabama before taking graduate degrees at Indiana University and Rutgers. He also served in both
the Peace Corps (Ethiopia) and the U. S. Army (Republic of Panama).For his book Don DeLillo: The Physics of Language, he received the 2003 SAMLA Award.

Past
Eugene Current-Garcia Award
 
Winners

1998 - Claudia Durst Johnson
1999 - Philip Beidler
2000 - Don Noble
2001 - Bert Hitchcock
2002 - Trudier Harris
2003 - J. William Hutchings
2004 - Benjamin Buford Williams
2005 - Robert "Bob" Halli
2006 - Nancy Anderson
2007 - Elaine Hughes
2008 - Norman MacMillan
2009 - John Hafner

2010 - Ralph Voss
2011 - David Sauer
2012 - William A. Ulmer
2013 - Sue Brannan Walker
2014 - Wayne Flynt
2015 - Eric Sterling
2016 - Frye Gaillard
2017 - Kirk Curnutt
2018 - David Cowart
2019 - Christopher Metress
2020 - Robert Evans
2021 - Alan Gribben