• Novelist Daniel Wallace named 2019 Harper Lee Award Winner

    MONTGOMERY, Ala.— Daniel Wallace, acclaimed author of “Big Fish,” has been selected to receive the 2019 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year.

    The award is given to a living, nationally recognized Alabama writer who has made a significant lifelong contribution to Alabama letters. Wallace will receive the honor during the Awards Luncheon at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, Alabama, on April 26, 2019.

    “Receiving the Harper Lee Award makes me so happy.” said Daniel Wallace. “I’ve lived a long time away, but my imagination never left Alabama. All my stories happen there, and it’s where all of my characters live and die. Thank you, Alabama. This is such an honor.”

    Wallace is the author of six novels, including “Big Fish” (1998), “Ray in Reverse” (2000), “The Watermelon King” (2003), “Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Musician” (2007), “The Kings and Queens of Roam” (2013), and most recently “Extraordinary Adventures” (May 2017). His children’s book, published in 2014, and for which he did both the words and the pictures, is called “The Cat’s Pajamas.”

    In 2003 “Big Fish” was adapted and released as a major motion picture and then in 2013, according to Wallace, “the book and the movie were mish-mashed together and became a Broadway musical.” His novels have been translated into over two-dozen languages. Many of his novels, short stories, and essays are taught in high schools and colleges throughout the country. 

    Daniel Wallace was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, where he attended Birmingham University School and Altamont. He is the J. Ross MacDonald Distinguished Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his alma mater, where he directs the Creative Writing Program.

    According to Jay Lamar, Executive Director of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission “Daniel Wallace has captivated readers’ imaginations from his first amazing, unconventional, but deeply true novel, “Big Fish,” to his most recent, the surprising and funny “Extraordinary Adventures.”

    “The native son of a state acknowledged for its tale-telling proclivities, Wallace has taken the craft to new places with humor, warmth, and an abundance of optimism, so needed in the world,” Lamar said.

    “His stories are beautifully crafted, rich, and accessible and so important because they enlarge the human repertoire of identity, love, and expression,” Lamar said. “It is hard to think of a more appropriate writer to receive the Harper Lee Award, nor a more appropriate time than this, the bicentennial year of Sharing Our Stories.”

    Alabama literary expert Don Noble, popular host of APTV’s BookMark, says Daniel Wallace is a comic genius, the Mark Twain of Alabama, mixing serious social/cultural commentary with a singular vision. “He is best known for “Big Fish” partly because that novel has been made into a hit movie and a Broadway musical, but several other novels are just as worthy,” Noble said.

    "Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician" blends the realistic with the magical while “The Kings and Queens of Roam" mixes the real with the mythological. His most recent novel, ”Extraordinary Adventures," set in Birmingham, is a warm, perfectly accessible story of loneliness and possibility right here and in our present moment, according to Noble, who regularly reviews books for Alabama Public Radio.

    Anita Miller Garner, Professor of English Emeritus, University of North Alabama, who has observed Wallace’s literary ascent, said, “We in North Alabama are extremely excited that Daniel Wallace has been selected as the 2019 recipient of the Harper Lee Award. Alabamians love the novel “Big Fish” and still love to visit the set near Wetumpka where the movie adaptation was filmed.

    “But fewer Alabamians may be aware of what a dedicated, accomplished writer Wallace has been in multiple genres,” Garner said. “Not only has he written a best-selling novel, but he has also excelled as a writer of drama and memoir. Fewer still may know of Wallace's humor writing and cartoons or his commitment to promoting excellence in craft among his colleagues and students of writing. He has deep family roots and many devoted fans here in North Alabama. We are delighted this award showcases Wallace's lifetime achievement as a writer.”

    During the two-day symposium, Wallace will read from his work in the Monroe County Courthouse and be available to participants to talk about his work and sign books. Other activities related to Wallace’s award, along with the complete list of authors, will be announced soon.

    The Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year, presented annually at Coastal Alabama Community College during the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, is made possible through a generous grant from George F. Landegger, chairman, Parsons & Whittemore.

    The Alabama Writers’ Forum, a statewide literary arts organization and partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, coordinates the process to select the Harper Lee Award recipient annually from nominations from the field.

    To register for the Alabama Writers Symposium, contact Alisha Linam at 251-575-8271 or  For more info, visit the website for the Alabama Writers Symposium 2019.

    ​​​​​​​Photo of Daniel Wallace by Iman Woods.

  • Eight distinguished authors will be inducted into the 2018 Alabama Writers Hall of Fame at The University of Alabama’s Bryant Conference Center on May 24.

    This year’s inductees include Winston Groom, Gay Talese, Charles Gaines, Shirley Ann Grau, William Bradford Huie, Wayne Greenhaw, James Haskins and Joseph Glover Baldwin.

    A reception will be held in their honor at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 p.m. The induction ceremony will immediately follow dinner.

    Organizers from the Alabama Center for the Book and the Alabama Writers’ Forum, partners who created the Hall of Fame in 2014, hope to have people from across the state of Alabama in attendance to celebrate authors from their cities and counties.

    “This is a gala event, with individual tickets as well as tables that can be purchased in honor of a past inductee, or to celebrate one of the incoming inductees,” said Jeanie Thompson, Alabama Writers’ Forum executive director. “Individual tickets and sponsor tables are on sale and can be purchased by contacting Emily Burnett at or 205-348-5543,” she said.

    Groom is a UA graduate and grew up in Mobile County. He is best known for his book Forrest Gump which was adapted into a film winning six Academy Awards. He has written short stories, novels, and numerous non-fiction works on diverse subjects including the American Civil War and World War I.

    Talese is a UA graduate and a native of Ocean City, New Jersey, and currently lives in New York City. A best-selling author of 15 books, Talese is well known for his magazine profiles, including “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” published in Esquire. While a student at UA, Talese wrote for the student newspaper, The Crimson-White, serving as the sports editor for his junior and senior years.

    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 staring 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.

    Grau was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and lived much of her childhood in and around Montgomery and Selma. Her book, The Keepers of the House, was awarded the 1965 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Much of her writing centers around stories about women and are often set in the Deep South. Her works include The Black Prince, nominated for the National Book Award in 1956, Evidence of Love, Nine Women and Selected Stories published in 2006.

    Authors being posthumously inducted are Huie, Greenhaw, Haskins and Baldwin.

    Huie, a native of Hartselle, attended UA graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1930. Huie’s books, both fiction and non-fiction, centered around topics related to World War II and the Civil Rights Movement. His works include The Americanization of Emily adapted into a film in 1964 with the same name, The Execution of Private Slovick adapted as a television movie in 1974, and He Slew the Dreamer, written in 1970 about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Greenhaw, born in Sheffield, moved to Tuscaloosa as a young boy. He enrolled at UA and studied under the creative writing professor Hudson Strode He is the author of 22 books, and was a journalist for The New York Times and Times. Greenhaw is known for writing about the Civil Rights Movement including Fighting the Devil in Dixie: How Civil Rights Activists Took on the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama.

    Haskins, a native of Demopolis, received degrees from Georgetown University, Alabama State University, and the University of New Mexico. He wrote more than one hundred books for children and adults, many highlighting the accomplishments of African Americans. His 1977 picture book, The Cotton Club, was used as inspiration for the 1984 movie. He won numerous awards including the Coretta Scott King Award for his book The Story of Stevie Wonder in 1976 and the Alabama Library Association Award for best work for children in 1988.

    Baldwin, a native of Virginia, moved to Alabama in 1836. He practiced law with his brother before being elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1843. While practicing law, he wrote two books of humorous stories, The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi: A Series of Sketches, published in 1853, and Party Leaders, published in 1854.

    Groom, Talese, and Greenhaw have also been honored with the Harper Lee Award for the Distinguished Alabama Writer of the year.

    The Alabama Writers Hall of Fame was founded in 2015 through a partnership between the Alabama Center for the Book, housed in the University Libraries at UA and the Alabama Writers’ Forum, a statewide literary services nonprofit located in Montgomery.

    The Alabama Center for the Book, established in 2001, is an affiliate of the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. The Center supports reading, literacy and other book-related activities in Alabama including the national Letters About Literature reading and writing contest.

    Founded in 1993 to recognize Alabama’s strong literary tradition, the Alabama Writers’ Forum facilitates the practice of literary arts through its services to writers and the general public. With individual and corporate associates, the Forum represents the diverse voices of Alabama’s contemporary writing talent as well as the readers, educators, and state leaders who appreciate them. The Forum is a partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

  • Jesseca Cornelson comments on her experience reviewing new talent in the Senior Portfolio category for the Alabama High School Literary Arts Awards

    “I enjoyed reading all the entries and found the judging difficult because they were all so good.”

    Jesseca Cornelson is an Associate Professor of English at Alabama State University where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Botticelli Magazine, Mid-American Review, Parody, Platte Valley Review, and Salamander. She is an alumna of the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, has twice been a writer-in-residence at the Catskill Center’s Platte Clove Preserve, and is a recipient of a Fellowship in Literary Arts from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

A Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative, “Carried Home” is produced by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the Alabama Writers’ Forum, and Troy Public Radio (WTSU, 89.9 FM in Montgomery and Troy; WRWA 88.7 in Dothan and the Wiregrass; WTJB 91.7 in Columbus and Phenix City) in five short radio documentaries.