• Alabama Names Garrett Whalen State Champion for Poetry Out Loud

    Montgomery, ALA -- On Monday, February 18, 2019, students from high schools all over the state converged on Montgomery to compete in the Alabama finals of the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Competition. Students, their teachers and parents arrived at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival to hear competing students recite poetry.  These students, already winners in their own regions, gave moving renditions of poetry from well-known poets such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Shakespeare, Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. The students also performed their own original poems about truth and friendship, personal identity and tragic life experiences. It was a day filled with laughter, thoughtfulness and tears, proving to all that Alabama students have the power to speak with voices very much worth hearing.

    First place in the Alabama Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Competition went to Garrett Whalen, a senior at Baker High School in Mobile. This was the first year Garrett and his school participated in the completion. Garrett’s teacher is Laura Sadler.

    Garrett Whalen will be traveling to Washington. D.C. in May, with all expenses paid, to represent Alabama in the National Finals. Garrett’s family and friends will be there to celebrate his achievements. Keyshawn Sellers, a student from Greenville High School (Teacher, Naomi Pryor), came in second place in the Alabama finals. Honorable mentions were awarded to Maggie Jane Brown of Bob Jones High School in Huntsville (Teacher, Shelia Hadden), Aditya Singhal of James Clemens High School in Madison (Teacher, Stefanie Beckett), and Martha Emily Marchio of Lakeview Christian School in Auburn (Teacher, Deborah Stabler).

    Alabama is one of the few states that include an original poetry competition within its state poetry finals. Maggie Jane Brown, a student at Bob Jones High School in Huntsville was selected as the original poetry winner with her two poems, Kintsugi Noun: The Art of the Golden Joinery and The Trappings of Eve. Second place in original poetry was Ariana Marie Brown, a student at Lee High School in Huntsville for her poems Oreo and Soulful Sound. An honorable mention in original poetry was awarded to Haley Clancy of Hale County High School in Moundville for her poems What the American Dream Didn’t Tell You About Me and The Inked Blueprint.

    Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program presented by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in partnership with state arts councils nationwide. In Alabama, the Alabama State Council on the Arts partners with the Alabama Arts Alliance. The program encourages mastery of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic competition of high schools across the country. Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure.  Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, regional competitions, the state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington, D.C.

    The winner of the Alabama’s Poetry Out Loud Competition is awarded $200, and the student’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The second place winner receives $100, and the student’s school receives $200 for the school library. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals will award a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends, with a $20,000 college scholarship for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

    Alabama’s original poetry winner Maggie Jane Brown was awarded $200 from the Alabama Writers’ Forum.  Second place original poetry winner was Ariana Marie Brown and she was awarded a prize of $100 from the Alabama Writers’ Forum.

    Winners in the Alabama Poetry Out Loud National Recitation competition as well as winners in the Alabama Original Poetry Finals were gifted with the book, Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider.        

    For additional information about this event, please contact Diana Green, Arts in Education Program Manager for the Alabama State Council on the Arts:  334-242-5148 or or Donna Russell, Executive Director, Alabama Arts Alliance, 334-269-1435 or

  • For immediate release January 28, 2019
    Contact: Jeanie Thompson, 334 221 5013,

    Visiting writers series at Helen Keller Public Library to feature seven authors

    MONTGOMERY, AL – The Helen Keller Public Library in Tuscumbia will launch its first ever readers series beginning February 10 and running through the Helen Keller Festival in June, according to Tammie Collins, Library Director.

    “With the help of grants from state and local entities, we will present seven award-winning poets and writers at the library this spring and summer,” Collins said. “Through our collaboration with the Alabama Writers’ Forum, writers will bring new works to our readers,” she said.

    “We hope that Writers to Readers at the Helen Keller Public Library will generate interest in the art of writing, as well as the habit of reading,” Collins said.

    Among the visiting writers are three current or former Alabama State Council on the Arts literature fellows -- Ashley M. Jones, Tina Mozelle Braziel, and Jason McCall. Each has been awarded prestigious fellowships to support new work.

    Poet Jacqueline Trimble, will read in May with poet and novelist James E. Cherry. Trimble was awarded the coveted Balcones Prize by Austin Community College for her debut collection American Happiness and she is also a former ASCA literature fellow. Cherry has recently contributed historical persona poems memorializing victims of racial violence in Jackson County, TN to the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative.

    “To conclude the series we are thrilled to have 2019 Harper Lee Award winner Daniel Wallace, a native of Birmingham, who now directs the Creative Writing Program at UNC in Chapel Hill,” Collins said.

    “Wallace’s novel Big Fish, which was adapted into a feature film by John August and Tim Burton in 2002, is legendary in Alabama. We know readers will flock to meet Wallace and hear him read from and discuss his latest work.” Don Noble, popular host of APTV’s Bookmark literary interview program, will present with Wallace.

    Collins said that she and Alabama Writers’ Forum director Jeanie Thompson conceived of Writers to Readers at the Helen Keller Public Library after the favorable community response to Thompson and Wayne Sides’ collaborative work with poetry and photography last June during the Helen Keller Festival.

    “When I saw the community’s open response to contemporary poetry telling a story about their beloved citizen Helen Keller, I knew this would be a great way for the Forum to work with Tuscumbia to bring writers to readers,” Thompson said.

    “Tuscumbia’s library has been called a vibrant cultural hub, and Mayor Kerry Underwood has supported the idea of arts at the library,” Thompson said. “I am encouraged that local organizations like the Civitans and Kiwanis Clubs in Tuscumbia, as well as the Friends of the Helen Keller Public Library, have contributed funds to make it possible.”

    Collins said other contributors from the community are being sought to support the program.

    Major funding for the project was granted from the Alabama State Council on the Arts literary arts program as well as the Alabama 200 grants program for literary arts.

    Those attending the free readings will have a chance to interact with the writers afterwards, and for several of the events, the visiting authors will meet with students at Deshler High School the following day.

    Thompson noted that all of these writers are making their mark in contemporary writing, and serve as great role models for young writers.

    “We hope that as more young people, and their parents and teachers, participate in Writers to Readers at the Helen Keller Public Library, the community as a whole will want the children of the Shoals area to be the best writers they can be!” Thompson said. “There’s no better way to spark a young writer’s interest than to have her meet a contemporary writer who says – you can do this, too!”

    More information is available about the Writers to Readers at the Helen Keller Public Library
    At For information about individual events, contact Tammie Collins at 256-383-7065.
    Complete schedule for Writers to Readers at the Helen Keller Public Library, Spring/Summer 2019 511 North Main Street | Tuscumbia, Alabama 35674
    A question / answer period, book signing, and light refreshments follow each reading.

    Sunday, Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. 2019 ASCA literature fellows in poetry Ashley M. Jones and Tina Mozelle Braziel read from their new books.

    Sunday, March 10 at 2 p.m. Award-winning poets Jason McCall and Harry Moore read from their latest books.

    Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m. Award-winning poet Jacqueline Allen Trimble and poet/fiction writer James E. Cherry from their latest books.

    Friday, June 28 at 6:30 p.m. Helen Keller Festival event featuring 2019 Harper Lee Award winner Daniel Wallace, with moderator Don Noble, host of APTV’s Bookmark.

  • 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.

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.