The Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer and the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar are awarded each year at the Alabama Writers Symposium.
Gay Talese 2013 Winner of the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer
Literary innovator Gay Talese has been named the 2013 recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year. A University of Alabama (UA) alumnus, Talese will receive the award at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville on April 26 at the annual luncheon. The conference will meet April 25-27.
In his letter of nomination, Don Noble, UA Professor of English Emeritus and host of the Alabama Public Television literary talk show “Bookmark,” wrote, “Gay Talese has strong Alabama connections. He graduated from UA in 1953; covered the civil rights movement in Alabama in the 1960s; returns often to visit, read, speak, and sign; and he has written of his experiences in Alabama in the 2006 book, ‘A Writer’s Life’.”
During his years on the Tuscaloosa campus, Talese covered sports for The Crimson White. He served as sports editor during his junior and senior years when he first began experimenting with traditional journalism in his column Sports Gay-zing. He recently told Noble that he continues to follow the Crimson Tide.
“After all these many years, I must confess to keeping in touch with Alabama’s football fortunes, and have felt a sense of satisfaction in the recent (2009 & 2011) championship seasons,” he said for an article published in the Winter 2012 issue of “Crimson Magazine.” “[I felt] a remarkable sense of relief and pleasure following the LSU fall to Alabama [in] this past season’s finale.”
Athletics aside, Talese retains ties with his alma mater. The UA Department of Journalism honored him with its Clarence Cason Award for Nonfiction Writing in 1998. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2001 when he delivered the commencement address. He presently serves on the UA Library Leadership Board.
Talese has been chronicling American life and writing the literature of reality for more than half a century. His career started while he was a high school student in Ocean City, New Jersey, where he was the sports reporter for the town weekly. He took his column to the University of Alabama in 1949, and following his service in the Army, he began work as a reporter at The New York Times in 1956. From 1965, he wrote for “Esquire” producing some of the finest magazine pieces of his generation, many of which are collected in “The Gay Talese Reader: Portraits and Encounters” (2003).
“Some may argue that Talese is simply a journalist,” wrote Noble. “He may have started out that way, but as commentators such as Tom Wolfe have noted, it was Talese who, along with Jimmy Breslin and Norman Mailer, invented the genre New Journalism which we now call creative nonfiction.”
His piece, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” was called by “Esquire” the finest it ever published. He has profiled many celebrities over the years, but Talese’s magazine pieces and books have been primarily concerned with ordinary people: the overlooked non-newsworthy population that is everywhere, but rarely taken into account by journalists and other chroniclers of reality. His most recent book, “A Writer’s Life,” was published by Knopf in April 2006. It recounts the inner workings of this writer’s life, the interplay between experience and writing: the art of hanging out as Gay Talese describes his work. Talese delivers many keynote speeches to a variety of groups and is an inspiration to writers published and non-published.
Talese has also written for “The New Yorker” and four of his books have been best sellers: “Unto the Sons” (1992), “Thy Neighbor’s Wife” (1980), “Honor Thy Father” (1971), and “The Kingdom and the Power” (1968).
He has been married for forty-five years to Nan A. Talese, Senior Vice President of Doubleday and Publisher and Editorial Director of Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. The couple has two daughters.
The Alabama Writers’ Forum, a partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, coordinates the selection of the Harper Lee Award recipient annually from nominations from the field. The honor is presented annually by Alabama Southern Community College at the Symposium. It is made possible through a generous grant from George F. Landegger, chairman, Parsons and Whittemore.
Previous Harper Lee Award recipients include Fannie Flagg (2012), Winston Groom (2011), Carolyn Haines (2010), Rick Bragg (2009), Rebecca Gilman (2008), William Cobb (2007), Wayne Greenhaw (2006), Andrew Hudgins (2005), Sonia Sanchez (2004), Rodney Jones (2003), Mary Ward Brown (2002), Sena Jeter Naslund (2001), Helen Norris (2000), Madison Jones (1999), and Albert Murray (1998).
Photo of Gay Talese by Joyce Tenneson
The Harper Lee Award 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 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. The Forum is funded by the Alabama State Council on the Arts.
Harper Lee is the author of one of the best-loved classics of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. Since its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages and sold over thirty million copies worldwide. Harper Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama; she attended local schools and the University of Alabama. She has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, several honorary degrees, and many other literary awards.
The recipient of the annual award 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. Those eligible for consideration are native Alabamians whose literary careers have developed in Alabama or elsewhere or those not originally from Alabama whose literary careers have developed in Alabama. Only living writers are eligible. This annual award includes a $5,000 cash prize and The Clock Tower Bronze by Frank Fleming. This award is funded by George F. Landegger.
Sue Walker 2013 Winner of the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Scholar
Dr. Sue Brannan Walker, Stokes Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama and Director of the Stokes Center for Creative Writing. She was the 2003-2012 Poet Laureate of Alabama.
Dr. Walker 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 thirty anthologies, published some fifty critical articles and is known for her work on Southern writers, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, and James Dickey as well as her published works on Marge Piercy, Margaret Atwood, Richard Eberhart, and Karl Shapiro. Her forthcoming book, The Chiasmic Ecology of James Dickey will be published in 2013 by Mellen Press.
Dr. Walker has won the Alabama-Writer’s Conclave Play-Writing competition for her one-woman, one-act play based on the life of Mobile’s Madame Octavia LeVert. For her research on Octavia Le Vert, she received an Elizabeth B. Gould Research Award from the Mobile Historic Development Commission.
Walker has been a recipient of an NEH Fellowship where she studied William Faulkner at the University of South Carolina. Blood Must Bear Your Name published by Amherst Writers And Artists Press, Amherst, Ma was nominated for a Pulitzer. In 2011, she was invited to read at the Library of Congress. Other awards include a Hackney Literary Award, the William Crawford Gorgas Award from the state of Alabama Medical Association for significant work by a lay person in the medical field for Life on the Line: Selections on Words and Healing. This book also received the Book of the Century Award from the Alabama State Poetry Society. Dr. Walker has received the Mobile YWCA Woman of Achievement Award and the Mobile Arts Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2006. She was Mobile’s “First Lady” also in 2006. Dr. Walker publishes in the field of Medical Humanities and has served on the University of South Alabama Medical Admissions Committee. She has served as Chair of the Disabilities Committee for the National Modern Language Association.
Dr. Walker has been a recipient of an Alabama Council on the Arts Individual Writers Fellowship and has received a citation from the city of Birmingham for her literary achievements. She was honored by Sue Walker Day in Foley, Alabama, has served as President of the Alabama State Poetry Society and State President of the Alabama National League of American Pen Women, President of the Mobile Chapter of the National League of American Pen Woman, and is currently the League’s National Letter’s Chair. She is a member of the Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society, the Golden Key National Honor Society, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society.
Faulkner Suite, a collection of poems about William Faulkner was published by Oeonoco Press in 2008. Whatever Remembers Us: An Anthology of Alabama poetry , was a Southern Booksellers Best Poetry Book finalist in 2008. She Said, a collection of poetry came out in River’s Edge Publishing Company in 2010.
Dr. Walker is a graduate of the University of Alabama where she received a B.S. degree in Education from the University of Alabama and subsequent M.Ed, M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Tulane University.
Previous recipients include William Ulmer (2012), David Sauer (2011), Ralph Voss (2010), John Hafner (2009), Norman MacMillan (2008), Elaine Hughes (2007), Nancy Anderson (2006), Robert W. Halli Jr. (2005), Benjamin Buford Williams (2004), J. William Hutchings (2003), Trudier Harris (2002), Bert Hitchcock (2001), Don Noble (2000), Philip Beidler (1999) and Claudia Durst Johnson (1998).
The Eugene Current-Garcia Award 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. The award reflects the respect of the scholar’s peers in the academic community and signals to the citizenry at large the lasting importance of the pursuit of knowledge and of the contribution of literature to the culture. Annual selection of the recipient of the award is the task of the Association of College English Teachers of Alabama (ACETA), a diverse organization representing faculty at all of Alabama’s two-year, four-year and doctoral institutions.
In a distinguished academic career spanning more than five decades, Dr. Eugene Current-Garcia published six books and dozens of articles and reviews on the short story genre and on American literature, particularly Old Southwest humor. His honors include serving as a Ford Foundation Fellow at Princeton in 1953-54, holding the Chair of American Literature as Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece, 1956-58, and being selected First American Scholar by Phi Kappa Phi in 1974. During a long teaching career at Auburn, he founded and co-edited the Southern Humanities Review, a major research publication. His high standards of scholarship and stellar achievements provide a model by which recipients of the annual award can be judged.
Those eligible for consideration are native Alabamians whose careers in literary scholarship have developed in Alabama or elsewhere; or those not originally from Alabama whose scholarly careers have developed in Alabama; or those briefly resident in Alabama whose literary scholarship has focused primarily on Alabama writers and topics. Only living scholars are eligible. This annual award includes a $5,000 cash prize and The Clock Tower Bronze by Frank Fleming. This award is funded by George F. Landegger