The Alabama Center for Literary Arts supports, studies, and celebrates the literary voices of the state of Alabama – the voices that, in the words of noted Alabama literary historian Philip Beidler, articulate “the complex possibilities of the Alabamian's sense of place.” From Muscle Shoals to Mobile, from the end of the Appalachians to the beginning of the Gulf of Mexico, from the 19th century to the 21st, Alabama has produced, and continues to produce, an astonishing number and variety of literary voices. Johnson Jones Hooper, Joseph G. Baldwin, Rebecca Harding Davis, Augusta Evans Wilson, Booker T. Washington, Helen Keller, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, Shirley Ann Grau, Ralph Ellison, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Walker Percy, Albert Murray, Margaret Walker, Winston Groom, Jimmy Buffet, Mark Childress – all were born, raised, or spent significant portions of their lives in Alabama.
Monroeville: "The Literary Capital of Alabama"
The Alabama Center for Literary Arts is located at Alabama Southern Community College in Monroeville, a town with a remarkable literary heritage. Harper Lee, author of the modern classic To Kill a Mockingbird, was born and raised in Monroeville. Truman Capote, renowned author of the groundbreaking In Cold Blood, spent much of his childhood in Monroeville (where he became friends with Harper Lee, who lived next door). Mark Childress, the acclaimed author of the best-selling novel Crazy in Alabama, is also a native of Monroeville, as is Cynthia Tucker, the editorial page editor of the Atlanta Constitution. Other writers with Monroeville or Monroe County connections include Marva Collins, Riley Kelly, Rheta Grimsley Johnson, Mike Stewart, William Barrett Travis, and Hank Williams. In recognition of this extraordinary literary tradition, in 1997 the Alabama legislature designated Monroeville and Monroe County the "Literary Capital of Alabama."
Elements of the Alabama Center for Literary Arts
Alabama Writers Symposium
Since 1998 Monroeville and Alabama Southern Community College have been home to the annual Alabama Writers Symposium. The Symposium brings together many of Alabama 's most distinguished writers and scholars for a weekend of readings, lectures, and discussions that combine the best elements of a literary festival and an academic conference. The annual Symposium is a celebration for all who enjoy Alabama literature and not simply an event for writers, which explains the much-debated "missing" apostrophe in the title word "Writers." By deliberately omitting the apostrophe, we classify the word as an attributive noun, saying, in effect, that the Symposium is an event not "possessed" by writers, but an event about Alabama writers and their works to be enjoyed by writers, readers, critics, scholars, and everyone who enjoys literature. While the theme of the Symposium changes from year to year, the focus is always on Alabama writers and the works that they produce.
Among the Symposium's highlights are the presentations of the Harper Lee Award for Alabama 's Distinguished Writer of the year and the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama 's Distinguished Literary Scholar of the year. The recipient of the Harper Lee Award (named in honor of 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.
The Clock Tower Bronze
The emblem of Monroeville 's literary heritage is the most prominent feature of the town itself: the clock tower of the historic courthouse on the town square. The clock tower is inextricably woven into the fiction of Capote and Lee as a symbol of the passing of time, of both the resistance to and the inevitability of, change. In its use of this icon of Alabama literature, the Alabama Center for Literary Arts acknowledges Monroeville's unique status within the rich and varied history of the whole of Alabama literature.
To create a physical symbol worthy of Alabama 's most distinguished writers and literary scholars, the Alabama Center for Literary Arts turned to one of the state's most renowned visual artists to interpret the icon of Alabama 's literary heritage in bronze. Frank Fleming's work of art, The Clock Tower Bronze, tangibly complements the esteem of the Alabama literary community for the award recipients.
Portraits of Literary Icons by Nall
The internationally acclaimed Alabama artist Nall was commissioned by the Alabama Center for Literary Arts to create portraits of Alabama literary icons Truman Capote, Martin Luther King, Jr., Helen Keller, and Booker T. Washington for display in the Alabama Writers Hall of Honor. Nall is an American symbolist artist who further developed his passion for art through studies in Paris and numerous world travels. Nall served as an artist-in-residence at Troy State University.
Of course no trip to Monroeville would be complete without picking up a souvenir bottle of Inspiration: Monroeville Writers Water, because with all the talent bubbling forth from Monroeville, "it must be in the water," as many have said. Even Rick Bragg calls our little town the "cradle of Southern literature." You, too, might find your muse with a drink from the fountain of literary inspiration, or you might send some bottled inspiration to your literary friends around the world. It's refreshing, inspiring and 100% naturally Southern.