Category Archives: Literature

Luster of Pearls

The Luster of Pearls: Alabama Writers Hall of Fame inducts twelve

By Edward Reynolds
July 15, 2015

I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.
—Helen Keller


On the evening of July 8, 2015, a dozen literary notables with ties to Alabama received long overdue official recognition when the first class of the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame was inducted. Major sponsors of the Hall of Fame include the Alabama Center for the Book, the University of Alabama Library Leadership Board, and the Alabama Writers’ Forum, a partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts. The Gala was held in the Bryant Conference Center at the University of Alabama, with close to 300 in attendance.

Table Setting From Writers Hall of Fame Dinner

Table Setting From Writers Hall of Fame Dinner. Photo by Elizabeth Limbaugh

Julie Friedman is a Hall of Fame Committee member, vice-president of the Alabama Writers’ Forum, a member of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, and currently on the Library Leadership Board at the University of Alabama. Friedman said the notion of establishing an Alabama Writers Hall of Fame began in conversations with Alabama Writers’ Forum Executive Director Jeanie Thompson “dreaming about something that we could do to honor writers who either have been born in the state or have done most of their work in Alabama.”

Friedman elaborated, “We have a vehicle in place to honor living writers either through the Harper Lee Award or through the State Arts Council and through the Governor’s Arts Awards. But we didn’t have anything in place that would recognize writers who were deceased in addition to living writers.” Friedman added that a second class will be inducted around the fall of 2016.

Regarding the criteria for choosing the inaugural class, she explained, “A lot of what we looked at were awards—had they won a Pulitzer Prize—or do they have a national reputation. Did their work have an impact on literature? Johnson Jones Hooper was a tremendous influence on Mark Twain, and Twain even borrowed characters from Johnson Jones Hooper. Augusta Jane Evans Wilson was one of the first published authors from the state of Alabama. When she wrote in the 1850s and 1860s, she sold thousands of books at a time when the Internet didn’t exist and there were no public relations campaigns.

Virtually unknown today, Augusta Evans Wilson was one of the most well-known writers of the 19th century and certainly the most successful Alabama writer of her time. Wilson’s great popularity is evidenced by the number of towns and young girls named for her characters.
The Green Room

In the media “green room,” poet, playwright, and Hall of Fame inductee Sonia Sanchez was absolutely charming. Sanchez, a distinguished member of the Black Arts Movement, addresses everyone as “my sister” or “my brother.” Her warm personality, gray dreadlocks, and sparkling black jacket were mesmerizing. Sanchez, a Birmingham native, moved out of state at age six.
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Fruitcakes in Monroeville


Fruitcakes in Monroeville

November 24, 2011

Truman Capote’s short story “A Christmas Memory,” the timeless tear-jerker that first appeared in Mademoiselle magazine in December 1956, will be staged in Monroeville for the fourth consecutive year on Thursday evening, December 1. Capote spent much of his early childhood in Monroeville, raised by relatives after his parents divorced.The drama is the highlight of the town’s annual Fruitcake Festival, staged in the second floor courtroom of the town’s fabled courthouse which is the setting for much of resident Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The courthouse is now the Old Courthouse Museum, which includes Capote memorabilia donated by a cousin of the famed author. Locally-made fruitcakes in decorated tins (many with Capote-related themes) will be for sale during the festival, according to Nathan Carter of the Monroe County Heritage Museum.

Monroeville Fruitcake

Monroeville Fruitcake

Carter’s grandmother was Capote’s mother’s sister, and he remembers one of the last visits the author made to Monroeville in the mid-1960s. “I was maybe five or six. Harper Lee was there. It was during the time he was working on In Cold Blood,” Carter says. He and other young relatives were brought into a room to be introduced: “This is your cousin Truman.” Carter recalls that the children were then “asked to make ourselves scarce and not to bother the world traveler.”

Fruitcake in round or loaf shapes — all prepared from local family recipes”—will be for sale all day at the museum. Delicacies known as “fruitcake rocks” will also be available. When asked to define a “fruitcake rock,” Nathan Carter charmingly explains, “It’s like drop biscuits—they’re irregular in shape. Each is like two or three bites and then you’re done with it.”

Admission to “A Christmas Memory” is $25, with show time at 7 p.m. A reception with more fruitcake follows. Call 251-575-7433 or go to for details.

Eudora and Zelda

Eudora and Zelda

Visual works by Eudora Welty and Zelda Fitzgerald in Montgomery.

September 16, 2010

Eudora Welty is best known for her short stories and novels depicting life in the South. But before her literary work was first published in 1936, she was hired as a publicist by the Works Progress Administration, a job that took her throughout rural Mississippi during the Great Depression. She brought along a camera to document her travels, and in 1971 her photographs were published in the book One Time, One Place. The Museum of Mobile has organized her photos into a traveling exhibit called Eudora Welty, Exposures and Reflections, developed with the Southern Literary Trail and funded through the Alabama Humanities Foundation. The exhibit opened in Mobile in September and runs through October 31. It will move to the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery on November 11, where it can be viewed until January 7, 2011.

Photos courtesy of Eudora Welty LLC and Miss. Dept. of Archives & History (click for larger version)

“All of Eudora Welty’s original negatives are archived in Jackson at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History,” says Birmingham attorney William Gantt, director of the Southern Literary Trail Project, which “celebrates writers of classic Southern literature” who hail from Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. The Trail connects literary house museums and landmarks.

“For obvious reasons, [the Mississippi Department of Archives] is very picky about what negatives will be made into prints and what will not. Some of the negatives are too fragile to be put through the development process again.” The curator at the Museum of Mobile, Jacob Laurence, went to Jackson and worked with the Department of Archives and a local developer on the particular photos he wanted, learning what could be developed and what couldn’t. “We were really stunned at the quality of the images. They are just absolutely pristine, to come from 1930s-era Depression negatives,” Gantt says. The exhibit includes 40 photographs, which will eventually travel to Atlanta; Decatur, Alabama; and Columbus, Mississippi.

“Eudora Welty was a junior publicity agent for the WPA, but nobody can tell me what that job description entailed,” Gantt says, laughing. “Based on my own readings and conclusions, I think, basically, she went around Mississippi with what we would call a bookmobile. She really wanted to be a photographer, even before she wanted to be a writer. My understanding is that to be a photographer at that time, you had to be in the good ol’ boys club. So, as a woman, they didn’t take her seriously. So she took these photographs as she went around Mississippi.”

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Coinciding with the exhibit of Welty’s photos, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts will display a collection of Zelda Fitzgerald’s artwork, primarily watercolors and paper dolls. “The Zelda stuff is real rare and fragile, it cannot travel,” explains Gantt. “Zelda was a painter and made paper dolls for her daughter. It’s remarkable artwork, but they don’t show it often.” The Fitzgerald exhibit will be on display from October 28 until January 9, 2011, at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, whose permanent collection includes 30 works by Fitzgerald, a Montgomery native married to novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. She suffered from mental illness and died in a fire at the North Carolina hospital where she lived out her life.

The dual exhibits in Montgomery are best summed up by Welty, who wrote in the foreword to One Place, One Time: “If exposure is essential, still more so is the reflection.” &

For dates, details, ticket prices and more, visit,, or

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