Happy Birthday, Harper Lee!

The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye
On this day in 1926, Nelle Harper Lee was born. She was the youngest of four children born to Frances Cunningham Finch and Amasa Coleman Lee. Had she not passed away in February of last year, Ms. Lee would be ninety-one years old today.

I was almost at a loss for words when it came time to write a birthday tribute to “Nelle” Harper Lee. What more could possibly be said about an award winning, nationally treasured author? This task was almost like searching for a gift for the person that has everything.

Very rarely does an author’s debut novel not only almost instantly become successful, but also go on to become a literary classic. Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird accomplished both of those feats. To Kill a Mockingbird was later adapted into a film version starring Gregory Peck, and the novel won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize in the fiction category.

For more than half a century, it was believed by most that To Kill a Mockingbird was and would continue to be the only book that Lee ever wrote or published. However, in 2015, Lee surprised us with her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, which actually turned out to be a prequel to Mockingbird.

Across the globe, To Kill a Mockingbird still has an impact on people’s lives. The classic novel is mentioned or quoted in numerous novels, television shows and movies. Even President Barack Obama quoted Atticus Finch in his farewell speech.

Furthermore, the legacy of Nelle Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird have lived on in Monroeville, even after her death. There are few places you can visit, or even drive past, without a subtle reminder of Mockingbird, or Nelle herself.

And on her birthday, perhaps that is what is best. For us to simply be reminded of her. Divulge yourself in a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird or Go Set a Watchman. Not a big reader? Perhaps you would rather watch the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. If you’re a fan of audio books, maybe you would like to listen to either the audio version of To Kill a Mockingbird (narrated by Sissy Spacek) or Go Set a Watchman (narrated by Reese Witherspoon). If you are able, go see a live theatrical performance of To Kill a Mockingbird. If you are local or happen to be in Monroeville, visit the Old Courthouse or take a drive or stroll through downtown.

While it may be her birthday, we were the ones who were given a gift. We have a legacy to remember her by, and to pass on to the next generation. Nelle Harper Lee was once quoted as saying that all she wanted was “to be the Jane Austen of South Alabama.

As a native of Alabama and Monroeville, and as a fan of both To Kill a Mockingbird and Jane Austen, I think it is safe to say that Ms. Lee succeeded.

So, we at OCBS ask that you remember and celebrate Ms. Lee on her birthday. She may have passed, but she is most certainly not forgotten.

Happy Birthday, Nelle Harper Lee!

Mockingbird Songs: A New Chapter from Harper Lee

Wayne Flynt Interview with the author of Mockingbird Songs

Professor Wayne FlyntMockingbird Songs: A New Chapter from Harper Lee

Wayne Flynt, the renowned expert on culture in the Southern United States and Professor Emeritus at Auburn University, has created a wonderful tribute to the beloved author Harper Lee, and her fans are clamoring to read the new work.  Last year, Flynt announced his decision to publish a collection of letters between himself and the iconic Lee.  Those letters will include a wealth of correspondence written between 1992 and February, 2016 when Lee passed away.  Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee may well be the final publication of words written by Harper Lee.

Mockingbird Songs: An Intimate Look into the Relationship between the Authors

Wayne Flynt chose to make the history of Alabama the focal point of his career after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee’s first book and a work that took the world by storm when it delved into the moral and political dynamics of a fictional town in Alabama during the 1930s.  Maycomb, AL, was based on Lee’s home town of Monroeville, and Flynt immediately recognized the contribution of Lee’s work and the impact it would have.  When Flynt eventually became a respected friend of the Lee family, a relationship of admiration between the two authors was forged.  What makes that relationship indelible is that much of it is chronicled in the letters between them.

Mockingbird Songs: A Fitting Tribute to a Woman Who Changed the World

Flynt is now offering the collection of letters that he has long cherished to the rest of the world.  The first comes from a time when Lee was still residing in New York, while others trace a developing friendship as it becomes a lifelong relationship.  Mockingbird Songs will be published May 2, 2017, and is another—and likely the final–opportunity for Harper Lee fans to read her wit, wisdom and candor in her own words.

Mockingbird Songs: Available Soon

At Ol’ Curiosities, we look forward to Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee  and again celebrating the hometown author we love. Order your certified keepsake copy today.

The 20th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium

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Photo: Alabama Writers Symposium Facebook Page

Hailed as the literary capital of Alabama, Monroeville has produced several notable authors. It would only make sense then, for Monroeville to be the home of one of Alabama’s most celebrated literary events, the Alabama Writers Symposium.

Every spring, writers, scholars and readers gather in Monroeville for two days of readings and discussions, as well as workshops. In addition, two awards are presented during the Alabama Writers Symposium: the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer and the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar. Last year, an additional award was added: the Truman Capote Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of Literary Non-Fiction or the Short Story. These awards are made possible by a grant graciously provided by George F. Landegger.

This years Symposium is extra special, as this will be the 20th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium. The Alabama Writers Symposium is hosted by the Monroeville branch of Coastal Alabama Community College, formerly known as Alabama Southern Community College.

The 20th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium will kick off on Thursday April 20th, with a memoir writing workshop at Coastal Alabama, taught by writer, poet, editor, and teacher, Jennifer Horne. Discussions will begin at noon on Thursday, in the courthouse of the Monroe County Heritage Museum. Featured speakers for Thursday will be: Jacqueline Trimble, Nancy Anderson, the Alabama Bicentennial Panel, Brad Watson and Kirk Curnutt.

On Thursday evening, a dinner and awards presentation will be held at the Monroeville Community house. Michael Knight will accept the Truman Capote Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of Literary Non-Fiction or the Short Story. Knight resides in Knoxville, Tennessee and is employed by the University of Tennessee, where he teaches creative writing. Knight is the author of a book of novellas entitled “The Holiday Season”; two novels, “Divining Rod” and “The Typist”; and three short-story collections, ” Dogfight and Other Stories,” “Goodnight, Nobody,” and his latest work, “Eveningland.”

This years Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar will be given to Alabama Writers Symposium veteran Kirk Curnutt. Curnutt is an English professor, as well as a chair of English at Troy University. Curnutt has penned fourteen books, three of which are novels. His scholarly works mainly center around Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. In addition to teaching and writing, Curnutt is also the co-director of the Alabama Book Festival.

Finally, The Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer will be presented to Brad Watson. Watson is an alumnus of the University of Alabama. He has written several books including: ‘The Heaven of Mercury,” “The Last Days of the Dog-men,” “Aliens in the Prime of their Lives,” and “Miss Jane.” All of his works have either been nominated for, or have received awards. Watson currently teaches creative writing at The University of Wyoming.

On Friday morning, attendees will gather back at Coastal Alabama, where featured speakers will resume discussions. Friday morning keynote speakers will include: Jeanie Thompson, Kyes Stevens with the Alabama Prison Arts + Educaon Project, Frye Gaillard, Michael Knight, Deidra Suwanee Dees with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Don Noble and Jennifer Horne.

A luncheon will then be held at the Monroeville Community House, with guest speaker Yaa Gyasi. Gyasi’s debut novel “Homegoing” made quite an impression in the literary world, even being nominated as one of Oprah’s Ten Favorite Books of 2016 as well as one of Time’s Top Ten Novels of 2016. A book signing will follow the luncheon.

Don’t worry, the party doesnt end there! Guests will return to Coastal Alabama for afternoon discussions and book signings. Those speaking Friday afternoon include Miriam Davis, Jaime Primak Sullivan, T.K. Thorne, Sue Brannan Walker and Katherine Clark.

Tickets were previously sold for the awards gala and luncheon, as well as an optional ticket to the opening night presentation of the play “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Friday night. However, all discussions on Thursday and Friday are free and open to the public. There will also be several opportunities throughout the weekend to meet these distinguished writers and speakers and to have books signed as well.

The 20th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium is sponsored by George Landegger, the Alabama State Council of the Arts, and the Alabama Humanities Foundation. In addition to Coastal Alabama Community College, the Symposium is hosted by The Monroe County Heritage Museum, The Association of College English Teachers of Alabama, as well as The Alabama Writers Forum.

Have you attended a past Symposium? Are you attending this years 20th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium? What events and/or speakers are you looking forward to most? I am looking forward to ALL of it, but I am most excited to attend the memoir writing workshop, the awards gala and to hear Yaa Gyasi speak at the luncheon on Friday. We hope to see you there! [Read more…]

Ol’ Curiosities and Book Shoppe and Monroe County Heritage Museum present: Forgotten Alabama & More Forgotten Alabama photographer Glenn Wills at Old Courthouse Museum

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Huntsville, Alabama native Glenn Wills has taken nearly 15,000 pictures across all 67 counties in the state of Alabama. It began when one day Glenn noticed an old car by the side of the road, but realized that he didn’t have a camera with him to capture the moment. From that moment, Glenn set out to photograph “forgotten” physical reminders of our past. His photographs range from abandoned stores and buildings to old cars and houses, and more.

Glenn took his collection of photographs and turned them into not one, but two photography books: Forgotten Alabama and More Forgotten Alabama.

Glenn will be at the Old Courthouse Museum in Monroeville, Alabama next Thursday February 23rd from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Forgotten Alabama and More Forgotten Alabama will both be available for purchase, and Glenn will be happy to autograph them. He will also be sharing a PowerPoint presentation that will take viewers on a journey, explaining how the project came to be and showing examples of his photography. Following the presentation, there will be a question and answer session with Glenn.

We hope to see as many of our friends as possible next Thursday to meet Glenn and explore and discuss Forgotten Alabama and More Forgotten Alabama at the Old Courthouse Museum.

If you can’t wait until next week and want a sneak peek of Glenn’s work, visit https://www.facebook.com/forgottenalabamathebook/.

 

For questions or further information, please contact one of the following:

Nathan Carter

Old Courthouse Museum

251-575-7433

mchm@frontiernet.net

Ann Mote
Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe
251-575-1050
ocbookshoppe@gmail.com

Wayne Flynt-Interview with the author of Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee

Wayne Flynt Interview with the author of Mockingbird Songs

Professor Wayne FlyntWayne Flynt, an expert on Southern culture and politics, as well as a good friend to the late Harper Lee, has recently published a collection of letters between himself and the beloved author of To Kill a Mockingbird.  The correspondence is titled Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee and occurred between 1992 and Lee’s death in February, 2016. Professor Flynt sat down to answer some of our questions during a recent interview:

About Wayne Flynt

OCBS: Tell us a little about yourself and your background.  How was your childhood unique?

Wayne Flynt: I grew up mainly in Alabama. We moved often (I went to 12 schools between the ages of 6 and 14): Anniston came closest to being my home town though we lived in Birmingham, Sheffield, Gadsden, Dothan, Atlanta, Augusta, GA., etc. It was mostly unique because I was an only child, had few friends growing up, and compensated by assuming solitary habits, especially building model WWII airplanes, collecting stamps, and reading.

OCBS: Have you always wanted to be a historian?  If not, what else did you consider as a career and why?

Wayne Flynt: I have always loved history and majored in history and speech in college, but planned to be a Baptist minister until my changing racial views in the early 1960s made that an impossible course for me, or so I thought.

OCBS:   You’ve enjoyed success in academia and as a writer of history.  What are your ongoing goals for your career?

Wayne Flynt: My goals are continue to write history and popularize them in op.ed. columns, articles, and books.  I embrace the role of “public intellectual” and could not ethically remain in Alabama without working constantly for the goals Nelle embraced: the extension of justice, community, tolerance, and racial reconciliation.

Wayne Flynt on Harper Lee

OCBS:  Tell us about your relationship with Harper Lee and her sisters?  How did it begin?  What are your fondest memories of Miss Lee?  How did she inspire you personally and professionally?

Wayne Flynt: I deal extensively with this question in the book, but I first met Louise when she served on the planning committee of Auburn’s History and Heritage Festival in Eufaula in 1983.  Nelle agreed to attend and speak, and I met her that March evening in 1983.  We had a long and happy friendship with Louise before we came to know Alice casually when she showed up at a seminar at the University of Montevallo, where I lectured on the Depression-era historical context of TKAM.  I came to know Nelle only in the early 21st Century, when her concerns about Louise’s failing health caused her to contact us.  We began to write each other, but the friendship really deepened only after her stroke brought her to Health South rehab in Homewood (where we visited her regularly) and to Monroeville (where we wrote her frequently and visited at least once a month on average for a decade).  I actually swore after the terrorist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 that I would never come back to Alabama to teach.  But months later I read TKAM for the first time and was so impressed with this remarkable story of courage, tolerance, justice, and community, that I changed my mind.  Though that event was only one of several that brought me “home,” it was pivotal.

Wayne Flynt on Writing

OCBS:   Which other writers inspire you?  Why?

Wayne Flynt: Harper Lee, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, Boris Pasternak.  Each in his or her own way–utilized storytelling, community, and forgiveness/reconciliation as central motifs in their writing.

OCBS:  What is your favorite piece that you’ve authored and why?

Wayne Flynt: My favorite book is Poor But Proud because it gave people like my family (who appear throughout the book) the ability to tell their stories of great courage against long odds of poverty and stereotyping.  I consciously have written history from the bottom up, not from the top down, the stories of ordinary people who have lived extraordinary lives.

OCBS:  Do you have other books in the works?  If so, can you tell us a little about them?

Wayne Flynt: I plan two more books about Harper Lee if I live long enough.

OCBS:  Are there others with whom you’d like to collaborate?  Why?

Wayne Flynt: I have not enjoyed collaboration very much.  Unless someone shares your work ethic and goal orientation, discipline and capacity for deferred gratification, collaboration is almost always frustrating.  The one exception was Alabama: History of a Deep South State.

OCBS:  What advice can you offer aspiring authors?

Wayne Flynt: The hardest part of any endeavor is getting started.  Everything is easier after you begin.  Seek out your most honest and caring friend to critique your work with candor and frank criticism.  You don’t have to agree with them, but they will teach you to try always to improve.

OCBS:  Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Wayne Flynt: lnside myself.

OCBS:  What is the hardest thing about writing?

Wayne Flynt: The solitude it requires; the tremendous discipline it imposes.

OCBS:  If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

Wayne Flynt: The Bible.  It is even longer than the books I write.

OCBS:  What do you want readers to know about you?

Wayne Flynt: That I am an honest, authentic writer; that the most plausible explanation of any event is probably correct; conspiracies are rare.

More from Wayne Flynt

OCBS:  What’s your favorite genre to read?

Wayne Flynt: I enjoy history, theology/ethics, and Southern fiction.

OCBS:  Who is your favorite author and why?

Wayne Flynt: Harper Lee, my first real inspiration.

OCBS:  What book/s are you reading at present?

Wayne Flynt: Like Alice Lee, I typically read several books at the same time.  I just finished Olin Butler’s Perfume River, Natasha Treathway’s Thrall, Frederick Buechner’s Beyond Words, and Zora Neale Hurston’s The Complete Stories.  I am about to finish Kathie Farnell’s delightful memoir, Duck and Cover: A Nuclear Family (which the University of South Carolina Press is about to publish). 

OCBS:  Who is your support system, i.e. the first to read your work, review it, and critique it?  How do you choose these advisors?

Wayne Flynt: My wife was always my first and best critic.

OCBS:  What is your favorite saying and why?

Wayne Flynt: “We become the custodians of our own contentment.” The meaning is self-evident.

OCBS:  What advice would you give to your younger self?

Wayne Flynt: I am the custodian of my own contentment.

To order your copy of Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee please visit our online store.

Which authors have influenced you most and why?  Has a personal experience with a writer impacted you?  We’d love to hear your stories.  Please comment below.

 

Mockingbird Songs by Wayne Flynt

Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee
Wayne Flynt and Harper Lee. Flynt is holding his granddaughter, Harper, who’s named in Lee's honor. Photo by James Hansen, originally published by PBS.org
Wayne Flynt and Harper Lee. Flynt is holding his granddaughter, Harper, who’s named in Lee’s honor. Photo by James Hansen, originally published by PBS.org

Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus at Auburn University, and an expert on Southern culture, poverty, religions in the South, and politics of the South and Alabama, has created a beautiful tribute to one of the most beloved American writers of all time, and he has done so in a way few expected—he’s published a collection of letters between his friend and fellow author, Harper Lee, and himself, written between 1992 and Lee’s death in February, 2016.  It is to be titled, Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee.

Mockingbird Songs: About Author Wayne Flynt

Born on October 4, 1940 in Potonoc, Mississippi, to a teacher and a salesman, Wayne Flynt holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Samford University (formerly Howard College), and a Masters of Science and Doctorate degree from Florida State University.  He is also the editor-in-chief for the online Encyclopedia of Alabama, sponsored by Auburn University and the Alabama Humanities Foundation.

In addition to Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee and other works, Flynt has previously published Poor But Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites (1990), Alabama in the 20th Century (2006), and Alabama: A History of the Deep South State (2010). He is considered one of the foremost authorities on the American South and specifically, Alabama. Poor But Proud and A History of the Deep South were both nominated for Pulitzer Prizes.

Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper LeeAt one point, Wayne Flynt left Alabama based at least in part on his feelings about the violence that transpired during a haunting era of the American South, but even more important was Flynt’s later decision to make Alabama’s history the focal point of his career after reading a book by a never-before-published Alabama author, Harper Lee.  Flynt eventually became a friend of the Lee family, well respected by sisters Louise, Alice, and Nelle (Harper), and the two writers stayed in touch for years.

Mockingbird Songs: A Look into the Life of the Author We Lost

The intimate correspondence detailed between Flynt and Lee in Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee, which began at a time when Harper Lee was still residing in New York, begins fairly formally, according to the publisher, but traces the growth of a friendship that stood the tests of years, fame, health concerns, and social issues.  It will be published May 2, 2017, and documents a 25-year friendship between the two writers and their families.  The result is a work through which Lee’s fans will understand her better and learn more about her in her very own words.

Mockingbird Songs: A Celebration

At Ol’ Curiosities, we believe that Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee will be nothing less than a celebration of one of the most prominent American authors of all time, and we want to celebrate its release accordingly.  Stay tuned for some exciting announcements to follow in the next few weeks.