The 20th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium



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




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


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

Nathan Carter

Old Courthouse Museum


Ann Mote
Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe

Book Signing with Greg Neri, author of Tru and Nelle



We are so excited to announce that we will be having a book signing here at Ol’ Curiosities and Book Shoppe next week. Greg Neri, author of several middle grade and young adult novels, will be signing his most recent book, Tru & Nelle,  here at OCBS next Thursday, March 31st from 6 PM to 8 PM. Tru & Nelle is a fictional tale based on the childhood friendship of our very own Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee.

61PJU-i+URLAbout Tru & Nelle

Long before they became well known writers, two children met one day in Monroeville, Alabama. One was the daughter of a local lawyer; the other, a young boy whose gypsy parents left him with his adult cousins.

The two became fast friends.

Their names were Nelle Harper Lee and Truman Capote, Tru for short.

In the fictionalized story of the real-life childhood companionship of these two famous writers, young Tru and Nelle go on a Sherlock and Watson style mystery hunt to track down who is vandalizing buildings in town. More importantly, we get a glimpse again of Monroeville, Alabama, in the 1930s. And we get an idea of what young Tru and Nelle were like as children, long before In Cold Blood or To Kill A Mockingbird were ever thought of.


When Truman first spotted Nelle, he thought she was a boy. She was watching him like a cat, perched on a crooked stone wall that separated their rambling wood homes. Barefoot and dressed in overalls with a boyish haircut, Nelle looked to be about his age, but it was hard for Truman to tell — he was trying to avoid her stare by pretending to read his book.

“Hey, you,” she finally said.

Truman gazed up from the pages. He was sitting quietly on a wicker chair on the side porch of his cousins’ house, dressed in a little white sailor suit.

“Are you . . . talking to me?” he said in a high wispy voice.

“Come here,” she commanded.

He straightened his little white suit and wandered slowly past the trellises of wisteria vines and japonica flowers until he came upon the stone wall.

Truman was taken aback. He scrunched up his face; he’d been confused by Nelle’s short hair and overalls. “You’re a . . . girl?”

Nelle stared back at him even harder. Truman’s high voice, white-blond hair, and sailor outfit had thrown her for a loop too.

“You’re a boy?” she asked, incredulous.

Photo by Edward Linsmier
Photo by Edward Linsmier

About Greg Neri

In addition to Tru & NelleGreg Neri is the author of several middle grade and young adult novels, including Ghetto Cowboy, and Hello, I’m Johnny Cash. Neri’s awards include a Coretta Scott King honor, and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award. Besides writing, Neri has experience as a filmmaker, animator/illustrator, and a digital media producer. Neri is a founding member of The Truth anti-smoking campaign as well.

Neri presently writes full time and lives in Florida with his wife and daughter.


If you are able to come, we would love to have you attend this book signing! If you would like, you can call us at 251-494-9356 or come by OCBS and reserve a copy of Tru & Nelle today. Then come back and join us next week and have your book signed and chat with Mr. Neri!

Please note: Any books ordered directly through the website prior to the event will not be signed, unless it is specified.

Thank you so much for all that you do! We truly appreciate each and every one of you!

The 19th Annual Alabama Writers Symposium

2016 Alabama Writers Symposium
2016 Alabama Writers Symposium
2016 Alabama Writers Symposium

It is almost time for the Annual Alabama Writers Symposium, the literary event held in the literary capital of Alabama. The Alabama Writers Symposium was started by the Alabama Center for Literary Arts and is sponsored and hosted by Alabama Southern Community College. This year will be the 19th year that the event will be held. The dates  are March 31st – April 1st. Each year there brings a new theme, and this year’s theme is The Elephant in the Room.

2016 Guests/Speakers

There are some familiar faces returning for this years Alabama Writers Symposium, along with a few new ones. They will be leading discussion sessions, and the Harper Lee and Eugene Current Garcia Winners will speak at their awards gala. The lineup includes:

  • E.O. Wilson, the 2016 Harper Lee award winner
  • Greg Neri, author of Tru and Nelle
  • Kim Cross
  • Wayne Flynt, author and historian
  • Frye Gaillard, the 2016 Eugene Current-Garcia winner
  • Nancy Anderson
  • Chervis Isom
  • William Cobb
  • Kirk Curnutt
  • Dan Puckett
  • Ben Raines
  • Marianne Moates, author of Truman Capote’s Southern Years
  • Jennifer Horne
  • Don Noble
  • PowerLines Poetry
  • Artisans from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians
  • Songwriter CJ Watson

What To Expect This Year:

If you’re an Alabama Writers Symposium veteran, you may notice that things are just a little bit different this year. For one thing, the event normally spans over three days but this year everything will take place over only two days. There is also a new lady in charge, ASCC librarian Alisha Linam. However, even though the time frame is a little shorter, there will still be plenty of authors and scholars to see, and plenty of discussions and sessions to attend. There will be sessions held on Thursday and Friday. There will be an Awards Gala honoring the Harper Lee and Eugene-Current Garcia award winners, E.O. Wilson and Frye Gaillard. E.O. Wilson will also be speaking at the awards gala. There will also be discussion sessions with the award winners, as well as a fish fry luncheon on Friday. For more information or questions, you can visit the ASCC website,, or you can call or email Alisha Linam at (251) 575-8271 or

What are your thoughts on the speakers? Have you heard of or read anything by any of them? Will you be attending this years symposium? We hope to see some of you there!

Black Belt Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Luncheon


On January 29th, 2016 a luncheon was held inducting two new members into the Black Belt Hall of Fame. The luncheon was held at the Bell Conference Center at The University of West Alabama, located in Livingston, Alabama. The purpose of the Black Belt Hall of Fame is to bring recognition to and honor individuals who are associated with the Black Belt region and have had an influential impact on the region, State, nation, and the world through their contributions of art, business, education, industry, medicine, politics and science.

The 2016 honorees were Dr. Wayne Flynt and Nelle Harper Lee. Dr. Flynt and his family were there for his induction, and a small group of family and friends of Ms. Lee were there to accept the induction on her behalf, since she was not able to attend.

The Luncheon

The luncheon began with a welcome from Dr. Tim Edwards, provost of The University of West Alabama, followed by an invocation led by local minister, Rev. Barrett Abernethy from the First Presbyterian Church of Livingston. Then a buffet style lunch was served. As lunch was winding down, Ms. Amy Christiansen, archivist at The University of West Alabama presented the 2016 inductees.

Dr. Wayne Flynt

Dr. Wayne Flynt was born on October 4, 1940 in Pontotoc, Mississippi. He attended Howard College and received both an MS and PhD from Florida State University. He taught at Samford University for twelve years and then became a member of the faculty of Auburn University. He has been an instructor there for twenty-eight years and has become a distinguished Professor Emeritus. Dr. Flynt has written and co-authored twelve books, including Dixie’s Forgotten People, Alabama Baptists, Alabama in the Twentieth Century and a personal memoir entitled Keeping the Faith. Dr. Flynt was the first editor for the Encyclopedia of Alabama, which is an online publication. He has received numerous awards, including: the Lillian Smith Book Award, the Clarence Cason Book Award, the Clarence Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing, two Alabama Literary Association awards, two James F. Sulzby awards, the Judson-Rice Award and an induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor.

Dr. Flynt’s induction was introduced by Nancy Anderson, retired English professor at Auburn University at Montgomery, and long time friend of Flynt. Then Dr. Flynt gave his speech, and his induction plaque was unveiled by Ms. Christiansen.

Dr. Wayne Flynt, and OCBS employee Kristen Chandler

Nelle Harper Lee

Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama on April 28, 1926. She has had a huge literary impact on Alabama, America and the world. She attended Huntingdon College and the University of Alabama. Lee then moved from Alabama to New York to pursue her writing career. It was in New York that she wrote and later in 1960, published her literary treasure, To Kill A Mockingbird. Lee received a Pulitzer Prize for her debut novel and it has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. Lee also wrote Go Set A Watchman in 1956, but it was not published until 2015. Watchman was at one time intended to be the first novel in a trilogy. She has also written several short stories and essays, including “Christmas to Me.” Ms. Lee’s awards include the Presidential Award of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts.

Dr. Wayne Flynt, fellow inductee and long time friend of Ms. Lee, introduced the induction of Lee. At the time of this luncheon, Ms. Lee was still alive but unable to attend an event so far from home. Ms. Lee’s nephew, Herschel H. “Hank” Lee made the induction speech in Lee’s honor, telling not only of her great achievements but memories he had of Nelle and Alice, from his own childhood. Ms. Lee’s plaque was then unveiled.

Friends and family of Nelle Harper Lee with her plaque
The induction plaque for the 2016 induction of Nelle Harper Lee into the Black Belt Hall of Fame

Dr. Tina Naremore Jones, Executive Director of The Division of Economic Development and Outreach gave the closing remarks. Dr. Flynt had a table set up with his books, available for purchase, after the luncheon. Ol’ Curiosities and Book Shoppe was honored to be asked to have a table selling various editions of To Kill A Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman on behalf of Ms. Lee.

Did you attend the Black Belt Hall of Fame luncheon? Do you know anyone that has been previously inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame? We would love to hear your thoughts!


2015: A Year in Review

Ol' Curiosities & Book Shoppe logo

2015 was a BIG year for Ol’ Curiosities and Book Shoppe. Of course, the release of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman was the biggest event for us this year, but there were several wonderful things that happened here at OCBS during 2015. Here are some of the highlights of the year.

January – February

2015 started off a little slow for us. In January, in honor of winter, we displayed a snowman built out of books on our front porch. We also held a Winter Frenzy book sale during January, selling select older books for $1 to make room for newer books.

February picked up pace, starting with the announcement of the discovery and upcoming release of Go Set a Watchman. This resulted in several things. We began taking pre-orders by phone and in store. Our website was already under construction, so we jumped to get it finished, and pulled in some extra help to write for our blog. Once the option was available to order from our website, orders began to flood it. We extended our advertising to more than just regular Facebook interaction.


Of course, with Ms. Lee’s reclusive past and because of comments she had made in the past, the announcement of the release of Go Set a Watchman was met with some speculation. The Alabama Department of Human Resources even conducted an investigation to make sure she wasn’t being taken advantage of. It was determined that she was not, and the case was quickly closed.

Certificate of Authenticity for Go Set a Watchman from Ol' Curiosities & Book Shoppe.
Certificate of Authenticity for Go Set a Watchman

At this time, we were advised that Ms. Lee would not be signing any copies of Go Set a Watchman, so shoppe owner Spencer Madrie wanted to do something special that would make copies that came from OCBS different from the others. He decided to include a Certificate of Authenticity, signed by him, stating that particular copy came from Ol’ Curiosities in Monroeville, Alabama. The first 500 books purchased would have a numbered certificate. In addition to the certificate, the first page would be embossed with our logo, also stating the book was from Monroeville, Al. This idea was well embraced by the community, and across the United States. We sold a number of copies to international customers as well!

In April of 2015, two of Monroeville’s biggest annual events were held. April kicks off “play season” in Monroeville, where locals put on an annual performance of To Kill a Mockingbird at and outside of the Monroe County Courthouse.

The Annual Alabama Writers symposium, which is held at and sponsored by Alabama Southern Community College was held April 23-25. Spencer and OCBS employee Kristen Chandler attended the Symposium. They met and spoke with several of the guest speakers and attended almost every event. Janice Law, author of American Evita: Lurleen Wallace, also held a book signing at the shoppe on April 24.

Also during the month of April, Kristen was the guest speaker at a Monroeville Three Arts Club meeting. Another highlight from this month was the announcement that Reese Witherspoon would be narrating the audiobook version of Go Set a Watchman.


At the end of April, another shocking announcement was made. The annual performance of To Kill a Mockingbird would be no more. Thankfully, a solution was made. A non-profit organization was started by Harper Lee to reduce the play and keep it in its rightful home of Monroeville, Alabama.

Also this month, local author and friend of OCBS, Reese Reed unveiled her new cover for the re-release of her book, Red.

In June, with its release date rapidly approaching, Go Set a Watchman made the news yet again by becoming the most pre-ordered book in Harper Collins’ history. As far as shoppe news, we took in a cat that showed up literally on our doorstep, and with the help of our customers and blog readers, named him Professor Moody.

Move Night on the Square, which began in June 2014 and is held one night a week during the months of June and July, also began in June. On June 29, a birthday celebration was held for Monroeville, in honor of its 200th birthday. This was located at The Old Courthouse Museum.

And in preparation of the July release of Go Set a Watchman, OCBS got new signs!!


Naturally, the biggest highlight of July was the release of Go Set a Watchman. But so many important events happened here at OCBS and in Monroeville leading up to and after July 14th.

Smithsonian Magazine writer Paul Theroux visited Monroeville prior to the release and wrote a special piece entitled “Return of the Mockingbird.

Spencer Madrie and the staff of Ol' Curiosities Book Shoppe celebrate the release of Go Set a WatchmanSpencer decided to hold a midnight release party to introduce Go Set a Watchman to our community early. We even hired celebrity impersonator Eric Richardson to come dressed in one of his most memorable, and fitting roles, Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.  And before we knew it, release day had come. The day before, Spencer and Ann spent most of the day doing interviews, while other employees handled last minute pre-orders by phone and in store. We had a few snags, such as not receiving the books until about 4 pm, the day before release day, and receiving them in small shipments instead of one large one, but we managed. The midnight release party was a HUGE success. We had all hands on deck, and even several extra ones, who helped emboss books in the back. Over 400 people, including locals, out of town visitors and several reporters and news crews, showed up for the release party. In addition to impersonator Eric Richardson, on release day, we had Kathy McCoy, former Monroe County Museum director with us. McCoy has written several books about Monroeville, and she signed them while customers waited to purchase their copy of Go Set a Watchman. Kerry Madden, who wrote the biography Up Close: Harper Lee, was with us on July 15th, signing her book. With things starting to settle down a little, we had to kick our gears into overdrive to get the rest of the pre-orders shipped out. Each book had to be embossed, which was done by hand, and a certificate was placed inside of the book. Then the books were packaged again by hand and shipped out. We literally made dozens of drop offs at our local post office. We spent the remainder of the month of July and some of August getting those orders shipped out, all while new orders continued to pour in. During this time we also collected letters from customers, here in town and out of town, that we would later pass on to Harper Lee, via her attorney.

 September – October

In September, we extended our shoppe to another location. We had actually already purchased a building across the street from us, and intended to use it as a shipping center. However, lots of work had to be done on the inside and we weren’t able to get it ready in time. We eventually did get it set up for shipping, and turned the front of the building into a window display, featuring several of our furniture pieces we had for sale. Spencer finally got a chance to read and review Go Set a Watchman.

For Halloween, we had a special treat at the shoppe. Steve and Justin Clark, father and son duo who wrote The Golden Knight series, came and did a live performance of The Golden Knight. They also assisted in handing out bookmarks and treats to the trick or treaters.

November – December

Christmas Tree of BooksNovember and December were pretty busy months for the shoppe, and Monroeville. It began in November with The Grand Illumination and Winter Market, held annually on the square. OCBS shared a space with The Piggy Purse Lady, in a building close to The Prop and Gavel. Ann built a Christmas tree of books, like she did the previous year. This year, it was inside, instead of out on the porch. And just when we thought there were no more surprises, Harper Collins announced that they had 500 special edition signed copies of Go Set a Watchman. We were able to obtain a few of these to sale. In December, we held our second annual Christmas ornament swap. It was a big success! We also held one final book signing, one of our locals and friends, Stephanie Blakeman, author of If the Key Fits.

Well, this is only a summary of everything we had going on in 2015. Throughout the year on the blog, we interviewed several Alabama authors as well. And of course, we sold books. LOTS of books.

2015 was a busy, fun year. We are looking forward to an even greater 2016! See you next year 🙂