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

Truman Capote: Still Making Headlines


Capote with the Maysels brothersTruman Capote: Literary Icon Garners Attention Again

Writing about the writers that have made Monroeville the Literary Capital of Alabama has given me the opportunity to learn a lot about those icons.  I’ve written extensively about Harper Lee, and her childhood neighbor and friend, Truman Capote.  When I heard about the sale of Capote’s ashes last week, I was a little in awe.  The fetching price of $45,000 doesn’t amaze me nearly as much as that Capote’s remains were actually sold at all.  In true Capote fashion, the flamboyant boy child of Monroeville is still making headlines.

Truman Capote: A Unique Memento

It seems an anonymous buyer purchased perhaps the most personal memento of his or her favorite author when they bought Truman Capote’s ashes from Julien’s Auctions of Los Angeles, CA, some 30 years after the novelist and screenplay writer’s death. It is the first time in recorded history that ashes of a deceased person have been sold at auction. I think Capote would have relished that fact.  He loved making history.

Truman Capote and Joanne Carson: The Friendship

The ashes had been cared for by Joanne Carson, former wife of Johnny Carson, with whom Truman Capote spent his final days. A dear friend of Capote, she is quoted as saying that having the ashes of the famed writer in her home “brought (her) great comfort.” It is rumored that before he died, Capote began to work on a memoir for Carson that was never completed.

Truman Capote: The Remains

When Capote passed away in 1984, the ashes belonging to Joanne Carson were worth as much as $6,000.00.  The President of the Auction House expected them to sell for more than $10,000.00 but could not have anticipated the phenomenal price they brought.  Competition for the ashes, housed in a carved wooden box from Japan and the original cemetery packaging from Westwood Village Mortuary, was intense.  Bidders haled from Russia, China, South America, and Germany, as well as the United States.

Capote’s ashes found their way to auction due to Carson’s death last year. Julien told CNN, “He (Capote) told her he didn’t want to sit on a shelf. This is definitely right in line with his wishes,” and, “If it wasn’t for it being Truman Capote, it would have been disrespectful.”  There is truth to this statement. Capote was always one seek the limelight, and somehow being sold at an auction that made headlines is fitting.

Truman Capote: In Good Company

Other items belonging to Capote were also sold: About fifty items including shirts, trousers, ice skates, a few books, and the shirt he wore on the day of his death were all sold to the highest bidders, most at prices from $50 to $2,000, according to the auction house. A small collection of Capote’s prescription bottles sold for $5,000.  The same auction brought in winning bids for items once owned by Steve Jobs and Dennis Hopper, and locks of Marilyn Monroe’s hair brought $70,000.

Truman Capote: “Rest in Peace” Just Doesn’t Fit

According to the auction house, the buyer of Truman Capote’s ashes has promised that the scribe’s adventures will live on.  No, it doesn’t seem that Truman Capote will ever rest in peace.  Then again, I am not sure he ever wanted to.

Yes, Truman Capote was talented and eccentric—but then, many of the best writers are.  Who is your favorite eccentric writer and why?  Let us know in the comments below.

Truman Capote Other Voices Book Club

Other Voices, Other Rooms

Other Voices, Other RoomsLast month, the Friends of the Library, the Monroe County Museum, and Monroeville Main Street collaborated efforts and started a book club that honors another one of our local literary heroes, Truman Capote. Going forward, this club will meet once a month at the Monroe County Museum and discuss a Capote book over a “brown bag” lunch.

This month’s meeting will be held this Thursday, March 10th at noon. The book being discussed this month is “Other Voices, Other Rooms.” Alabama Southern Community College librarian Alisha Linam  will be leading the discussion. She will also be announcing the line-up for this year’s Alabama Writer’s Symposium, which will be held March 31st-April 1st.

About Other Voices, Other Rooms

Published in 1984 and written in Southern Gothic style, Other Voices, Other Rooms was Capote’s first published novel. It has been said that Capote was drawn to write this book after taking a walk in the woods while living here in Monroeville, Alabama.  Other Voices, Other Rooms is a coming-of-age story and features themes of searching, alienation, and self-acceptance. It has also been said that this novel is in a way, an autobiography of Capote himself.

If you are local, and you are interested in attending this months book club, don’t forget to bring your own lunch! Come prepared to discuss this wonderful book with other book lovers. If you have questions or need more information, please call Anne Marie Bryan at 251-362-0433 or Nathan Carter at 251-575-7433.

We hope to see you there!

Tickets for To Kill a Mockingbird, the play, on sale soon!

Mockingbird Players Amphitheater, To Kill a Mockingbird Play
Monroe County Heritage Museum Sign
Monroe County Heritage Museum

Aside from the book To Kill a Mockingbird, and Harper Lee herself, another thing Monroeville is widely known for is their yearly production of To Kill a Mockingbird. The play is performed by local members of the community, at the old Monroe County Courthouse. Performances begin in April and run through May. The first act of the play is performed outside on the Courthouse lawn; the second act is performed inside the old Monroe County Courthouse, in the court room.

Ticket Information


Tickets for the TKAM play will go on sale March 1st (next Tuesday!) All tickets are general admission, with open seating. Ticket price is $50 (plus fees). All performances start at 7:00 pm, with seating beginning at 6:30 pm. The duration of the play is two hours. In the event of bad weather, the full play will take place inside. You can purchase tickets online, however if you have a group larger than fifty people, please call 251-743-3386 to purchase tickets.

There are no refunds given for unused tickets. However, tickets may be returned for a donation to the Mockingbird Company if they are not able to be used. It is asked that no cameras be used or filming of any kind be done during the performance. Also, large handbags are not preferred because seating is often tight. If you are a white male over the age of 18, please be advised that you may be selected for jury duty and will be asked to sit with the jury during the trial scene.

Performance Schedule

Performances will be held on the following dates. Again, all performances will start at 7:00 pm, with seating starting at 6:30 pm.

Friday, April 15
Saturday, April 16
Friday, April 22
Friday, April 29
Saturday, April 30
Friday, May 6
Saturday, May 7
Friday, May 13
Saturday, May 14
Friday, May 20
Saturday, May 21
A special performance of TKAM will be held on Saturday, April 23rd. Ticket prices for the special performance are $75 (plus fees). After this special performance, attendees of  are invited to have drinks and hors d’oeuvres on the lawn, and will have the opportunity to mingle with the TKAM cast and crew.

A History of the Play

The first stage adaption of TKAM was presented in Monroeville, Alabama in November of 1991. Monroe County Heritage Museum Director Kathy McCoy had the idea to present the play as a way to raise money for renovations for the old courthouse. The first performance was only one act and held in the old courtroom.

This first performance was embraced positively, and the next year the play was presented in May. In 1996, the amateur actors who presented the play (now known as the Mockingbird Players) took the performance internationally. They performed the play at the Israel International Cultural Festival in Jerusalem to a sold out audience. In 1998, the Mockingbird players traveled internationally again. This time it was to Kingston Upon Hull, England and they performed at and lead an Alabama Cultural Symposium. The group traveled again in 2000, this time within the states, to present the play in Washington, D.C. They performed the play for Congress, and also sold out crowds at the Kennedy Center. The Mockingbird players returned to Kingston Upon Hull in 2004. In 2005, TKAM was performed at the Museum of Cultural Arts in Chicago, Illinois. The most recent non-local performance was in 2012 at the Hong Kong Asia Center.

Have you seen the play? Will you be attending this year? What are your thoughts? We would love to hear from you!


Monroeville, Alabama: Sit a Spell

Monroeville, Alabama
Monroeville, Alabama: Literary Capital of Alabama
Monroeville—Literary Capital of Alabama

Our hometown of Monroeville, Alabama could be called America’s Hometown. In fact, millions of people have already read all about us, even if they don’t know it: Harper Lee used Monroeville as the model for the fictional town of Maycomb in her timeless classic, To Kill A Mockingbird. Readers familiar with the descriptions of the businesses and offices situated around Maycomb’s town square will find similar geography in Monroeville. Many fans have passed through over the years, retracing Scout’s steps from one side of town to the other.

Monroeville, Alabama’s Best Known Landmark

The Old Courthouse –where Atticus Finch argued the Tom Robinson case– is at the center of Monroeville, and is now the Monroe County Museum. It houses exhibits dedicated to Harper Lee and Truman Capote, who happened to be childhood friends. Visitors walking through the beautifully restored Court room may recognize it as a near-exact replica was built on a Hollywood soundstage for the film version of Mockingbird. There are even performances of the To Kill a Mockingbird play at the Courthouse each spring. The opportunity to see Harper Lee’s beloved novel come to life in the most authentic setting possible keeps performances sold out year after year.

Monroeville, Alabama’s Famous Locals and Their Influence

Monroeville was named the “Literary Capital of Alabama” in 1997 for Harper Lee, Truman Capote, and several other authors who lived here, . The monuments and murals celebrate our hometown heroes and their work, as well as the history of literature itself. By taking everything she saw and knew from Monroeville and fashioning it into an American masterpiece, Harper Lee demonstrated the power of one writer’s experience to influence readers all over the world.

Monroeville, Alabama’s Book Shoppe–Dedicated to a Legacy

We opened Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe to reflect the esteemed literary tradition of Monroeville, Alabama. This is what makes our town special, and we wanted to build a place for our local readers and tourists to visit, learn more about our authors, and have the opportunity to take one of Monroeville’s most famous products with them: a book! Only steps from town square, you’ll find limited editions of To Kill A Mockingbird, Go Set A Watchman, and much, much more. We’re also happy to share some scenic spots and photo stops to round out your literary tour and help you create some wonderful memories of your visit to Monroeville, Alabama.