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February 17, 2004

24th Writing Today conference at Birmingham-Southern College to pay tribute to George Plimpton

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The late author, editor, and actor George Plimpton will be posthumously honored at the 24th Writing Today conference at Birmingham-Southern College March 12-13.

Plimpton, who was editor of The Paris Review since its founding in 1953 and also served as contributing editor to a number of magazines and periodicals, including Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Harper's, died in September 2003. While he accepted the role as Grand Master for the Writing Today 2004 conference prior to his death, the conference planning committee chose to honor him posthumously.

Brigid Hughes, executive editor of The Paris Review and Plimpton's son, Taylor Plimpton, will be in attendance at the Saturday, March 13, luncheon for the tribute to Plimpton. The presentation will be moderated by Don Noble, host of the Alabama Public Television series “Bookmark,” and will include excerpts from Noble's 2002 interview with Plimpton.

Plimpton wrote more than 30 books, among them the well-known Paper Lion, which chronicles his legendary experiences playing quarterback for the Detroit Lions, and oral biographies on Robert F. Kennedy and Truman Capote. Plimpton also appeared in more than 30 films.

“Mr. Plimpton was a singular talent and a champion of writers. We wanted to use the occasion of the Writing Today 2004 conference to recognize his work,” said Florence Jackson, chair of this year's conference. “Additionally, we have assembled an outstanding group of literary professionals to serve on the faculty. This is not only a credit to the national reputation this conference has achieved over the past 24 years, but also to the people in the Birmingham community who help plan this event, half of whom are published writers themselves.”

The Writing Today conference brings literary professionals from around the country to the Birmingham-Southern campus for sessions and lectures on the craft of writing, as well as practical information related to publishing literary works. The conference also will feature Kevin Arkadie, accomplished television screenwriter; Laure-Anne Bosselaar, poet and graduate poetry instructor at Sarah Lawrence College; and David Guterson, novelist and non-fiction writer.

Arkadie has been a television writer for 12 years, and his work has earned award nominations for Emmys, Golden Globes, Writers Guild of America and Humanitas prizes. His writing credits include two plays, six films, and numerous television episodes. He received recognition as a finalist for the Humanitas Award for his works “I'll Fly Away,” “Coming Home,” “Chicago Hope,” and “The Parent Rap.” As the co-executive producer, he won a Golden Globe Award for “The Shield.”

Bosselaar teaches poetry workshops at writers' conferences around the country. She is the author of The Hour Between Dog and Wolf and Small Gods of Grief, which won the Isabella Gardner Prize for Poetry for 2001. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Washington Post, AGNI, and Harvard Review, and in numerous anthologies, among other publications. Her next anthology, Never Before: Poems About First Experiences, will be published in 2004.

Guterson is the author of the best-selling Snow Falling on Cedars, which won the 1995 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction and the American Bookseller's Association ABBY Award. His other books are the novels East of the Mountains and Our Lady of the Forest and the story collection The Country Ahead of Us, The Country Behind Us. His non-fiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Harper's, among other publications. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and was for many years a contributing editor at Harper's.

Other Writing Today 2004 faculty include:

Ellen Archer, vice president and publisher for Hyperion Publishers in New York whose marketing campaigns have included bestsellers by Michael J. Fox, John Grisham, Caroline Kennedy, and Faith Popcorn; Jason Blume, Nashville songwriter whose songs have been recorded by superstars including Britney Spears, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Backstreet Boys, and others and who is the author of books on songwriting as well as published poetry; Loretta Cobb, founder and director emeritus of The Harbert Writing Center at the University of Montevallo and published academic essayist, poet, editor, and short story writer; Myra Crawford, chair of the Hackney Literary Awards competition since 1969 and former Alabama poet-in-residence and author;

Charles Ghigna, poet, children's author, and nationally syndicated feature writer whose award-winning books have been featured on “Good Morning America” and selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club; Suzanne La Rosa, founder and publisher of NewSouth Books and former group publisher at The Taunton Press; Michael Martone, professor and director of creative writing at the University of Alabama, former director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Syracuse University, and short fiction and essay writer;

Norman McMillan, author of the memoir Distant Sun and professor of English at the University of Montevallo from 1971-2000; Jim Murphy, winner of the 1998 Wick Poetry Prize and assistant professor of English at the University of Montevallo; Don Noble, Emmy award-winning host for Alabama Public Television's “Bookmark” and former English professor at the University of Alabama; Will Pearson, co-founder and president of mental_floss magazine who appears weekly on CNN Headline News;

John Sledge, book editor of The Mobile Press Register and author of a weekly column “Southern Bound”; Carolynne Scott, author of a short story collection and other books and recipient of an National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Fiction; Brad Watson, short fiction writer and novelist, journalist, and former Harvard professor; and Randall Williams, co-founder and editor-in-chief for NewSouth Books in Montgomery.

The Hackney Literary Awards, sponsored since 1969 by the Cecil Hackney family of Birmingham, will be presented during the conference. The competition awards $5,000 prizes for poetry and short fiction, as well as a $5,000 prize for an unpublished novel, sponsored by T. Morris Hackney, chairman of the board of The Hackney Group of Birmingham and Birmingham-Southern College trustee. The Hackney Awards are open to writers nationwide.

Writing Today is supported by the Alabama Humanities Foundation and Southern Progress Corp. For more information, contact Birmingham-Southern's Office of Special Events at 205/226-4921 or go to the conference website at



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