BSC Office of Communications

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December 7, 2004

25th anniversary Writing Today conference at Birmingham-Southern College to pay tribute to previous grandmasters, writers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—All the previous grandmasters of Writing Today will be honored at the conference's 25th anniversary March 11-12 at Birmingham-Southern College. Writer and public radio commentator Andrei Codrescu will be the keynote speaker on Friday, March 11, and two Pulitzer Prize winners and former grandmasters will speak on Saturday, March 12.

“For the past 25 years, this conference has recognized some of the finest writers of our time. We wanted to use the occasion of the anniversary of the Writing Today conference to recognize their work,” said Bill Carter, chair of this year's conference. “The quality of writers honored is not only a credit to the national reputation this conference has achieved over the past 25 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.

Since Writing Today began in 1978, it has included writers who went on to great acclaim, including well-known screenwriter Nora Ephron, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her screenplay Silkwood (with Alice Arlen) and who wrote When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Michael, among other movies; Pat Conroy, author of Beach Music and ThePrince of Tides; Winston Groom, whose national status as a household name came with the success of the movie Forrest Gump; John Barth, novelist and professor of creative writing at Johns Hopkins University; Anne Rivers Siddons, author of Peachtree Road and Outer Banks;

John Gardner, National Book Award winner for October Light; Fannie Flagg, comedienne, local Birmingham TV personality, and author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, which later became a major motion picture; Mark Childress, whose novel Crazy in Alabama was made into a movie; Isaac Bashevis Singer, acclaimed Yiddish short story writer; Eugene McCarthy, poet/statesman; Tom Wicker, New York Times Washington correspondent and political columnist who wrote A Time to Die about the Attica Prison stand-off and who published George Herbert Walker Bush this year; Mary Pope Osborne, a major children's author known for the Magic Tree House fiction and non-fiction series; Lee Smith, author of Fair and Tender Ladies and The Last Girls; and Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish, made recently into a popular motion picture.

Many local writers have appeared at Writing Today, many of whom also are well-known nationally. They include mystery writer Anne George and children's author and poet Charles Ghigna, among others.

Writing Today also has brought to Birmingham many prominent editors, publishers, and agents, including, among others, Louis Rubin, who has taught such writers as Clyde Edgerton, Lee Smith, Annie Dillard, John Barth, and Kaye Gibbons; Shannon Ravenel, editor and co-founder (with Louis Rubin) of Algonquin Books; Eugene Winick, literary agent with McIntosh & Otis representing authors such as Mary Higgins Clark and the estates of other authors such as Sinclair Lewis and Thomas Wolfe; and Nan Talese, senior vice president of Doubleday and president, editor, and publisher of Nan A. Talese books.

Codrescu, the March 11 keynote speaker, is the McCurdy Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Louisiana State University and a poet, essayist, novelist, and regular commentator on National Public Radio. He is the recipient of the Peabody Award for the film Road Scholar, and many other literary awards. His work has been widely translated and he also has received National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships for poetry and editing.

On March 12, Don Noble, host of Alabama Public Television's “Bookmark,” will moderate a discussion with two Pulitzer Prize winners and former Writing Today grandmasters, including Horton Foote, 1998 Grand Master, who wrote the screenplay for To Kill a Mockingbird along with other award-winning plays and screenplays, and William Styron, 1992 Grand Master whose books include Sophie'sChoice which was made into an Academy Award-winning movie.

Among others presenting at the 2005 Writing Today conference are: Rick Bragg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former national correspondent for The New York Times, as well as author of several best-selling novels; Delores Hydock, former professor of theatre at Birmingham-Southern College, writer, and actress/storyteller; Steve Almond, a former newspaper reporter and journalist who is the author of Candyfreak and now teaches creative writing at Boston College; Ron Rash, John Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, poet, and novelist who is the author of One Foot in Eden;

Warren St. John, who graduated from Birmingham's Altamont School and now lives in New York where he writes for The New York Times and wrote Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer; Frank Stitt, Birmingham chef and restaurateur and author of the recently published cookbook Southern Table; Sarah Crichton, publisher of Sarah Crichton Books, a division of Farrar Straus and Giroux, and former publisher with Little, Brown as well as assistant managing editor at Newsweek magazine and editor of Seventeen magazine; Dana Johnson, an award-winning short story writer; and Guy Martin, a senior writer with Conde Nast Traveler who also has written for Esquire magazine.

The Hackney Literary Awards, sponsored since 1969 by the Cecil Hackney family of Birmingham, also are presented during the conference each year. The competition awards $5,000 in prizes for poetry and short fiction, as well as a $5,000 prize for an unpublished novel. The Hackney Awards are open to writers nationwide.

Writing Today is supported by the Alabama Humanities Foundation and Southern Progress Corp. Registration will begin in January. 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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