BSC Office of Communications

Your News Source for the Hilltop

February 17, 2006

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove to be Grand Master at Birmingham-Southern's 26th annual Writing Today conference

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Rita Dove will serve as Grand Master for Writing Today 2006 on the Birmingham-Southern College campus. The event will be March 10 and 11, and is a part of the college's Sesquicentennial celebration.

Dove was Poet Laureate of the United States and consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995. She is currently poet laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia and is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Her recognitions include 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, 1996 National Humanities Medal, and 2003 Emily Couric Leadership Award. Her numerous works include “The Yellow House on the Corner,” “On the Bus with Rosa Parks,” and “American Smooth,” a new collection published in September 2004.

The Writing Today conference brings literary professionals from around the country to the college's campus for sessions and lectures on the craft of writing, as well as practical information related to publishing literary works.

Major speakers for the 2006 conference include Nathalie Handal, poet, writer, playwright, literary activist, and professor at Columbia University; Douglas Hofstadter, professor at Indiana University and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction and the American Book Award for science hardback; and Juan Williams, National Public Radio senior correspondent and one of America's leading journalists.

Handal, whose work has appeared in numerous magazines and literary reviews, is currently working on the feature film “Gibran” for the Kazbah Project. Her published works include “The Lives of Rain,” “The Never Field,” and “Traveling Rooms.”

Hofstadter is the author of “Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid” for which he won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award. This work has impacted a variety of fields of study including philosophy, mathematics, music, and artificial intelligence. He teaches cognitive science and computer science at Indiana University.

Williams, who served as an editorial writer, an op-ed columnist, and a White House reporter for “The Washington Post,” led the team of veteran reporters and editors in producing “My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience.” His work includes “Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary” and “Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965.” He is heard locally on WBHM and appears regularly on the “Fox News” channel.

Faculty for Writing Today 2006 includes 12 distinguished individuals. They are:

Marlin Barton, assistant director of “Writing Our Stories: An Anti-Violence Creative Writing Project” for juvenile offenders and creative writing teacher at Mount Meigs juvenile facility in

Montgomery . Barton's work “Dancing by the River” won the O. Henry Award and the Andrew Lytle Prize. He also received the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook Award for the best first volume of short stories. His other published work includes “A Broken Thing” and “The Dry Well,” a collection of short stories.

Wendy Reed Bruce is a writer, producer, and director at the Alabama Center for Public Television who has taught creative writing, composition, scriptwriting, and literature. She has also served as a speechwriter and editor for the “Birmingham Poetry Review.” Her articles and stories have appeared in many publications. Among them is “Climbing Mt. Cheaha: Stories from Emerging Alabama Writers” and “Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose.” She has won two Hackney Literary Awards.

John Calderazzo is a professor of creative non-fiction and literature at Colorado State University. His work has appeared in “Best American Short Stories,” “Best American Essays,” “Georgia Review,” “Audubon,” “Runner,” and “Coastal Living.” His essays have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is the author of “Rising Fire: Volcanoes and Our Inner Lives,” a journey through volcano lore.

Mark Childress is a Monroeville native and author of “Crazy in Alabama,” an award-winning screenplay for film. He has been a journalist with “The Birmingham News,” “Southern Living,” and the “Atlanta Journal Constitution.” He is the author of “A World Made of Fire,” “V for Victor,” “Tender,” and “Gone for Good.” He has also written several books for children including “Joshua and the Big Tooth” and “Henry Bobbity is Missing.” He is currently working on his new novel “One Mississippi.”

Stella Connell, literary agent and owner of The Connell Agency in New York, assists publishers in developing and implementing promotional campaigns. Her work includes campaigns for Caroline Kennedy, Loretta Lynn, Kaye Gibbons, Lee Smith, and Kathleen Norris. Works represented by her agency have been recognized as No. 1 “New York Times” bestsellers, “SEBA” bestsellers, and No. 1 Booksense picks. She was formerly associated with Doubleday, Random House, Inc., and G.P. Putnam Sons.

Wayne Flynt, professor emeritus at Auburn University and editor-in-chief of the new “Online Encyclopedia of Alabama,” is the leading authority on Alabama history and Baptist history. He is author of 11 books, including “Poor But Proud: Alabama's Poor Whites,” which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Jim Gilbert, editor-in-chief at River City Publishers in Montgomery, is a writer whose work is included in the first volume of “Stories from the Blue Moon Café.”

Jim Murphy, assistant professor of English at the University of Montevallo, serves as director of the Montevallo Literary Festival. His poetry collection “The Memphis Sun” won a Stand and Tom Wick Award. He has been a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers' Conference and has been published in “The Southern Review,” “The Greensboro Review,” and the “Brooklyn Review.”

George Packer, staff writer with “The New Yorker,” is a 2001-02 Guggenheim Fellow and the son of Nancy Huddleston Packer. His articles, essays, and reviews on foreign affairs have appeared in “The New York Times,” “Dissent,” “Mother Jones,” and “Harper's.” His most recent book, “The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq,” is a firsthand description of the consequences on the ground.

Nancy Huddleston Packer is a Birmingham native and former director of the Creative Writing Program at Stanford University. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford. Her short stories have appeared in “Harper's,” “Kenyon Review,” “Yale Review,” “Virginia Quarterly,” “Southern Review,” and “Sewanee Review.” A number of her stories have won O. Henry Awards.

Deborah Serra, screenwriter and adjunct professor of screenwriting at the University of California at San Diego, has written 11 TV movies, seven feature films, two one-hour movies, two pilots, and more

than 20 half-hour shows. Her work has been produced by CBS, NBC, Lifetime, and Showtime. She has worked with James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, Meg Ryan, and Robert Cort.

Anne P. Wheeler is a BSC alumna, film producer, and winner of Audience Choice Award for Documentaries at the 2004 Sidewalk Festival in Birmingham. She is a practicing attorney with Johnston Barton Proctor & Powell LLP in Birmingham. Her practice includes intellectual property law, including copyright law. She was the producer and executive producer for the documentary film, “Kathryn: The Story of a Teller,” on the life of writer and storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham. She is currently producing another film.

The Hackney Literary Awards, sponsored since 1969 by the Cecil Hackney family of Birmingham, 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 is in progress. For more information, contact Birmingham-Southern's office of College Events at 205/226-4921 or go to the conference Web site at


Close Window