BSC Office of Communications

News from the Hilltop

February 18, 2009

Birmingham native Thom Gossom Jr. among presenters at 2009 Writing Today conference at Birmingham-Southern College

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Thom Gossom Jr., actor, writer, and communications professional, is among 14 presenters for Writing Today 2009 at Birmingham-Southern College. The 29th annual event will be March 13 and 14, 2009, on the BSC campus. It will be preceded by An Evening with Thom Gossom Jr. on March 12 to enjoy readings and conversation with Gossom at the Birmingham Public Library from 6-8 p.m. Advanced reservations are required with an additional fee of $10.

Gossom, born in Birmingham, was the second black football player for Auburn University and is perhaps the first black athlete to walk on and earn a football scholarship in the Southeastern Conference. After a brief time in the National Football League and in public relations for BellSouth, he started his own public relations firm in 1987. He is a self-described working actor having appeared on stage, television, and film. His writing credits include his critically acclaimed one-man show “Speak of Me As I Am,” his recently published memoir “Walk-On: My Reluctant Journey to Integration,” as well as numerous articles and columns for newspapers and magazines.

Major speakers for the 2009 conference include best-selling novelist and journalist Mark Winegardner, and noted poet David Kirby, who is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University.

Winegardner, author of “The Godfather Returns” and “The Godfather's Revenge,” published his first novel at the age of 26 as a graduate student. He is currently a professor in the creative writing program at Florida State University.

Kirby, who specializes in 19th century U.S. literature and poetry, has received many honors for his work including the Brittingham Prize in Poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and Florida Arts Council.

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. The annual writer's conference focuses on the art and skill of creative expression through words, and the varied program offers readings from distinguished authors, breakout sessions on magazine and book publishing topics, and networking opportunities for aspiring writers.

Other conference presenters for Writing Today 2009 include Jonee Ansa, an award-winning filmmaker, screenwriter, and director, as well as a film editor who broke new ground as a first- and second-year Director of Photography Fellow at the American Film Institute; Tina McElroy Ansa, a freelance journalist, newspaper columnist, and writing workshop instructor at a number of colleges and universities who was the first black woman to work on the morning newspaper “The Atlanta Constitution;” Big Table Poets, including charter members Suzanne Coker, Robert Boliek, Irene

Latham, Barry Marks, and Jerri Beck, who take their name, literally, from the large table at a Birmingham bookstore where they meet to critique their work, and figuratively, from the wide range of approaches to poetry their work represents; Myra Crawford, who is a former Alabama poet-in-residence and chairman of the Hackney Literary Awards since 1969; Robert Finch, who is widely regarded as one of America's leading nature writers, and received the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for Radio Writing in 2005; Charles Ghigna (Father Goose), a resident of Homewood and an internationally renowned poet and children's author who has dedicated his life to the enrichment of the literary arts for children and adults throughout the world; Hank Lazer, who is a professor of English at the University of Alabama and has published 14 books of poetry including work nominated for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize and the 2004 Forward Prize; Elizabeth Lyon, who has worked as an independent book editor and writing teacher for two decades; Don Noble, who taught English at the University of Alabama for 32 years and is now a professor emeritus and an adjunct professor of journalism; Wendy Rawlings, a native of Long Island, New York, now residing in Tuscaloosa, whose first book won the 2000 Sandstone Prize in Short Fiction from The Ohio State University Press; R.A. Riekki, a screenwriter, novelist, teacher, actor, and currently an instructor of English at Auburn University who recently published his first novel in a four-book deal; Kathy Shorr, a freelance writer who has worked as a travel writer, radio producer, grant writer, blogger, publicist, and street fair poet; and Logan Ward, a freelance writer who writes regularly about science and architecture for a number of popular magazines and who in 2000 moved he and his family from New York City to Virginia to recreate the life of 19th century subsistence farmers.

New to this year's conference are Hands-On Workshops on March 14, which are intensive two-hour critique sessions that give writers an opportunity for immediate feedback and suggestions. These additional workshops, which will take place from 2-4:30 p.m., have limited enrollment and require an additional registration fee.

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. Deadline for registration with guaranteed seating at luncheons is March 2. For more information, contact Birmingham-Southern's office of College Events at 205/226-4921, or go to the conference website at

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