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Stretching, Expanding, and Writing

The practice of writing demands we take time to care for our tools--those typing shoulders, those writing hands, that busy brain. A rich literary community or network can help us expand our horizons and imagine new ones.

One of AWC's innovative experiments involves opening up membership to nonprofits, publishers, book stores, community groups, and various associations through our Organization Membership. What does this mean? How will this expand and enlarge the benefits to Alabama literary community?
  • Connect writers to bookstores or libraries seeking readings and events
  • Publicize events at organizations and bookstores
  • Offer new platforms for collaboration
  • Provide a ready-made pool of reviewing talent for publishers or authors with recent books
  • Publicize news books by Alabama publishers
Honestly, when I start thinking about all the potential untapped synergies here, I get a little dizzy. For example, I currently have three new books by Alabama authors that could use a review and some publicity. If you'd like to review one of these books, please contact me and I will mail it along. Then you can read, review, and email the final product to me and it will go up on our website (see this lovely review by Charlotte Pence for example). Helping one another is often a means of building stronger ties to local writers and lending a hand in the creation of literary community. I encourage you to reach out. 

In the meantime, please keep sending your wonderful publications, writings, inspirations, and current activities to me at Be sure to send any links to recent journal publications, especially those online publications that we can all enjoy for free. And thank you so much for making Alabama a more writerly place.

Best wishes,
Alina Stefanescu, Newsletter Editor, Publicity Chair, and General Web Jockey
10 cool things that just happened
  1. Mike Burrell chatted with Alina Stefanescu about his new novel, The Land of Grace, and how he navigates life in the kudzu.
  2. Charlotte Pence reviewed Sue Brannan Walker's new collection, Let Us Imagine Her Name, for the AWC website. 
  3. T.K. Thorne's new novel, House of Rose, is available for pre-order.
  4. Ashley M. Jones was featured on NPR's "Code Switch" in a conversation about Birmingham. Catch it for free online.
  5. Three poems by Susan Martinello will be published in the fall 2018 issue of Number One: a Literary Journal.
  6. Kwoya Fagin Maples' exquisite sonnet corona was published in Puerto del Sol
  7. Nancy Owen Wilson's memoirSearching for Nannie B:  Connecting Three Generations of Southern Womencontinues to generate interest among southern writers and local historians
  8. Alina Stefanescu has an interview about her fiction collection in Former Cactus.
  9. New Member Consuelo Marshall's poem, "Myself As Playboy Bunny", won first place in the prestigious Verve Poetry Competition. 
  10. Tina Mozelle Braziel recorded a reading of her poem, "Work Shirt," which you can watch right now.
We're currently assembling an online Bookshelf page featuring book publications by AWC authors so please email a link to your book to Don't forget to check our web calendar for other events near you. And email to let us know if there is something to add. We can't share cool things if we don't know about them.
UC San Diego researchers have recently demonstrated that spoilers don’t spoil. In many cases, spoilers actively enhance enjoyment. Learn how this applies to your fiction. 
New Member of the Month: Ron Yates

Ron Yates has been learning to write for most of his life. He whipped out good essays in high school, but his adolescent energies were mainly devoted to tinkering with old cars, drag racing, drinking beer, and barely staying out of trouble. Although encouraged by his English teacher to pursue higher education, Yates, after graduating in lackluster fashion, spent time languishing in factory jobs. An aching back and a caring girlfriend prompted him to explore other options. His enduring love of reading and nascent knack for writing guided him to a degree in English and a career teaching high school. Years later he earned an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. His fiction collection, Make It Right: A Novella and Eight Stories, is forthcoming in early 2019 from Ardent Writer Press; his novel, Ben Stempton’s Boy, will be published later that year by Unsolicited Press. Yates, who lives near Mt. Cheaha on the shore of beautiful Lake Wedowee, has published stories in a variety of journals including Hemingway Shorts, KYSO Flash, Still: the Journal, The Oddville Press, and Prime Number Magazine. 

Ron is currently trying to schedule readings and local events in Alabama for his forthcoming fiction collection and novel. Connect with Ron on Facebook or visit his website

The ASPS Fall is Conference Open for Registration!

$35      member registration with catered lunch

$45     non-member registration with catered lunch

$25      member registration without catered lunch (bringing your own lunch)

Members and non-members can register for the conference online at the ASPS website. ASPS contest winners and poetry book of the year will be announced. 

Friday night events are free and open to the public. Attendees can bring friends and family to all non-workshop events. For additional information, email the ASPS President at

From the Bookshelf: BOOKS BY MEMBERS

How to Write the Hard, Haunted Stories: A Few Tips

How do we know which story to write? How do we deal with the fear that this difficult story will change how others see us or complicate our sense of self in the world? How to balance being the mother, the wife, the citizen, the father, the breadwinner, and the writer?

One way to find your story is by reviewing what haunts you. Felicia Rose Chavez encourages writers to find the story that won’t leave them alone:

“When you’re alone, when it’s quiet and your mind wanders, what surfaces, over and over despite your best efforts? Psychologists call these “intrusive memories,” the invisible switchboard operations that ensure we never get over our childhoods. I call them “golden stories.” Not because they’re pleasant, necessarily, but because they burn bright.”

Is there a story you aren't telling because the form won't fall into place? Sometimes we get trapped by the seductions of linear narrative, believing that a story which doesn't lend itself to an orderly telling is a story that might not be worth telling at all. In a fantastic essay titled "Corn Maze," author Pam Houston makes a case for a different narrative structure:

“…when both of your parents are alcoholics, one thing never leads to another. There is no such thing as how it really happened. When both of your parents are alcoholics, the only way to get to a narrative that is un-shattered would be to run the tape backwards, like a car accident in reverse where the windshield that is in a million pieces magically mends itself. This is not necessarily the bad news. A mind that moves associatively (as my mind does and probably your mind too) like a firefly in a grassy yard on a late June evening, has more fun (and other things too, of course, like static, like trouble) than a mind that moves logically or even chronologically. Just the other day for instance, someone said the word tennis, and I saw in my mind’s eye a lady in a pig suit with wings.”

The linear narrative was not ideal for describing the way Pam Houston experienced life. Initially, Houston tried to stretch “Slinkies into straight lines” but then she accepted the value of an associative progression as the more genuine vehicle. In her words:

“One thing I am sure of, having spent the last five years inside a shattered narrative, is that time is a worthy opponent. It does not give up quietly. It does not give up kicking and screaming. It does not, in fact, give up at all. Time is like when you break a thermometer and all the mercury runs around the table trying like crazy to reconstitute itself. Or like the way PCB can start out in a glass transformer in Alabama and wind up on the island of Svalbard, inside a polar bear cub’s brain. A shattered narrative is still a narrative. We can’t escape it; it is what we are.”

Tell the difficult story. Experiment with shattered narrative structure. Don't give up on the stories that haunt you. 

Joy is elusive, sudden, unexpected, gradual, and sometimes grotesque. The week after my mom’s death, I remember a hideous joy on the fifth day at 3:47 pm when the sun burned my shoulders and all the world—the dogwoods, the warm pavement, the mockingbirds near the porch—was implicated in her presence. I could feel her laughing, smell her apple-tinged perfume, watch the red of her hair burn their way across the yard. Just one single minute of exuberant impossible and then back to the banality of living lies, telling others I was fine, negotiating the absurdity of death and imagining someone could be erased, gone, eternally absent. Joy is so many flavors of awe. There are joys we fondle—memories we pick up and unspool in private. There are public joys—a friend’s description of holding her girlfriend’s hand for the first time on a public playground, the relentless joy of a gay pride parade. And yet, despite countless publications that swear to deliver it if you put your knees over your head and eat only almonds, there is no formula for joy on this planet. By its nature, joy is unsustainable, untenable, hard to hold, impossible to coerce. What surprise is lovelier than joy? So give us your public joys, your private joys, your foolish fondles. Give us your transient, shameless, vulnerable, wimped-out absurdities. Give us the harrows of joy, its horrors. Give us your smallest joys, your childhood joys, your most monumental. Give us the elusive object that lacks a template. We can’t wait to read it. However it looks. However it haunts. Whatever it touches. Submissions due 9/14/18. Guest Editor Alina Stefanescu. Issue live 10/31/18. Submit online.
If you attended the AWC 2018 Conference, we desperately need your feedback. The only way we can improve a conference is by knowing what you liked and what you'd like to see change. Please fill out the survey below--it's only a small request that makes a BIG difference. 

2018 Conference Survey
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Alabama Writers' Conclave · 7296 Bayberry Road · Helena, AL 35022 · USA

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