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As a female raised in a landscape steeped in romantic traditions, February brackets my every breath with pink hearts and shiny red garland. By Valentine's Day, I'm ready to hide in a bathroom with dog-eared pages of Dorothy Parkerr and recuse myself from modern love's performative exhaustion.

The problem isn't love or even romance so much as the way in which we diminish it or reduce it to life. A love that lasts forever isn't a love limited to a corporeal body. Those grieving the loss of loved one know that the most important valentines have no hands to hold them. As a writing prompt this month, I'd like to encourage you to write a valentine (whether fiction, memoir, poetry, vignette, or hybrid in form) to a person or creature no longer living. Expand the territory of your imagination to make room for the glorious impossible. For inspiration, consider listen as Gail Mazur discusses dealing with the loss of her husband through poetry, and how writing pays tribute to love beyond the immediate flesh.

Our incredible board members have been working overtime to create the most exquisite literary opportunities in the state of Alabama, and I am so proud to be able to share their creations with you.  Apart from the amazing 2018 AWC Conference planned by Jessica this year, we also have a first in the Magic City Poetry Festival this April. Stay tuned for exciting emails later this month about the first Magic City Poetry Festival as well as registration information for the Annual AWC Conference.

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
Poet Ashley M. Jones is guest editing the poetry section of Southern Women's Review. The deadline for submissions is March 30. Poets can submit up to five unpublished pieces by email to  

Mysti Milwee became a member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators). In collaboration with poet Scott Thomas Outlar, Mysti's painting has been published alongside his poem, "Message In A Bottle," in the Indian journal, GloMag

Negative Capability Press' featured poet Angela Jackson Brown discusses the juxtaposition of personal, political, confessional, and protest poetry in an interview with Isabelle Whitman. 

Debra Goldstein's short story, “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (May/June 2017) has been named an Agatha Award Short Story Nominee. Her recent short story,  “A Weighty Matter” appears in Black Cat Mystery Magazine (Vol. 2 – 2018). Debra just signed a three-book contract with Kensington Press to publish the Sarah Blair cozy mysteries steries. The first, One Taste Too Many, is scheduled for release in 2019. 

Ramey Channell shares her favorite books, places, and a new poem in our monthly AWC member feature. We are grateful for her time and generous spirit!

Poet Carlos Matos, whose work has been published by Alabama's Negative Capability Press, is currently editing CityBrink Literary Magazine and accepting submissions in all literary genres. I encourage everyone to consider submitting (per instructions in the "Opportunities" section of newsletter). 

The Alabama State Council on the Arts Literary Arts Fellowship deadline is March 1, 2018. You can learn more about the application process online at the ASCA website.
Don't forget to check our web calendar for other events near you. 
Our 2018 Membership Drive

We'd like to extend a special welcome to new and returning members including Rebecca Calhoun (Brooklyn, New York), Rodney Annis (Birmingham, AL), Victor Cypert (Jacksonville, AL), Susan Martinello (Gulf Shores, AL), Abby Norris (Wilmer, AL), Alex Moore (Langston, AL), Sheila Hadaway (Waverly, AL), Billy Field (Tuscaloosa, AL), Michael Calvert (Birmingham, AL), and Jane S. Allen (Birmingham, AL). 

If you haven't renewed your membership, this is a great time to do it. Also consider gifting an AWC membership to a young writer you'd like to mentor or an emerging writer that would thrive in an encouraging network.
Renew Your AWC Membership

February Fundraiser for DISCO in Birmingham

One of our local literary nonprofits, Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO), is in the process of planning this year’s Epic Read-A-Thon, a 24-hour, out-loud, nonstop reading of short stories and novellas.

The read-a-thon works like a walk-a-thon: People sign up at to read for a 10-minute shift on February 23-24, and then ask family and friends to support their effort with a tax-deductible donation to DISCO. All the money raised from the read-a-thon goes directly to support DISCO’s main in-school program, the Woodlawn Writers Corps, which offers weekly creative writing workshops to more than 700 students in Woodlawn-area schools. It’s an amazing program, and the read-a-thon is a really easy and fun way to support it.

I hope you’ll sign up to read at, but if you can’t make it on February 23-24, I’d appreciate anything you can do to help spread the word about the Epic Read-A-Thon. The link for readers to sign up is Here’s the Facebook event.

"Feedback: Who Needs It?" by Judy DiGrigorio


What do performance appraisals and editorial critiques have in common? Feedback.  Unless you have the hide of a rhinoceros and the brain of a slug, you dread getting feedback as much as the rest of us.  I’ll never forget the feedback I received at my first writing conference.

The conference provided me with a network of struggling writers, published authors, experienced editors, and inspiring workshop leaders.  It also gave me the opportunity to have my work critiqued by the editor of a well-known writing magazine.  However, the feedback I received was not exactly what I wanted.

Disappointment overwhelmed me as I read the editor’s opening note on my article.  His evaluation accurately described my work, but the criticism was painful to a beginning writer who clung to her words like lint to a black dress.  Then the “F” word popped into my mind -- feedback.  I went to the conference to improve myself.  Learning to accept feedback was a necessary step in that process.

I looked closer at the editor’s comments.  Although he had discussed most of them with me earlier during our evaluation session, I was so intimidated that I scarcely heard a word he said. First he mentioned my prose needed pruning because I had a tendency to overstate the facts.  Also, I repeated myself over and over and over and was redundant.  I reviewed my manuscript and realized he was quite right that I often repeated myself over and over and was redundant.

 In addition, he suggested, I sometimes rambled on in a wordy and convoluted fashion as though I enjoyed the sound of my own words like a preacher on Sunday morning who doesn’t know when he has preached enough.  Did he mean I needed to get to the point?


The next criticism really stung -- use active and descriptive verbs to give more punch to my passive writing.  Punch? Punch?  I’d like to show that editor a good punch. What was he talking about? Passive writing was completely unknown to me! Cut down on unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, the next comment read.  I rarely, hardly ever, used flowery, unnecessary adjectives or superfluous adverbs.  Anyone who knew me realized that I would rather absquatulate than do such a thing.

Avoid using clichés or find a way to turn them around, the editor suggested. Get real! How can anyone avoid clichés?  That criticism really burned me up.  If I had a penny for every time an editor told me that, I’d be rich!  

Finally, I reviewed the editor’s other specific comments scribbled on my manuscript.  Each suggestion improved my article enormously, but deflated my ego just the same.  My article was not as perfect as I thought.  In fact, nothing about my writing was perfect.  But that’s why I attended the writer’s conference -- to improve myself.  

Hearing the truth about my writing was painful and difficult to accept, even when it came from a respected editor.  But how could I possibly improve if I never knew what I was doing wrong?  You get what you ask for, and I asked for feedback.  Thank heaven, I got exactly what I needed.  

Judy Lockhart DiGregorio is the author of three humor books from Celtic Cat Publishing, “Life among the Lilliputians,” “Memories of a Loose Woman,” and “Tidbits: Light Verse and Observations,” as well as a CD of humorous stories called “Jest Judy.” Judy is a speaker, workshop presenter, and humor columnist who has been recognized twice at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. She has been featured on Channel 10 “Your Stories” by Abby Hamm, on Live at Five, and five times on WDVX Tennessee Shines Radio. Judy has spoken at the UT Writers in the Library Series, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12 National Security Complex, and at numerous writing conferences and festivals. Please visit her website to hear a sample humor talk and read more information or reach her by email here


If you have writing advice or wisdom you'd like to share with fellow AWC members, please follow in Judy's example and don't hesitate to email to Alina. Thank you so much to Judy for sharing her experience. 

ASPS Winter Workshop: February 17, 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM

The Alabama State Poetry Society's Winter Meeting will be held at the beautiful Story Tree Farm Retreats in Huntsville. Dr. Beth Gylys, Professor of English and Creative Writing at Georgia State University will be presenting a workshop on sestinas and villanelles. Dr. Gylys has published five collections of poetry, most recently Sky Blue Enough to Drink (Grayson Books, 2016), and has won the Quentin R. Howard Award, the Gerald Cable Book Award, and the Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry. Learn more online at Facebook.

$25 to attend with $10 lunch fee. Email to RSVP. Payment will be taken at the event, but please let us know if you plan to attend! Come ready to write.

Deadline for ASCA Literary Fellowships is March 1, 2018

The Alabama State Council on the Arts makes cash awards to individual writers in the literary arts based on merit of work, career achievement, career potential and service to the state.  The award recognizes artistic excellence as well as professional commitment and maturity.  It is intended to contribute to the further development of the literary artist and the advancement of his or her professional career.  Applicants are encouraged to be as specific as possible about the proposed use of fellowship funds.

Quality of work and professionalism as presented in the samples of work are particularly important, since there is a great deal of competition for fellowships.  Samples of work may include fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and screenwriting.  Please, include a detailed resume along with the following: a list of published works with reviews (if available) and up to 20 pages of poetry or prose completed within the last five years.  If published, indicate where published and date of publication.  Please, number and include the applicant’s name on each page. We do not accept bound materials.

An applicant must be a legal resident of Alabama who has lived in the state for the two years prior to the application.  An individual may submit only one fellowship application during the year.  Fellowship recipients cannot apply again for six years after receipt of the award, but previous applicants who have not received a fellowship are encouraged to apply again.  Artists who have received two fellowships are no longer eligible to apply. Applications must be submitted electronically via eGRANT by 4:45 p.m. March 1, 2018.  Access to eGRANT is available at the Alabama State Council on the Arts website at

The Mid-Winter Writers Anonymous Conference will take place on Saturday, February 24, at the Pell City Library, 1000 Bruce Etheredge Parkway. Early Registration ($70) is open until Monday, February 19th.

On Friday February 23rd at 6:00 pm, there will be a free “Meet & Greet” at the Pell City Library. It will include a “Round Robin” poetry or short prose reading by willing participants, and it is open to the public.  There will be a limited number of “Author Tables” for those of you who want to have your books available. Tables are provided free of charge pursuant to reservations made on a first-request basis by emailing Register and learn more about the contests and workshops and speakers at the Writers Anonymous website.


Orison Books invites submissions of work that engages the life and writing of Simone Weil, 20th-century French mystic, social activist, and theologian, for a forthcoming anthology.

We are interested in literary work in all genres, including poetry, essay, drama, and hybrid-genre work. Authors or publishers may submit previously published or unpublished work. The anthology will be co-edited by George David Clark, Luke Hankins, Susan L. Miller, and Jessie van Eerden. Contributors will receive a complimentary copy of the anthology upon publication.

Send submissions as a Word, RTF, or PDF document along with author information to: weilanthology@gmail.comDeadline is August 1, 2018.

Ink in Thirds Accepting Free Submissions

Editor Grace Black is currently seeking submissions to Ink In Thirds, a "magazine of poised prose, precarious poetry, and photography to pilot our own realms again."

In return for accepting free submissions of photography, prose and poetry, Ink In Thirds will be submitting nominations for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and The Best Small Fictions.

Learn more about past contributors and take the time to submit your own pieces.  
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