Alabama Writers Conclave

2018 Conference Recap

What happened in Orange Beach.

We believe in nurturing a strong, inclusive community that supports the diversity of Alabama’s literary landscape.

Opening Night & Open Mic at Orange City Center for Cultural Arts

The conference began with a beautiful reception and open mic session at the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach. Vice President and Conference Chair Jessica Jones welcomed guests, visitors, and various members of writers' families who also attended. 

Keynote speaker Deborah Malone described her long, relentless journey to becoming a published author. Then she drove back to Georgia where she was awarded Georgia Author of the Year Award in Inspiration category for Blooming in Broken Places. The open mic session was a wonderful introduction to recent work by members. 

A great atmosphere at the AWC conference . . . I had all but forgotten how energizing and rewarding it is to be around like-minded folks.
— Doug Gay

Workshops, Panels, and Bookstore

Saturday morning panels were exciting enough to keep attendees distracted from the thought of sand and surf nearby. Workshops and panels included:

  • Susan Cushman: "Working with Editors in Memoirs, Novels, and Anthologies"
  • Linda Busby Parker: "Developing Believable, Evocative Characters in Fiction"
  • Sarah Cortez: "Keys to the Persona Poem"
  • Karim Shamsi-Basha: "How I Got My Agent and How To Get Yours"
  • Sue Brannan Walker: "Publishing: The Ins and Outs"
  • Wendy Reed: "Oil spills, Rising Seas,The Cosmos, and 23andMe: Science and Nature Writing is for Everyone" (a favorite among AWC attendees this year)

After lunch, workshops and panels resumed:

  • T. K. Thorne: "Editing and Revisions"
  • Karim Shamsi-Basha: "Writing with Humor"
  • Charlotte Pence: "The Chimera: Poets Writing Creative Nonfiction"
  • Katherine Clark: "The Pleasures and Perils of Editing Oral Biographies"
  • Sarah Cortez: "Are You Ready to Edit An Anthology?"
  • Ashley M. Jones, "What's Form Got To Do With It? Beyond Traditional Poetics and Creating a New Formalism"
  • Panel on Publishing with Ashley M. Jones, Misty Williams, and Karim Shamsi-Basha

Sunday morning workshops and panels included:

  • Misty Williams: "Publishing Workshop: How To Pitch and Write a Good Query Letter"
  • Linda Busby Parker: "Fiction Writing 2"
  • Southern Writers on Writing: Susan Cushman, Wendy Reed, Katherine Clark, and Jennifer Horne

The bookstore stayed busy and buoyant thanks to the incredible efforts of Terri Henley, AWC's secret weapon against chaos and disorder. Every writing nonprofit needs a Terry Henley to step and manage the books. Over 50 different books were offered in the bookstore, and many copies sold out.

If you missed a chance to attend and purchase a book, you can follow the yellow brick road  to recent AWC member books available for purchase online, including 2016-2017 books and 2018 books. We've also included a brief (and random) list of books published by our speakers and panelists below. Make sure to search for additional publications since all of these authors have published numerous works of interest.


Awards Banquet with Keynote by Charlotte Pence

AWC members wandered over to the Orange Beach Community Center for a dinner banquet and a riveting keynote speech delivered by Charlotte Pence which wove science, poetry, and cognitive complexity into an unforgettable tapestry. Learn more about Pence's thoughts on science and poetry from her blog. Or purchase a copy of her award-winning poetry collection, Many Small Fires (Black Lawrence Press, 2015). Or read "So Far," a memorable short story co-written with her husband, Adam Prince, and published in Sewanee Review

The winners who were present.

The winners who were present.

2018 AWC Contest Winners

The contest winners of the 2018 AWC Contest will be published in the new, improved version of ALALITCOM, the AWC anthology/journal. We can't wait to share the changes in the works, and we are grateful for the opportunity to support and acknowledge these writers. Without further ado, the winners of the 2018 AWC Writing Contests

Prose Poetry

1st place: Faith Garbin (Ocean Springs, MS) for "Waiting"

2nd place:  Gail Gehlken (Irvington, AL) for  “On Ocean View Road”

1st Honorable Mention: Leonard Temme (Pensacola, FL) for "Snow White and the Dwarf"

2nd Honorable Mention: Catherine Hall Kiser (Fairhope, AL) for "A Beach in the Garden"


1st place: Alyx Chandler (Birmingham, AL) for "After the Divorce"

2nd place: Doug Gray  (Fayetteville, TN) for "Johnny Cash"

1st Honorable Mention: Jamie Buck (Mobile, AL) for “I Was Wrong About the Villagers"

2nd Honorable Mention: Emily Blejwas (Mobile, AL) for “Running, age Thirty-Nine”


1st place:  James N. Ezell (Tuscaloosa, AL) for The Gondolier’s Gold

2nd place: Ann Robbins Phillips (Hixson, TN) for MacPhee Island

1st Honorable Mention: Larry Wilson (Wetumpka, AL) for Paladins

2nd Honorable Mention: Amanda Orneck (Toney, AL) for Sister of the Circuit  

Flash Fiction

1st place: Glenda Richmond Slater (Spanish Fort, AL) for  “Who Knows Why”

2nd place: Doug Gray (Fayetteville, TN) for "The Hanging"

1st Honorable Mention: Larry Wilson (Wetumpka, AL) for "A Stolen Affair"

 2nd Honorable Mention: Stephen R. Edmondson (Homewood, AL)  for “A Big Night On The Town” 

Short Story

1st place: Larry Wilson (Wetumpka, AL) for "More Than A Game"

2nd place:  Carolynne Scott  (Birmingham, AL) for  “Her Buddy”

1st Honorable mention: Richard Key (Dothan, AL) for  “Love and the Art of Bloodletting”

 2nd Honorable Mention: Doug Gray (Fayetteville, TN) for  “Exit Strategy”


  1st place:  Bruce Wayne Rasco (Vestavia Hills, AL) for “Mr. H.B. Norton and Robinson Elementary School”

  2nd place: Margaretta "Peggy" Johnson (Gautier, MS) for  “Moroccan Memories”          

  1st Honorable Mention: Jackie Romine Walburn (Birmingham, AL) for “My First Stepdaddy” 

  2nd Honorable Mention: Mary Boyd (Ashville, AL)  for “Memories of an Octogenarian”


Brunch Cruise, Membership Meeting, and Keynote from Poet Laureate, Jennifer Horne

Alabama state Poet Laureate Jennifer Horne spoke about her goals as poet laureate, including to help amplify events and news, build bridges among writing groups, connect communities, encourage a "do-it-yourself" attitude, and promote literary arts education. She asked fellow writers to think about what they could do in their own communities. 

I look forward to working more with the AWC, which selects the poet laureate every four years, on these goals.
— Poet Laureate Jennifer Horne

New Officers 

The AWC Board met just prior to the conference and voted on nominations for new officers as well a long-term strategic planning initiative. The nominations were accepted unanimously, and then offered to the AWC membership who approved all three officer nominations unanimously. We are pleased to welcome Ashley M. Jones as our new 2nd Vice President and Membership Chair; Anne Markham Bailey as our new Second Treasurer, and Karim Shamsi Basha as our Recording Secretary. 

We are sad to lose our beloved 2nd Vice President and Membership Chair Extraordinaire, Nina Donath, as she pursues a few adventures. We are so grateful for her diligent service and warmth throughout the years. 

Information about current Board memberships can be found on our Leadership page.

Long-Term Planning Initiative

Ashley M. Jones, Co-Chair of the Longterm Planning Committee, read a resolution based on the meeting minutes and conclusions of the AWC Long-Term Planning Committee. The resolution called for the following:

  • Selecting a new name for the Alabama Writer's Conclave that reflects its dedication to inclusivity and openness. We believe in nurturing a strong, inclusive community that supports the diversity of Alabama's literary landscape.  We believe this diversity and variance makes Alabama great. As a result, the membership agreed to keep the initials "AWC" while finding another word to replace "Conclave".
  • Drafting a mission statement for the organization that clearly defines its philosophy, its constituency, and its overarching aims.
  • Developing a five-year plan for the organization, including establishing a plan for acknowledging the AWC’s 100-year anniversary in 2023.

We are grateful to Co-Chair T.J. Beitelman for his efforts and dedication in the moving us towards a long term planning initiative and we salute the efforts of President T.K. Thorne, who has made it a mark of her leadership to fashion an AWC that reflects the best of us and among us. 

Changes to AWC Literary Journal

The Board also created a committee to review the status of Alalitcom, the AWC literary journal. Members of the board including Sue Brannon Walker, Carol Hull, Alina Stefanescu, and Mary Murphy will meet and plan a new aesthetic for the journal, as well as an online form and a print version. 

(If you have photos you'd like to share from #awc2018, please link up with AWC on social media or email the photos to Alina at