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2015 Award Winners

The Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer and the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar are awarded each year at the Alabama Writers Symposium.

    Hank Lazer
2015 Winner of the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer

Hank Lazer of Tuscaloosa has been selected to receive the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2015. The award is made to a living, nationally recognized Alabama writer who has made a significant, lifelong contribution to Alabama letters.

“When I received the phone call telling me that I had been named the recipient of the 2015 Harper Lee Award, I was stunned, shocked, and very pleased,” said Lazer. “Honestly, it was difficult for me to believe this good news. Local and regional recognition for my writing has been scarce, and this prestigious award is to be cherished because it represents acceptance and honor bestowed by my home state.”

Lazer, a California native, came to Tuscaloosa initially to teach in the English Department at the University of Alabama.

“I was born and raised in California, came to Alabama in 1977, married a Northport woman, and raised a family here,” said Lazer. “Virtually all of my significant writing and publishing has taken place while I have lived in Alabama.”  

Lazer’s eighteen books of poetry include N24 (hand-sewn, handwritten chapbook in the Little Red Leaves Textile Series), N18 (complete) from Singing Horse Press (2012), Portions (Lavender Ink, 2009), The New Spirit (Singing Horse, 2005), Elegies & Vacations (Salt, 2004), and Days (Lavender Ink, 2002).

In 2008, Lyric & Spirit: Selected Essays, 1996-2008 was published by Omnidawn. Pages from the notebooks have been performed with soprano saxophonist Andrew Raffo Dewar at the University of Georgia and in Havana, Cuba. Features on the Notebooks appear in Talisman #42 and Plume #34.

With co-editor Charles Bernstein, Lazer edits the Modern and Contemporary Poetics Series for the University of Alabama Press.

In January 2014, Lazer retired from the University of Alabama (where he continues to teach) after thirty-seven years in a variety of positions, including Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, Executive Director of Creative Campus, and Professor of English.  

The Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year, presented annually by Alabama Southern Community College at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, is made possible through a generous grant from George F. Landegger, Chairman, Parsons & Whittemore.

The Alabama Writers’ Forum, a statewide literary arts organization and partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, coordinates the process to select the Harper Lee Award recipient annually from nominations from the field.” 
 
Photo: Hank Lazer (Aldon Nielson)

The Harper Lee Award
The Harper Lee Award recognizes the lifetime achievement of a writer who was born in Alabama or whose literary career developed in the state. The recipient is selected through a process coordinated by the Alabama Writers’ Forum, a statewide literary arts organization founded in appreciation of Alabama’s strong literary heritage with a commitment to its continuation. The Forum is funded by the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

Harper Lee is the author of one of the best-loved classics of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. Since its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages and sold over thirty million copies worldwide. Harper Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama; she attended local schools and the University of Alabama. She has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, several honorary degrees, and many other literary awards.

The recipient of the annual award must be a writer of national reputation whose work has been recognized by critics, publishers and editors as clearly superior. Evidence of such may be publications in major magazines and literary journals and books published with major houses or reputable smaller literary presses. In addition, the recipient should have received awards, prizes and other accolades from recognized experts in the field of literary arts. Those eligible for consideration are native Alabamians whose literary careers have developed in Alabama or elsewhere or those not originally from Alabama whose literary careers have developed in Alabama. Only living writers are eligible. This annual award includes a $5,000 cash prize and The Clock Tower Bronze by Frank Fleming. This award is funded by George F. Landegger.

Previous Harper Lee Award recipients include Mark Childress (2014), Gay Talese (2013), Fannie Flagg (2012), Winston Groom (2011), Carolyn Haines (2010), Rick Bragg (2009), Rebecca Gilman (2008), William Cobb (2007), Wayne Greenhaw (2006), Andrew Hudgins (2005), Sonia Sanchez (2004), Rodney Jones (2003), Mary Ward Brown (2002), Sena Jeter Naslund  (2001), Helen Norris (2000), Madison Jones (1999), and Albert Murray (1998).



   Eric Sterling
2015 Winner of the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar

Eric Sterling earned his Ph.D. in English from Indiana University in 1992 and has taught at Auburn University Montgomery for the past twenty-one years. He is one of the few AUM faculty members who has won both the Distinguished Teaching Professor Award and the Distinguished Research Professor Award. Last year he was named AUM’s Alumni Professor, and he has also won the university’s Faculty Service Award. 

Eric Sterling won ACETA’s Calvert and Woodall awards. The College English Association granted him the Robert E. Hacke Scholar-Teacher Award—an award given out annually to one tenure-track faculty member in the United States. He also won the Amy and Eric Burger Award, a national award for best essay on theatre. Dr. Sterling has published four books--on Shakespeare and his contemporaries, on seventeenth-century literature, on ghettos during the Holocaust, and on Arthur Miller. He has published more than eighty refereed articles that have appeared in literary journals and in essay collections published by university presses such as Columbia University Press and Oxford University Press. 

He has been the English department's academic advisor for fifteen years and the director of the graduate program in liberal arts for six years, and he greatly enjoys advising and mentoring students.

The Eugene Current-Garcia Award
The annual Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar recognizes and rewards Alabamians who have distinguished themselves as men or women of letters, specifically in scholarly reflection and writing on literary topics. The award reflects the respect of the scholar’s peers in the academic community and signals to the citizenry at large the lasting importance of the pursuit of knowledge and of the contribution of literature to the culture. Annual selection of the recipient of the award is the task of the Association of College English Teachers of Alabama (ACETA), a diverse organization representing faculty at all of Alabama’s two-year, four-year and doctoral institutions.

In a distinguished academic career spanning more than five decades, Dr. Eugene Current-Garcia published six books and dozens of articles and reviews on the short story genre and on American literature, particularly Old Southwest humor. His honors include serving as a Ford Foundation Fellow at Princeton in 1953-54, holding the Chair of American Literature as Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece, 1956-58, and being selected First American Scholar by Phi Kappa Phi in 1974. During a long teaching career at Auburn, he founded and co-edited the Southern Humanities Review, a major research publication. His high standards of scholarship and stellar achievements provide a model by which recipients of the annual award can be judged.

Those eligible for consideration are native Alabamians whose careers in literary scholarship have developed in Alabama or elsewhere; or those not originally from Alabama whose scholarly careers have developed in Alabama; or those briefly resident in Alabama whose literary scholarship has focused primarily on Alabama writers and topics. Only living scholars are eligible. This annual award includes a $5,000 cash prize and The Clock Tower Bronze by Frank Fleming. This award is funded by George F. Landegger.

Previous recipients of the Eugene Current-Garcia Award include Wayne Flynt (2014), Sue Brannan Walker (2013), William Ulmer (2012), David Sauer (2011), Ralph Voss (2010), John Hafner (2009), Norman MacMillan (2008), Elaine Hughes (2007), Nancy Anderson (2006), Robert W. Halli Jr. (2005), Benjamin Buford Williams (2004), J. William Hutchings (2003), Trudier Harris (2002), Bert Hitchcock (2001), Don Noble (2000), Philip Beidler (1999) and Claudia Durst Johnson (1998).




Alabama Southern Community College is an equal opportunity employer. It is the official policy of the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education, including postsecondary institutions under the control of the State Board of Education, that no person shall, on the grounds of race, color, handicap, gender, religion, creed, national origin, or age, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program, activity, or employment. Alabama Southern Community College will make reasonable accommodations for qualified disabled applicants or employees.