The conference is named in honor of the late Eugene Walter, a native of Mobile and one of the founders of the Paris Review. He was awarded the prestigious Lippincott Award for fiction and was an acclaimed author of cookbooks, poetry and music, as well as a visual artist.
This year's conference hosts more than 25 lectures, workshops and panel discussions and will feature novelist Sena Jeter Naslund and poet Pat Schneider as keynote speakers.
Naslund is a native of Birmingham and winner of the prestigious Harper Lee Award. She is a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Louisville, program director of the Spalding University brief-residency master of fine arts in writing program, and 2003 Vacca Professor at the University of Montevallo. Her books include "Four Spirits," "Ahab's Wife," "Sherlock in Love," and "The Disobedience of Water."
Poet Pat Schneider of Amherst, Mass., is internationally known as a writer and teacher of writing. Also a playwright and librettist, she is founder and director emeritus of Amherst Writers and Artists. Her poetry, plays and fiction have appeared in more than 100 literary journals and magazines. She has authored eight books, including "Writing Alone and with Others," an instructional nonfiction classic that continues to help writers "find and liberate their true voices."
The conference will offer two master classes this year. Schneider will conduct a master class on poetry. Carolyn Haines, a creative writing professor at USA and author of more than 30 books, the most recent, "My Mother's Witness: The Peggy Morgan Story," will conduct a master class on fiction. Each of these classes is limited to 20 participants, and there is a charge of $25 per class.
The conference will also feature Holly McClure and June Hegstrom of the Sullivan-Maxx Literary Agency. They will conduct group critiques for a limited number of participants registering for the full conference. The total number of spaces available is limited to 15 per agent. Early registration is suggested for anyone wishing to participate in these sessions. McClure and Hegstrom will review five pages of manuscript from each person in the session. Those interested should specify their interest on the registration form and send their materials by April 1.
A screenwriting workshop will be presented by USA English instructor Thomas Lakeman, a former Universal Pictures screenwriter and author of the novel "The Shadow Catcher," which will be published by St. Martin 's Press in early 2006. Lakeman will review a sampling of writing from each participant who wishes to have such a review. The workshop will be limited to 20 participants. Those interested should register in advance of the conference, noting a specific interest in this workshop.
A new feature to the conference this year, "Books in the Bar," will be led by Don Noble, host of Alabama Public Television's "Bookmark." Both fun and informative, the session is an opportunity for conference participants to meet and exchange news and make contacts with fellow writers, readers and professionals in the writing and publishing industry. This informal event is open to all conference attendees, authors, agents and panelists.
The conference will also feature its signature second-line parade led by the Excelsior Band to the Church Street Cemetery , where the annual graveside toasting competition honoring the late Eugene Walter will be held.
Sponsors for this year's Eugene Walter Writers Festival include the USA Foundation, the Mobile Arts Council, Page and Palette, and the Smith Family Charitable Trust.
For more information on registration, speakers, and a full schedule of conference activities, visit www.ewwfest.com or call the USA English department at 460-6146.