Archive for May, 2010

St. Joseph High School students win competition with help from author Julie Williams

Friday, May 28th, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

Students at St. Joseph High School in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania recently won first place in the Pittsburgh Regional National History Day Competition thanks in part to an interview with Julie Williams, author of Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama. For their winning project, Randy Mielecki, Gina Robinson, and Mark Ignaczak produced a film called “The ‘Wright’ Idea: An American Innovation,” about the invention of flight.

Randy Mielecki compiled all of the paperwork (process paper and bibliography), as well as arranged for phone and in-person interviews. Mark Ignaczak conducted most of the research and drafted a script based on what he learned. Gina Robinson was the videographer and visual editor, designing and producing the film itself.

Dr. Williams, a journalism professor at Samford University, was one of several professors interviewed. She provided insight on the nation’s first flight school, established by the Wrights in Montgomery, Alabama in 1910. In thanking her, the students said that she “really put a different spin on things and helped us to look at the Wright Brothers from a new perspective.”

Congratulations to these students on their award-winning project.

Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online bookseller.

New website created by Anna Olswanger showcases work of Berl Olswanger

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 by Suzanne La Rosa

Shlemiel Crooks by Anna Olswanger Anyone who reads Shlemiel Crooks, the award-winning illustrated children’s book by NewSouth author Anna Olswanger, will hear the music in it. In the lilting rhythms of its charming Yiddish-inflected prose, you might even hear the author paying homage to her dad.

Berl Olswanger was a genial and talented blues man who created and played music in and around Memphis, Tennessee, for most of his life. A child prodigy (he started playing the piano at age three), he was a prolific composer, band leader, recording artist, and music store owner. In fact, he was so identified with his work that he became popularly known as “Mr. Music.” Now, in loving tribute to her father, Anna has created an elegantly realized website which showcases his work and, via audio links, allows the viewer to hear a few of his recordings. They are very special.

For more on Berl Olswanger, read Vance Lauderdale’s story from Memphis Magazine.

And in a fitting related development, a musical loosely based on Anna’s own Shlemiel Crooks has been written by Sean Hartley and Bob Kolsby and scored by Scott Ethier and Clay Zambo. The new work was given a successful first reading at NYC’s Kaufman Center last month.

The Longleaf Alliance: “What do you know about the longleaf pine forest?”

Friday, May 21st, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

Longleaf Forest Fact Sheet

Download a PDF of the Longleaf Forest Fact Sheet

The longleaf pine forest—which inspired NewSouth young adult novelist Roger Reid in the writing of his book Longleaf—is central to the mission of a small but dedicated group of folks at The Longleaf Alliance. Their goal is to educate about the importance of the longleaf pine ecosystem.

Little known to most people, the longleaf pine forest was once very mighty. Prior to European settlement, it dominated the southeastern United States, occupying a vast 93 million acres. Greatly reduced in size today, the forest is still home to 900 plant species. A longleaf ecosystem maintained by prescribed burns is one of the most ecologically diverse in the world (riveling rain forests), and is home to some of the most rare and unique plants and animals on the North American continent.

Roger Reid’s young adult novel Longleaf, which is chock-full of such facts about the forest, has proven an invaluable aid to The Longleaf Alliance’s educational outreach program. Reid brings the forest to life, advertising its wonders and its dangers, through the eyes of two likable teenaged protagonists. Longleaf is both an important learning tool and a guaranteed gripping read for adventure lovers of all ages.

Presentations by Roger and Longleaf Alliance educators to schools in Alabama and Louisiana have been made possible by the donations of generous sponsors. Now, in order to make these programs available to schools in Mississippi and Florida, as well as additional schools in Alabama, The Longleaf Alliance is seeking new sponsors to cover travel costs and the distribution of materials. Invitations for Reid and Longleaf Alliance staff to visit schools in these states have already been issued; sponsor funding is needed to assure that these visits can be made. Mark Hainds, Research Coordinator, says, “We’re really going to educate a whole generation about the longleaf ecosystem if we can find enough support to cover our costs and get into the classrooms.”

Download a Longleaf Forest Fact Sheet.

Anyone who would like to sponsor distribution of Longleaf can contact Mark Hainds of The Longleaf Alliance at 334-427-1029.

NewSouth Books’s promise to Kathryn Tucker Windham on reprinting Ernest’s Gift

Friday, May 14th, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

NewSouth Books made a promise to Alabama’s beloved storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham. We promised we would do everything we could to make book lovers and librarians and bookstores and educators aware that her illustrated children’s book, Ernest’s Gift, was back in print. This charming and poignant volume, for readers ages 6-10, tells a very special Alabama story. And we want you to know that this delightful book is once again available for purchase.

Harper Lee calls Ernest’s Gift “a superb story!” And Fannie Flagg praises it as a “simple, yet powerful tale of a young Southern boy whose love for books guided him through difficult times of rejection into a life of love and forgiveness.” Mrs. Windham herself suggests that Ernest’s Gift is a small but important slice of local history.

Published on the occasion of the Selma-Dallas Public Library’s 100th anniversary, the book is based on a true story, about a man whose lifelong love of books and reading helps overcome the hurt of a childhood humiliation. As a child in the 1930s, Ernest Dawson loved books but was denied use of the library in segregated Selma. He grew up and became a teacher, and when he passed, according to the terms of his will, a monetary gift was made to the Selma library for its children’s wing—this to ensure that children of all races had a place where they could go to read and learn.

Kathryn Tucker Windham is one of America’s best-loved storytellers. Now in her 90s, she began writing as one of the first women daily newspaper reporters in Alabama. After a successful career as a journalist, she turned to writing books of ghost stories and folklore. She remains one of the most popular performers at national storytelling festivals and has been a featured commentator on National Public Radio and Alabama Public Radio.

Ernest’s Gift is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online bookseller.

Gaillard and McLaughin pen new books, see continued success

Thursday, May 13th, 2010 by Andrew

With dozens of books published between them, it should come as no surprise that NewSouth authors Frye Gaillard and Laughlin McDonald are finding success with their newest books, each published by respected university presses.

The University of Alabama Press recently published acclaimed author and journalist Frye Gaillard’s newest book Alabama Civil Rights Trail: An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom.

Gaillard has written over a dozen books on southern culture and history, including the NewSouth published Watermelon Wine: The Spirit of Country Music. He’s also contributed essays to NewSouth’s American Crisis, Southern Solutions: From Where We Stand, Promise and Peril.

Laughlin McDonald is the director of the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union and also a contributing author to NewSouth’s Where We Stand: Voices of Southern Dissent as well as American Crisis, Southern Solutions. The University of Oklahoma press recently published his new book American Indians and the Fight for Equal Voting Rights, an in-depth study of Indian voting rights which recounts the extraordinary progress American Indians have made.

Congratulations Frye and Laughlin.

Clear Channel program calls Julie Williams’s Wright brothers history a work of “masterful storytelling”

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

Viewpoint Alabama recently featured an interview with Julie Williams, author of Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama. Host Neal Vickers expressed his pleasant surprise on learning from Julie’s book that the Wright brothers had a “deep-rooted history in Montgomery.”

Wings of Opportunity recounts the history of the nation’s first civilian flight school, founded by the Wrights in Montgomery in 1910. Author Williams chronicles the short life of this flight school as seen mainly though the eyes of the Alabama press.

Williams, who was born on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, explained to Vickers her personal interest in the Wrights, formed during her childhood spent near Wright historical sites. She recounted how publication of her book has allowed her to meet people with their own Wright connections, such as an 80-year-old man who remembers his college professor talk about loaning the Wrights a car so they could travel from downtown Montgomery out to the field where their flying school was located. Williams pointed out that stories about the Wrights “were handed down through the generations,” according to many of her contacts, so important was contact with the brothers thought to be for family history.

The interview also highlighted the role of the press in covering the flight school, as Williams explained that very few people understood anything about airplanes, and as the Wrights were not very forthcoming in dealing with the press, reporters were left to their own resources to create stories.

Host Vickers concluded the conversation with the remark, “I have been told you are a masterful storyteller, and I have to agree.”

Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online retailer

Chapter 16 highlights Tennessee authors, talks Barbie with Rheta Grimsley Johnson

Friday, May 7th, 2010 by Andrew

Burgeoning online journal Chapter 16 certainly stays busy highlighting the wealth of Tennessee’s literary offerings. Launched in October 2009 by Humanities Tennessee, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Chapter 16 covers books, authors, and literary events within the state.

Margaret Renkl, book editor of Chapter 16, noted the motivating factors behind the journal’s foundation. “The idea for Chapter 16 arose in response to the continued erosion of books coverage in the mainstream media,” she said. “All over the state, newspapers have been shuttering their book pages, and the folks at Humanities Tennessee came up with the idea of starting a web site that would feature book reviews, author interviews, excerpts from works in progress by writers in the state, and all manner of community literary events.”

Chapter 16 also publishes original poems and essays and will soon launch a database of Tennessee authors, including biographies and links to other sources online. The journal covers a broad range of Tennessee authors, including those who’ve only lived in Tennessee briefly, as well as visiting authors appearing in the state.

In advance of her May 4 event at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis, former Commercial Appeal columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson sat down with Chapter 16 to discuss life and love, newspapers and literature, and her newly published memoir Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming.

Read the full interview at Chapter 16.

Enchanted Evening Barbie is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online retailer.