Archive for the 'Kathryn Tucker Windham' Category

Storytelling legend Kathryn Tucker Windham named to Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 by Lisa Harrison

Alabama, One Big Front Porch by Kathryn Tucker Windham

Kathryn Tucker Windham — nationally renowned author, storyteller, journalist, photographer, and beloved daughter of the state of Alabama — has been named as the sole inductee into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame for 2015. Windham passed away in 2011.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the honor of being the only inductee for a year is one afforded to those with “exceptional backgrounds.” NewSouth Books is proud to have been Windham’s publisher during the last years of her prolific writing career, releasing a new edition of the popular Alabama, One Big Front Porch as well as the new titles Ernest’s Gift, Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories, Spit, Scarey Ann and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another, and Windham’s final book, She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life.

Windham’s varied career began when she was hired by The Alabama Journal as the state’s first female crime reporter. The journalist then became a nationally recognized storyteller, and next applied her gift with a tale to writing her famous “Jeffrey” ghost story books and to a spot as a commentator for National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” program. Windham’s books include not only tales of the haunted South, but reminiscences about Southern culture (and recipes) from the early twentieth century days of her childhood, and a final poignant memoir about aging.

Deborah Rankins, Assistant Director of Library Services at the Kathryn Tucker Windham Library and Museum, says, “The announcement of Kathryn Tucker Windham as the 2015 Inductee to the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame is a great time for celebration at the Kathryn Tucker Windham Museum, in the state of Alabama, and across the nation. I am honored for being one of her ‘applauding angels’ who followed and supported her over the years. Windham described happiness as being ‘like a cloud of applauding angels,’ who followed and supported her. However, most will agree that it is us who benefitted more, for she is our angel. I am forever grateful for her lifetime treasures of publications, storytelling, and other gifts that will resonate in our lives and in the lives of future generations for years to come.”

Kathryn Tucker Windham’s books Alabama, One Big Front Porch, Ernest’s Gift, Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories, Spit, Scarey Ann and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another, and She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life are available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Margaret Eby’s Paris Review essay remembers Kathryn Tucker Windham

Thursday, October 6th, 2011 by Noelle Matteson

She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life, by Kathryn Tucker WindhamWriter Margaret Eby remembers the late Alabama folklorist Kathryn Tucker Windham and pays tribute to Southern ghost stories in her new Paris Review essay “Southern Gothic.” The essay coincides with the posthumous release of Windham’s final book, She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life. From the Paris Review:

Windham’s voice is unforgettable. In high school, I would listen to All Things Considered every couple weeks to hear … her rolling, sticky Southwest Alabama accent … “I don’t care whether you believe in ghosts,” Windham was fond of saying. “The good ghost stories do not require that you believe in ghosts.”

The ghosts that Windham believed in weren’t the green spectral presences captured by bounty hunters armed with flotillas of infrared photographic equipment, nor are her tales the ax-murderer campfire lore used to make children jump. They’re extensions of local history, real events pickled in tall tales. After all, Windham’s talent for a good yarn came out of her experience as a journalist: fresh out of college in 1939, she became a police reporter at The Alabama Journal at a time when a woman in the newsroom was, as one remembrance put it, “as rare as Unitarians in our state.”

Windham chronicled the civil rights movement for the Selma Times-Journal through the fifties and sixties, churning out articles and photographs that documented the internal crisis of the South. In her day job, Windham wrote scathingly about the worst that Alabama had to offer: racist taunts, KKK gatherings, tear gas and billy clubs on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. But in her books, she celebrated the state’s best: folk artists, snake handlers, and magnificent chefs.

Eby notes many schools assign Windham’s first series of ghost stories, 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, as required reading. “What Windham recognized is that all history is made of ghost stories, whether we choose to believe them or not,” Eby writes. Windham’s ghosts included victims of racial hatred, the Civil War, and accidents, such as the sinking of the steamboat Eliza Battle in the Tombigbee River.

In Windham’s new book, She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life, the author departs from ghost stories to tell of more personal experience. Windham describes how she woke up one day to find that she had an unwanted houseguest, an old woman who had suddenly moved into her home and was taking over her life. The author refers to this interloper simply as She, and here the reader has been invited into the lively colloquy between Windham –whose spirit has not changed — and her own alter ego, as Windham moves haltingly toward her earthly end. She will leave you laughing and crying, but also grateful and hopeful.

She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life by Kathryn Tucker Windham, is available in hardcover and ebook formats direct from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite bookstore.

Friends, colleagues remember Kathryn Tucker Windham

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

Colleagues of Kathryn Tucker Windham, who died this past weekend at the age of 93, remember her as a writer, storyteller, and mentor.

Windham’s hometown paper, The Selma Times-Journal, interviewed NewSouth editor Randall Williams, who’s edited Windham’s writing for almost twenty years. Williams told the Times Journal, “She was a pioneer in a lot of ways as a journalist and storyteller — helping to popularize the genre of storytelling and remaining one of the most popular on the national circuit. She wrote nearly 30 books, including cookbooks and ghost stories, and she ranks as our best seller as an Alabama author.”

Williams also spoke with the WBHM radio station in Birmingham, one of many stations that aired Windham’s storytelling segments on National Public Radio. Reporter Bradley George soke with Williams about editing Windham’s books. “[Williams] says she’d come to him with fully formed manuscripts that didn’t need much editing … Windham was a clear communicator and that’s why her work resonated with so many readers.”

Williams told Bradley, “[Windham] could say it better than you could, but for people who had grown up in Alabama, especially people of a certain age, she understood how to capture those experiences that were common experiences to people in the South and to the culture.”

On NPR’s All Things Considered program, reporter Debbie Elliott recalled meeting Windham while in college, and many years later how Elliott brought her children to Windham’s home and attended Windham’s induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor. Windham had contributed to NPR for over thirty years.

Ted Parkhurst, chairman of the National Storytelling Network, noted that Windham has “one of the most-invited performers in a community of professionals.” In remembrance, he wrote:

Not quite five feet tall, stooped but raising her head to look the audience in the eye, she admonished introducers and audiences alike. Emcees citing anything more than her name, hometown, and occupation — “storyteller” — received curt reprimands. Audiences expecting “sugar and spice” were often shocked by her earthiness. One day in private conversation, I made the mistake of including her among “sweet little old ladies” of my acquaintance. She arched a wicked eyebrow and shot back, “Don’t you call me ‘sweet!’” Her thin voice and halting delivery could not hide a ton of heart, and that’s why audiences coast-to-coast filled her venues beyond capacity and sent her off-stage with standing ovations.

Finally, Auburn University journalism professor Ed Williams shared a special web page commemorating his Newswriting Class’s trip to visit Windham in November 2009. Windham spoke with the class about her career as a newspaper reporter, and also led the students in a rousing rendition of the Auburn University fight song, played in inimitable Kathryn Tucker Windham style on a comb. You can visit the page for photographs and video from the visit.

Kathryn Tucker Windham’s latest book was her memoir, Spit, Scarey Ann, and Sweat Bees. Information about a memorial will be forthcoming. We invite anyone with a story to share about Mrs. Windham to leave a comment below or on the NewSouth Books Facebook page, and help us remember our friend and author.

Kathryn Tucker Windham’s photography recalled in Encounters

Monday, June 13th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

Kathryn Tucker Windham, who died Sunday, was well-known as a story-teller and an author. Less well-known was her considerable talent as a photographer. Among Mrs. Windham’s favorites of her own books was Encounters, a 1998 collection of photos and essays edited and published by NewSouth editor Randall Williams. In the introduction to that book (now sadly out of print), Williams wrote:

In an essay in her 1996 book, Twice Blessed, Kathryn Tucker Windham tells how she got started taking pictures as a child in Thomasville, Alabama. She got up before daylight one day in the summer of 1930 to be first in line at the People’s Drug Company to receive one of the half-million Brownie cameras that Eastman Kodak was giving away to twelve-year-olds for the company’s fiftieth anniversary. Her conscience, she wrote, always troubled her that she never properly thanked Kodak for that first camera.

Over the years her cameras have included a Speed Graphic, a Yashica, a Cannon, and a Pentax. But the Brownie was the beginning, and this book includes several images (“First Airplane Ride,” “Basket Maker,” “Uncle Hiram Davis,” and “Woman With Spinning Wheel”) made with that camera, a git that led to her life-long interest in photography.

Remembering Kathryn Tucker Windham

Monday, June 13th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

We at NewSouth Books were saddened at the passing of our friend and author Kathryn Tucker Windham, who died at her home in Selma yesterday.

Mrs. Windham was not only a favored author and storyteller of such works as the “Jeffrey” ghost story series; she was also a groundbreaking journalist — one of Alabama’s first female reporters — and a frequent contributor to NPR. Her latest book was Spit, Scarey Ann, and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another, a memoir.

NewSouth enjoyed sharing a number of occasions with Mrs. Windham, remembered in the Kathryn Tucker Windham section of the NewSouth Books blog.

In a feature in the Montgomery Advertiser, former Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce president Jamie Wallace called Mrs. Windham “a national treasure, a woman of remarkable talents who paved the way for others in the pursuit of journalistic excellence … She will forever be remembered for her love of life, family, friends, community and preservation of stories.”

Kathryn Tucker Windham’s books available from NewSouth include Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories, Ernest’s Gift, Alabama, One Big Front Porch, Spit, Scarey Ann, and Sweat Bees, and Simon Went Fishing on Sunday. We join with the Alabama community in fondly remembering Mrs. Windham.

Kathryn Tucker Windham’s tales haunt festival and stage this October

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

Legendary storyteller and author Kathryn Tucker Windham is much in the news this October as the town of Thomasville, Alabama prepares for the 7th Annual Kathryn Tucker Windham Ghost Walk on October 23 and Birmingham’s Red Mountain Theatre Company debuts 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey: A Haunting New Musical on October 29. Mrs. Windham’s Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories, an anthology of Mrs. Windham’s very favorite tales published by NewSouth Books, will be making lots of Halloween appearances in connection with these activities.

Mrs. Windham looks forward to these events, having recently participated in the 32nd Annual Alabama Tale-Tellin’ Festival in Selma earlier this month. She told the Selma Times-Journal, “I try to encourage audiences to go home and tell stories about their families or themselves. We’ve forgotten how to talk to each other.”

The Birmingham News caught up with Mrs. Windham for a front-page story that ran on Sunday, October 17. Alec Harvey’s wide-ranging piece included an interview with Mrs. Windham, and appreciation of her work from fellow authors and storytellers. Harvey pointed out that Mrs. Windham’s current busy schedule concludes a year in which she battled breast cancer and had a pacemaker replaced.

In the article, Mrs. Windham recalled her days as a young widow with three young children struggling to make ends meet on a newspaper writer’s salary. Unusual occurrences in her house led to the creation of her first ghost story, about a ghost named Jeffery, which was soon joined by others. Publication of her book 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey lead to a new career: storytelling. A phone call changed her life:

“This unfamiliar voice said, ‘This is Jimmy Neil Smith, and I’m in Jonesborough, Tennessee. I want you to come tell stories at the National Storytelling Festival,'” she says. “Who is pulling my leg now? Somebody named Smith from Jonesborough and a festival I had never heard of. I said, ‘No, I’m not a storyteller. I’m a writer.'”

“I kept waiting for someone to admit they had done this to me, and then one day in the mail, here came this ticket and a letter formally inviting me,” Windham adds. “I decided if they were fool enough to send this to me, I was fool enough to go.”

So Kathryn Tucker Windham — journalist, photographer and single mom — became a storyteller. “I started at the top,” she says with a laugh.

Rick Bragg analyzes Mrs. Windham’s appeal thusly: “She has that storyteller’s front-porch delivery.”

Broadway World featured the new musical 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, and’s All the Drama! blog includes a piece on the musical’s writer Don Everett Garrett. Garrett points out that “Any person who went to public school in Alabama knows about 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. My hope is that a whole new generation of kids will be introduced to the book.”

Mrs. Windham continues to tell stories through her books, the most recent a memoir called Spit, Scarey Ann, and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another, published by NewSouth Books. But the scariest thing about the book isn’t very scary at all — it’s the way the black hair on the old-fashioned doll known as Scarey Ann would stand up straight with the pushing of a button on the doll’s back. Things were simpler then. And for Kathryn Tucker Windham maybe also less busy.

Spit, Scarey Ann and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another, Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories, Alabama, One Big Front Porch, and Ernest’s Gift are available from NewSouth Books or your favorite retail or online book seller.

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.

NewSouth Books issues limited-edition Kathryn Tucker Windham booklet for Alabama Book Festival

Monday, April 26th, 2010 by Suzanne La Rosa

Simon Went Fishing on Sunday by Kathryn Tucker WindhamCall it a deliciously different catfish dish, or the expression of our enduring friendship with beloved author and storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham. It’s a signed and numbered limited-edition booklet titled Simon Went Fishing on a Sunday, which NewSouth produced on the occasion of its tenth anniversary and the 2010 Alabama Book Festival.

The idea for the booklet was conceived by company co-founder and editor-in-chief Randall Williams. Elegantly designed and based on a song the author’s Aunt Bet sang to her as a child, it warns against fishing on Sunday, but concludes “Please be assured the catfish you are enjoying tonight are safe to eat! They were not caught on Sunday! And the blessing has already been said.”

Simon Went Fishing on a Sunday was presented to guests at the ABF’s author reception, of which NewSouth Books was the proud sponsor, and the remaining copies are being offered to the public. In all, 150 copies were printed. Only a few copies are left. Kathryn Tucker Windham fans, make note: The catfish is going fast.

Visit the Simon Went Fishing on a Sunday page for more details.

Legendary Storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham Continues Spinning Tales Across Alabama

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 by Lisa Harrison

Patrons of the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge, Alabama will get a special Christmas treat this year when renowned author Kathryn Tucker Windham regales them with her delightful holiday tales during storytelling concerts on December 4 and 5. The event, sponsored by the Brundidge Historical Society, includes a chili dinner. Local paper Troy Messenger has details.

Mrs. Windham will begin the new year as the special guest of the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning of Auburn, Alabama’s Winter General Membership Meeting on January 11. She will tell tales and sign copies of her books Alabama, One Big Front Porch, Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories, and her newest, the memoir Spit, Scarey Ann, and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another. On January 15, she will appear at the Kathryn Tucker Windham Museum at Alabama Southern Community College for a book signing.

On February 27 Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama will welcome Mrs. Windham to the 15th anniversary of “Tell Me a Story.” Mrs. Windham helped to launch this storytelling festival in 1995, when organizers planned for what they thought would be a one-time session. An overwhelmingly positive response from festival-goers resulted in the establishment of an annual event. Kathryn Tucker Windham has participated in all but one of these. The festival includes workshops for would-be storytellers of all ages.

For a sample of Mrs. Windham’s wit, listen to an interview by Joey Brackner from the Alabama Arts Radio Series.

We hope you’ll be able to join Mrs. Windham at one of these great events!

Kathryn Tucker Windham Enjoys Visit from Auburn Journalism Students

Sunday, November 15th, 2009 by Brian Seidman

When Auburn University journalism students visited celebrated Alabama author and storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham’s Selma home late last week, they probably never expected to hear the Auburn fight song played on a comb. The students, who had read Mrs. Windham’s journalism memoir Odd-Egg Editor in Professor Ed Williams’ Newswriting class, presented Mrs. Windham with an Auburn T-shirt and were rewarded with a rousing “War Eagle!” in return.

Mrs. Windham formerly worked as a reporter for the Alabama Journal in Montgomery, the Birmingham News, and the Selma Times-Journal, and she spoke with the students about her newspaper experiences, and answered their questions about journalism and storytelling. Both the interviewer and the interviewees became the story, as a Selma Times-Journal reporter arrived to document the visit.

You can see photographs from Kathryn Tucker Windham’s visit with the students at the NewSouth Books Facebook page.

You can also watch a video of Kathryn Tucker Windham teaching the students to play the Auburn University fight song on a comb.

NewSouth Books recently published Kathyrn Tucker Windham’s latest book, the memoir Spit Scarey Ann and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another. Also available, Alabama, One Big Front Porch and Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories.