Free Writing Workshops

The Alabama Book Festival is delighted to offer free writing workshops to the general public! All workshops are held in the auditorium of the Loeb Center at Old Alabama Town. Space is generally limited to forty people, so be sure to sign up early by filling out and submitting the registration form below.

The Arc of a Life Story:

Writing Memoir with Molly Brodak (9:00-9:50 a.m.)

The author of the celebrated memoir Bandit: A Daughter’s Story offers lessons on how to structure and dramatize one’s life story. How do we make our personal or family narratives vivid but true? What are the boundaries of confession? Is it fair to make public parts of our past that may hurt the people closest to us? How do we plot our experience and process the things we have survived? Memoir has become one of the most popular genres in contemporary publishing, and this workshop will introduce you to its basics.


Genre Fiction:

Writing Mystery, Suspense, Romance, and Horror with Carolyn Haines

(10:00-10:50 a.m.)

Few authors are as adept in multiple genres as the 2010 Harper Lee Award for her prolific achievements in these popular forms. Having donned such pseudonyms as Lizzie Hart, Caroline Burns, and R. B. Chesterton, Carolyn is well aware that being productive in various forms often requires inventing whole other personalities for the writing self. This workshop will address the specific expectations and techniques that come with writing mysteries, romances, and horror and explore how to plot memorable storylines and invent unique characters.


Master Class in Fiction:

Creating Real Characters and Credible Plots while Managing the Pragmatics of the Writing Life with Rita Mae Brown

(11:00-11:50 a.m.)

The prolific author of Rubyfruit Jungle, the Montgomery-based Southern Discomfort (celebrating its thirty-fifth anniversary), as well as the Mrs. Murphy and Runnymede series explores the central questions of fiction-making: How do we create characters who come to life on the page? How do we shape a plot so it seems organic and likely instead of contrived? Additionally, Rita Mae Brown will address the practicalities of the writing life. How many words a day must a writer produce to be productive? How do we manage multiple projects? And how do we collaborate, as Ms. Brown does with the co-author of the Mrs. Murphy series, Sneaky Pie Brown? Finally, who collaborates better: cats or humans? Join us for what promises to be a fun, lively discussion of how words on a page become reality.


Recipes for Success:

Cookbooks and Travel Writing with Annette Thompson

(12:00-12:50 p.m.)

How does a cookbook go from a family recipe to a printed piece of instruction followed in kitchens across the country? How does a writer find the voice and authority to make cups of flour come to life? How does a travel writer celebrate a destination without succumbing to cliché? And who gets to be a travel and food writer, anyway? Annette Thompson, the author of Alabama Barbecue: Delicious Road Trips, has not only written extensively for the culinary and travel industry but has a wealth of experience and insight as a former Southern Living editor and president of the Society of American Travel Writings. Join her for this exciting journey into how nourishing writing about food can be, and how fleet of foot our prose must be to capture the world’s liveliest places to visit.


Coming of Age:

Writing Young Adult Fiction with Jay Asher

(1:00-1:50 p.m.)

In recent years YA fiction has become one of the most popular genres for readers of all ages. The celebrated author of the bestselling Thirteen Reasons Why (now a Netflix TV series!), The Future of Us (co-written with Carolyn Mackler), and the recently released What Light explores how this thriving market operates, and how writers can reach teens by crafting memorably complex and nuanced young adults that avoid the stereotypes of growing up. As a frequent keynote speaker on teen suicide prevention, Jay understands how vital fiction can be for helping youth come to grips with the pressures of adjusting and coping with life.


From A for Alabama to Z for Zelda:

Screenwriting with Doug Dorst

(2:00-2:50 p.m.) 

Last year the Alabama Book Festival brought Nicole Yorkin and Dawn Prestwich, the producer/creators of Amazon’s “bio-series” on Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Z: The Beginning of Everything, to Montgomery for an exciting behind-the-scenes view of how a show goes from concept to execution. In 2016 only the pilot for Z had been released; now that the entire first season is available for streaming, we thought it would be fun and educational to offer a follow-up workshop on screenwriting with one of Nicole and Dawn’s writing team. Novelist Doug Dorst will break down how a script for an episode is constructed in the larger context of a series. How do writers collaborate on a show? How do you block action and craft exciting dialogue? Having written the novel S with J. J. Abrams of Star Trek and Star Wars fame, Doug is well-versed in going from page to screen.


Marrying Words to Music:
Songwriting with Blue Yonder (3:00-3:50 p.m.)

What’s more appropriate in the year that Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature than a workshop on the relationship of words to music in popular song? Join local faves Blue Yonder for an illuminating discussion, co-sponsored by the Montgomery Area Musicians Association (MAMA), of the importance of lyrics in songwriting. How do you fit words to a melody? What’s a good rhyme? What’s a bad rhyme? What’s too literal, and what’s too literary when trying to fit emotions to a cadence that has to be performed? Over the past year this quartet of music-makers (Johnny Veres, Beth Hataway Veres, Joseph Johnson, and Andrew Mohney) has carved one of the most distinctive musical identities in the capital city, combining Americana, folk, Ameripolitan, and parlor in a way that’s both haunting and exhilarating, capturing the mood of what critic Greil Marcus once called “that old, weird America.” Having just returned from a tour that took them through the heart of the Midwest, Blue Yonder is readying its first full album for release.


Fill out the form to register for workshops, and be sure to click the Submit Form button at the bottom of the page. Each workshop is limited to 40 participants, and space is reserved on a first come, first served basis.

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Check the workshops you'd like to register for.

   The Arc of a Life Story: Writing Memoir with Molly Brodak (9:00-9:50 a.m.)

   Genre Fiction: Writing Mystery, Suspense, Romance and Horror with Carolyn Haines (10:00-10:50 a.m.)

Sorry, the Master Class in Fiction workshop with Rita Mae Brown is fully reserved

   Recipes for Success: Cookbooks and Travel Writing with Annette Thompson (12:00-12:50 p.m.)

Sorry, the Coming of Age: Writing Young Adult Fiction with Jay Asher is fully reserved

   From A for Alabama to Z for Zelda: Screenwriting with Doug Dorst (2:00-2:50 p.m.)

   Marrying Words to Music: Songwriting with Blue Yonder (3:00-3:50 p.m.)

Please let us know what your writing interests are.

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