Writers on the Mic: Sheree Renée Thomas, Jenny Sadre-Orafai, and Robert Collins in the Magic City — This Thursday (7 PM) @discobirmingham!

We’re pleased to again join forces with the Nitty Gritty Magic City Reading Series and the Desert Island Supply Company (with an able culinary assist from the good folks at Church Street) to host “Writers on the Mic” this month. Here’s the deets:

  • Who: Sheree Renée Thomas | Jenny Sadre-Orafai | Robert Collins [Scroll down below the break for more about these fine writers, including bio material and related links…]
  • What: Poetry! Fiction (speculative and otherwise)! Hybridity! Books! (And music and food and drink, oh my!)
  • When: Thursday – Feb 8 |Doors – 7 pm | Show starts at 7:30 pm
  • Where: DISCO | 5500 1st Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35212
  • Why: Because art saves the world. Every time. But don’t take our word for it: just ask the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Alabama Humanities Foundation, who have generously supported this program for precisely that reason.

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ASFA-CW Is Large, We Contain Multitudes: Student Readings, Visiting Writers, Statewide Contests!

IMG_20171109_113435[1]Hello to the ASFA-CW Extended Support Network – Happy 2018! If it’s January, we must be plugging some events: student readings, visiting authors, and statewide contests, o my!


  • Wed 1/24 – Elijah Thompson, Allison Sharp, Lauryn-Elizabeth Dewberry, Daniel Blokh
  • Wed 1/31 – Anna Butcher, Annabelle Blomeley, Kameron Helms, Shelby Nesbitt


  • Fri 2/9 – SENIOR READING #1: Scarlett Connolly & Blanca Tallaj (7 PM)
  • Wed 2/14 – Tyler Dalzell, Sebastian Anderson, Hugh Fournier, Tess Moore
  • Wed 2/21 – 9-10th Grade Student Reading (Readers TBA)

As per usual, Wednesday afternoon student readings start at 3:30 PM; all readings are held in the Lecture Hall and open to the ASFA community (students, parents, teachers, and their guests). Here’s a link to the full semester schedule, for those of you keeping score at home…

Also: won’t you help us plug our writing contests for young writers throughout Alabama?! The deadline for submissions is just about one month away. {{Cash prizes!}} Link to our submission guidelines on your respective Instaweb feed(s) etc:


PS…Speaking of thanks: thanks to some generous grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Alabama Humanities Foundation (and to the tireless efforts of the ASFA Foundation team), fiction writer Sheree Renee Thomas will be in town on Feb 8-9, reading at DISCO on Thurs 2/8 @ 7 PM and visiting ASFA-CW the following day. You’re all encouraged/welcome to join us for both events, and we’d be much obliged if you’d help us spread the word about the DISCO reading, as well, which is free and open to the public!    

Poets Joel Brouwer, Rajiv Mohabir, and Kristin Robertson Set to Visit the (Nitty Gritty) Magic City Tomorrow!

Thursday is wall-to-wall visiting writers in and around ASFA-CW! Here’s the scoop:

First up, poet Joel Brouwer will be visiting ASFA during the day to read from his latest book, Off Message, and to talk about his passion for photography and how it informs his work. Joel is chair of the English department at the University of Alabama and he teaches in the Program in Creative Writing there.

That’s plenty to get excited about, but, at that point, the fun will just be getting started.

We’re also co-sponsoring an event tomorrow night at the Desert Island Supply Company (DISCO) in Woodlawn. Joel will join poets Kristin Robertson (whose new book, Surgical Wing, is out this year from the prestigious poetry press, Alice James Books) and Rajiv Mohabir (another great young poet who just joined the English department faculty at Auburn and whose most recent book, The Cowherd’s Son, won the Kundiman Prize and was released this past May by Tupelo Press). Doors at DISCO will open at 7 p.m., and the reading will start at 7:30 p.m. Coffee and noshes will be served, courtesy of Church Street, and the reading is free as free can be.

What’s the source of all this poetry largesse? (We’re so glad you asked!) We’re combining the forces and resources of ASFA-CW’s Ron Casey Visiting Writers Series with those of the fine folks at DISCO and at the Nitty Gritty Magic City Reading Series, which is run by the inimitable Katherine Webb and Russell Hehn (along with ASFA-CW’s very own Ashley Jones). The aim is to bring even more great writers and writing-based outreach to the Birmingham metro area than we could on our own, and we’re so excited to acknowledge that the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Alabama Humanities Foundation have provided generous support to help us make that happen.

Thursday’s activities will mark the official inauguration of our partnership. There’s more where this came from, so stay tuned for info about upcoming events in this series. Suffice it to say, we’re stoked about all of it, and we really hope you’ll join us at DISCO on Thursday night!


Ron Casey Visiting Writers’ Series: Fall 2016 Schedule Announced!

We’re pleased to announce this semester’s full slate of author visits in the Ron Casey Visiting Writers’ Series. All readings are free and open to the public.

My Favorite Poem Community Reading
Friday, September 23 @ 7:00 pm | ASFA Lecture Hall

Taking after an initiative launched by Robert Pinsky in his tenure as the national poet laureate, the Birmingham Arts Journal and the ASFA-CW department have, for over a decade, partnered to sponsor this annual event celebrating poetry’s wide reach in the Birmingham metro area (and beyond). A cross-section of poetry lovers from all corners of the community gather to share their favorite poems and to explain how poetry is alive and well in their lives. A reception, hosted by the ASFA-CW parents, follows the reading.

Poet Ben Gunsberg
Thursday, October 6 @ 1:45 pm | ASFA Lecture Hall

Ben Gunsberg is a poet and an English professor at Utah State University. He will be reading from his chapbook, Rhapsodies with Portraits, of which Robin Behn has written, “With a constantly arresting precision of image and phrase that delights in every line, Ben Gunsberg tills the soils of Cold War kitsch and suburban sprawl with an eye that never misses how ‘the junipers shoulder up to dusk.’ Perhaps there is still room for poetry that can teach us how to live. These poems win me over and convince me of just that.”

Poet and Essayist Julie Marie Wade
Friday, October 28 @ 1:45 pm | ASFA Lecture Hall

Julie Marie Wade is the award-winning author of multiple books of poetry and prose, most recently a collection of lyric essays entitled Catechism: A Love Story, which Jenny Boully describes as “a gorgeous collection of poetic essays on reading, loving, and, most delightfully, reading love between the lines.” Wade is a professor in the Creative Writing program at Florida International University.

Poet Jeanie Thompson
Thursday, November 10 @ 7:00 pm | ASFA Lecture Hall

Jeanie Thompson will be reading from her latest poetry collection, The Myth of Water, a cycle of poems in the voice of Helen Keller. “Jeanie Thompson, through an act of sympathetic imagination,” writes poet Richard Tillinghast, “enters the Helen Keller story, relives it from the inside, and presents it here to readers, fresh, reimagined and, yes, a miracle.” The author of six other collections of poetry, Thompson is the founding executive director the Alabama Writers’ Forum,  a statewide literary arts service organization. A reception will follow this reading, where copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing by the author.

Poet Ashley Michelle Jones 
Friday, December 2 @ 7:00 pm | ASFA Lecture Hall

ASFA-CW faculty member (and alumnae) Ashley Michelle Jones will read from her first published collection of poetry, Magic City Gospel. “In Magic City Gospel,” writes poet Denise Duhamel, “Ashley Michelle Jones writes Birmingham, Alabama, with the precision of one who grew up there. Seeped in the city’s difficult history, its food and folklore, this poetry explores the complicated racial and national identity of the author. In both free verse and received forms, these poems reverberate with heartache and humor. Ashley Michelle Jones’s voice speaks to her generation and beyond. She is an old soul in a young body her work will serve as an important springboard for questions of race, gender, and social justice. Simply put, the United States needs Magic City Gospel. This is a stunning and important debut.” Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing at the reception to follow this reading.


The Ron Casey Visiting Writers’ Series was established at ASFA by a generous gift from the family and friends of Mr. Casey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and editorial page editor at the Birmingham News. Mr. Casey dedicated his life to using the written word to educate others and inspire a more humane, more critically aware society. All Casey readings are free and open to the public.

My Favorite Poem Event: Fri, Sep 23 @ 7 PM in the ASFA Lecture Hall

We’re happy to say it’s that time of year again: in partnership with the Birmingham Arts Journal (whose crackerjack staff does nearly all of the leg work…), we’ll be hosting the Birmingham area’s My Favorite Poem event in a little less than two weeks. In its eleventh year, the event is one of the most popular events on the ASFSA-CW calendar. Each year, a cross section of poetry lovers from throughout central Alabama gets a chance to share their favorite poems and to offer what they love about them. A reception, hosted by the parents of ASFA-CW students (…who graciously handle our end of the logistics), follows the reading. This event is free and open to the public, so we hope to see you there!

[The video above is the full-length recording of last year’s event, courtesy of videographer Steve Edmondson.]

Bob Dylan: The Early Years

That’s Bob Dylan, c. 1963, playing the anthemic “Blowin’ in the Wind” on TV. He’s in full folksinger mode. Clearly.

Here’s a link to an NPR interview he did forty years later, when his memoir, Chronicles: Volume One came out. The first chapter of the book is excerpted there as well.

Lastly: here are a couple of links to Dylan’s web site, specifically to the lyrics for two of his albums:

Just click on the song titles to get to the lyrics.

Peruse all of that — the video, the NPR interview/excerpt, and the lyrics — and we’ll discuss it tomorrow. Next week, we’ll watch I’m Not There. I’d also like to bring Beyonce into the discussion as well, if only to sample a few songs/images from various stages of her career and compare it to the personas Dylan has adopted over the years.

Here’s our schedule for this week:

  • Monday: Independent work. Read/watch/listen to the Bob Dylan stuff.
  • Tuesday: We’ll listen to a little bit of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and then we’ll start watching Don’t Look Back.
  • Wednesday: Finish and discuss Don’t Look Back.
  • Thursday: I’ll give you your first Critical Response prompt, and Juniors can practice for their reading in the lecture hall.

Flash-or-Flush: [01.27.12]

Seventh/Eighth-Grade Workshop

Pick one, mix-and-match, or just freelance on your own:


Write a 300-word story. Exactly 300 words. It should have a beginning, middle, and an end. Include one sympathetic character who’s very different from you in some obvious way. Maybe she grew up in Thailand and you grew up here. Maybe he’s a boy and you’re not. Maybe she never knew her mother or maybe he’s rich. The important thing is this: different and sympathetic. Set the story in a place and time you know extremely well.


Use the quote above (about dancing) as the climax of a scene or story.


…and what happens next?


Make a list of every best friend you’ve ever had. Describe each of them in a sentence or two. Remember: use specific nouns and verbs. Try to remember an important scene in the story of your life with one of them, with dialogue and everything. Feel free to draw that scene, comic book style. Or write it out as a scene or story. Change what needs to be changed.


Tool around the creative writing blog at www.asfacw.wordpress.com.