Birmingham native and novelist Daniel Wallace named 2019 Harper Lee Award Winner

Birmingham, Alabama, Daniel Wallace, 2019 Harper Lee Award
Birmingham, Alabama, Daniel Wallace, 2019 Harper Lee Award
Daniel Wallace. Photo by Iman Woods

Author Daniel Wallace, born and raised in Birmingham, has reeled in a big fish—the 2019 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year. He will receive the honor during the Awards Luncheon at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, Alabama, on April 26, 2019.

Two of Wallace’s six novels, “Big Fish” (1998) and “Extraordinary Adventures” (2017). Images via booksamillion.com

“A man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him, and in that way he becomes immortal,” says the character Will Bloom in the movie adaptation of the novel ‘Big Fish.’ The same could be said of Wallace, author of the famous novel.

Of course, the Harper Lee Award is about more than one book. It’s about Wallace’s significant, lifelong contribution to Alabama letters. Here’s the scoop. 

Birmingham, Alabama, Daniel Wallace, 2019 Harper Lee Award, Big Fish
“The Cat’s Pajamas” (2014) by Daniel Wallace. Image via booksamillion.com

10 Facts About Bham’s Big Fish

  1. A Birmingham native, Wallace attended Birmingham University School and Altamont School. 
  2. He’s a comic genius and “the Mark Twain of Alabama,” according to Don Noble, an Alabama literary expert and the popular host of APTV’s ‘BookMark.’
  3. Wallace’s six novels include “Big Fish” (1998), “Ray in Reverse” (2000), “The Watermelon King” (2003), “Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Musician” (2007), “The Kings and Queens of Roam” (2013) and “Extraordinary Adventures” (2017). 
  4. Fans worldwide read his novels in more than two dozen languages.
  5. Wallace set his most recent novel, “Extraordinary Adventures,” right here in sweet home Birmingham. 
  6. In 2003, an adaptation of “Big Fish” became a major motion picture.
  7. Then, in 2013, according to Wallace, “the book and the movie were mish-mashed together and became a Broadway musical.”
  8. He wrote and illustrated the children’s book “The Cat’s Pajamas” (2014).
  9. Today, Wallace serves as the J. Ross MacDonald Distinguished Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his alma mater. He also directs the Creative Writing Program.
  10. How does he feel about winning the 2019 Harper Lee Award? Hear it straight from the big fish’s mouth.

“Receiving the Harper Lee Award makes me so happy. I’ve lived a long time away, but my imagination never left Alabama. All my stories happen there, and it’s where all of my characters live and die. Thank you, Alabama. This is such an honor.”

Daniel Wallace

“Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Musician” (2007) and “The Kings and Queens of Roam” (2013) by Daniel Wallace. Images via booksamillion.com

Critical Acclaim

You know how blurbs on the back of books rattle off a bunch of words like “stunning” and “riveting,” attributed to some high-profile publication’s name? We’ll have none of that here. Here’s what some well-read Alabamians have to say about Wallace winning the 2019 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year.

“Daniel Wallace has captivated readers’ imaginations from his first amazing, unconventional, but deeply true novel, ‘Big Fish,’ to his most recent, the surprising and funny ‘Extraordinary Adventures.’ The native son of a state acknowledged for its tale-telling proclivities, Wallace has taken the craft to new places with humor, warmth and an abundance of optimism, so needed in the world.”

Jay Lamar, executive director, Alabama Bicentennial Commission

“Alabamians love the novel ‘Big Fish’ and still love to visit the set near Wetumpka where the movie adaptation was filmed. But fewer Alabamians may be aware of what a dedicated, accomplished writer Wallace has been in multiple genres.

“Not only has he written a best-selling novel, but he has also excelled as a writer of drama and memoir. Fewer still may know of Wallace’s humor writing and cartoons or his commitment to promoting excellence in craft among his colleagues and students of writing.”

Anita Miller Garner, professor of English emerita, University of North Alabama

Learn more about the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, Alabama, on April 26, 2019.