Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Winner Of Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest To Be Published In Magazine; $500 Prize For First Place

Little River Falls in Lookout Mountain, one of the possible settings for the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest.
Little River Falls: National Park Service

The winner of the nation’s next tourism fiction contest will be published in the inaugural issue of Lookout Alabama magazine in summer 2013. The regional magazine has teamed up with the Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative to co-sponsor the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest. The first place winner will be awarded a $500 prize sponsored by the Alabama Tourism Department.

The contest challenges writers to compose short stories that directly promote tourism to the Lookout Mountain region in Northeast Alabama. Photos of real places and a tourism guide will accompany the published story. The guide will include links to websites with information on visiting real places in the fictional piece. The winning story will be published on the SELTI website and at as well as in the print magazine. One of the judges will be best-selling author Homer Hickam, whose memoir Rocket Boys was made into the movie October Sky, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

SELTI also conducted the nation’s first tourism fiction contest with co-sponsor University of Alabama Museums to highlight the tourism appeal of Moundville Archaeological Park near Tuscaloosa. It was judged by a team of University of Alabama English and marketing professors. The winning story of that contest, “Digging Up Bones” by Kathryn Lang, was published online at SELTI and included links to the museum website and photos of the real park.

Senator Clay Scofield, chairman of the Alabama Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee, presented Kathryn Lang with the 2012 SELTI Tourism Fiction Award in October. Alabama Public Radio featured a story on the first SELTI contest, which included interviews with Lang, Miller and Sen. Scofield about how the concept of tourism fiction could be applied in a positive way nationwide.
Little River Canyon as seen from Lookout Mountain.
Photo by John Dersham, DeKalb County Tourism Association
“The mysterious nature of Moundville made it the most intriguing place in the state to set a story, but the breathtaking natural beauty of Lookout Mountain makes it the most scenic place in the state to inspire writers,” said SELTI founder Patrick Miller. “Having visited places like Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, I am very excited to see what writers come up with for the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest. People who love to read love to travel, so this contest will combine the two activities in a very fun, innovative way.”

Along with articles highlighting intriguing people and places in the Lookout Mountain area, each issue of Lookout Alabama will contain short fiction or poetry set in the region. 
Desoto Falls.
Photo by John Dersham.

“We are very excited to showcase the talents of writers with an interest in the Lookout Mountain area,” said Lookout Alabama Editor Olivia Grider. “We also are fortunate to partner with the Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative. This contest fits perfectly with the mission and goals of Lookout Alabama, and we believe it is a win-win for the magazine, SELTI and our readers.”

Contest submissions will be limited to 2,000 words and must be fictional short stories set in the Lookout Mountain, Alabama, area, which ranges from Gadsden to the Georgia state line and includes the valleys on both sides of the mountain. Submissions will be narrowed to five finalists, which will then be judged by a select team of publishers, authors, English professors and tourism professionals. Entries should be e-mailed to or by March 25, 2013.

With the nation’s economy struggling, tourism fiction could prove to be an innovative tool that helps boost state and city economies wherever it is applied, Miller said. “Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the nation’s economy, and tourism is one of the richest sources of consumer spending,” he adds. “Yet hardly anyone has tapped the vast potential of novels and other literary fiction to drive tourism to real attractions.”

About the Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative
Blind Fate, the nation's
first novel with an
interactive tourism guide.

SELTI is an organization that promotes tourism through literature. It offers readers short stories, poetry and book excerpts – along with companion travel guides – about real places to visit.

Founder Patrick Miller’s suspense novel, “Blind Fate,” was the first in the nation to include an online tourism guide embedded in the novel with tourism links to all the real places. SELTI followed up “Blind Fate” with “This Side of Paradise: Interactive Tourism Edition,” a new version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1920 debut novel that now includes tourism links to the real settings in the story. The royalties for the Fitzgerald edition are being donated by SELTI to the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Ala., located in the Fitzgeralds’ only surviving family residence.

About Lookout Alabama

Lookout Alabama is a quarterly, regional magazine whose mission is to celebrate and promote the unique culture, history and environmental treasures of the Lookout Mountain region, with a goal of facilitating job creation and economic development in the area by increasing tourism.

The staff of Lookout Alabama has more than 35 years of publishing experience. Publisher Randy Grider, a native of the Lookout Mountain area, started his career as a newspaper editor before taking the helm of a national trade magazine in 2000. Editor Olivia Grider has worked as both a newspaper reporter and the managing editor of a national trade publication. The Griders have earned numerous awards for newspaper and magazine journalism. They are the only husband and wife duo to each win the Jesse H. Neal Award – considered the Pulitzer Prize of business journalism – at different magazines.

About the Judges

Homer Hickam, New York Times bestselling author
John Dersham, executive director, Dekalb County Tourism
Hugh A. Stump III, executive director, Greater Gadsden Area Visitors Center
Joan Reeves, chair, English and Fine Arts Division, Northeast Alabama Community College
Patrick Miller, founder, Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative
Olivia Grider, editor, Lookout Alabama magazine
Randy Grider, publisher, Lookout Alabama magazine
Kathryn Lang, author, winner of the 2012 SELTI Tourism Fiction Award
Renee Morrison, Assistant Director, Jacksonville State University Field Schools

Homer Hickam is best-known for his award-winning and #1 best-selling memoir Rocket Boys, which was made into the movie October Sky. But he is also a prolific author of fourteen other fiction and non-fiction books, which include his popular "Josh Thurlow: World War II" series and his latest, a novel titled Crater set on the moon in the 22nd Century. More on Mr. Hickam and his books can be found at his website,

Kathryn Lang was recently awarded the 2012 SELTI Tourism Fiction Award by Senator Clay Scofield at the Moundville Native American Festival. Kathryn is a newspaper columnist and the author of several fiction and nonfiction books. Kathryn's tourism short story "Digging Up Bones," set at Moundville, won the Inaugural SELTI Writing Contest. Her Big Springs novel series is based on the real Guntersville, Alabama, tourism area. Learn more about Kathryn at her website,

Check Back Here Weekly For Updates on the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest!
Please visit Lookout Alabama magazine by clicking on this link for the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest Rules. Also, the list of official judges has been updated above.

The Alabama Tourism Department will help sponsor this contest by awarding a $500 prize to the first place winner. No entry fee is required to enter the contest.

March 26 Update: The contest is now closed. Thanks so much to all those who took the time and effort to enter this year. Email confirmations will soon go out to the finalists, and then the longer process of selecting a first place winner will begin. The winning story will be published online in the May 2013 SELTI feature, along with a list of the finalists. The winning story will also be published in the print edition of the inaugural issue of Lookout Alabama magazine, coming out in the summer and distributed statewide. Please follow SELTI for other important developments in tourism fiction currently underway.

April 1 Update: the five finalists for the contest have been selected and notified by email. If you entered the contest but did not receive such an email, then you have not been selected as a finalist. Again, thank you to everyone who entered. Many of the stories that were not selected were very close in the first round of judging and showed great talent. The final round of judging should be completed some time around the beginning of May, although no definite date of selection has been made.

May 10 Update: Natalie Cone's short story "The Totem" wins the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest. Read Natalie's winning story by clicking here.

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