Sunday, December 1, 2013

Miss Alabama to read from Zelda Fitzgerald's novel Save Me The Waltz at the Fitzgerald Museum January 18.

Chandler Champion, the reigning Miss Alabama, will
give a special reading from Zelda Fitzgerald's novel
Save Me the Waltz.
SELTI and the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum are proud to announce that the reigning Miss Alabama, Chandler Champion, will give a special reading from Zelda Fitzgerald's novel Save Me The Waltz at the museum on Saturday, January 18 at 2:00 p.m. The excerpt will give the audience a sense of what was it like for the young Alabama belle Zelda Sayre to fall in love with Lieutenant F. Scott Fitzgerald during World War I in Montgomery. Scott Fitzgerald was one of many beaus who courted Zelda Sayre while training at Camp Sheridan to go overseas in the war.

In the largely autobiographical novel, Zelda's fictional character "Alabama Beggs" falls in love with the fictional "David Knight," an army lieutenant stationed in her hometown during the war. In the novel, Knight becomes a famous painter in New York, while Fitzgerald became a famous writer in real life. Both the fictional and real couples moved to the French Riviera and Paris before returning home to America.

Miss Alabama's personal community service platform is "Chandler's Challenge: Reading Is Believing . . . Don't Stop Believing," which encourages people to read every day. Both Zelda and Chandler studied ballet, which is a strong theme in Zelda's novel.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Story About Thoreau's Walden Pond Wins Fitzgerald Museum Writing Contest

Walden Pond, the setting for "A Man by the Pond," by Jacob Lambert,
 winner of the 2013 F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Literary Contest.
Lambert is an English major at Auburn University Montgomery.
Photo by Tim Hettler/Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.

Editor’s note: “A Man by the Pond” won first place in the college division of the 2013 F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Literary Contest. Jacob Lambert, the author, is an English major at Auburn University Montgomery. The short story is set at Walden Pond in Massachusetts, the real inspiration of Henry David Thoreau’s classic work Walden from the 1840’s. Thoreau’s work influenced the modern environmentalist movement and also included some wonderful humor and fresh perspectives on the traditional world and ways of thinking. After the story, please click on the links in the Tourism Guide to learn how to visit the real Walden Pond today. Please also learn about the sponsor of the contest, the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery.
Photos: Click photos to enlarge! The photos of Walden Pond in this article came from the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism's Flickr page, used under the Creative Commons license. Many more pictures of the area are available by clicking here.


"A Man by the Pond"

By Jacob Lambert

     As the train came to a shuddering halt, Thomas Little stepped down the steel steps and out into the dry summer air. In the distance, he could see an immense pond, one surrounded by a forest that seemed to threaten the very integrity of the above crystalline sky. The humidity, along with the multitudes of insects swarming around his sweaty, waxen face, made him wish that he had worn something thinner, less heavy, than his current black slacks and grey wool jacket. However, that was the dress for the day, or what the gentlemen at Harvard suggested, but Thomas, now walking around to the other side of the train, his eyes resting beyond, towards the pond, was growing tired of these formalities, these outfits of gloom. Perhaps, the man he was going to see, the one who would lecture next week—depending, of course, on the merits of their conversation—might make his job simpler, giving a concrete “yes,” without his typical allusions to abstract philosophies. Then, hopefully, Thomas could go home and change, see his family, and, possibly, read—but he doubted it. After all, he was going to see Henry David Thoreau.

Walden Pond.
Photo by Troy B. Thompson/Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism
     The walk was a laborious one: tall grass, dried mud, and more insects, each making the journey to the minuscule cabin in the distance tedious, almost painful, but Thomas continued, his stale brown eyes scanning the ‘property’ for the man in question. Then, approaching the wooden refuge, there he was, sitting to the right of the cabin, his attention engaged to a small book in his lap.

     “Mr. Thoreau?” Thomas asked, confused as to why the man resigned himself to reading in the dirt when, just inside his tiny home, there was a perfectly apt desk for the task.

      For a moment, Thoreau continued to read, as if he had heard nothing, but seconds later, he abruptly slammed the book to a close and turned to view the heavy man to his right. He then stood, stretched, and nodded—saying nothing in reply. The first thing Thomas noticed was the grimy clothes the man wore: tattered, dusty slacks and an equally ramshackle black jacket. His black beard, seeming to cover only his jawline and under, was unkempt, and his hair, aside from growing wild on his head, looked as if he had been sleeping in the woods. But his eyes, deep-set and masculine, emanated intelligence, a sort of searing blue seen only in the hottest part of a flame.

An outdoor guidepost at Walden Pond.
Photo by Zeetz Jones/
Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism
     “You are Mr. Thoreau, are you not? Thomas asked.

     Thoreau, once again, nodded.

     “My name is Thomas Little, sir, and I come on behalf of the university,” he paused, looked around, and frowned. “Say, if you don’t mind my asking, why did you decide to move into such a…such a wilderness, something so far removed from society?”    

     Seeming to consider the question, Thoreau looked up at the sky, a dim smile forming on his semi-thin lips, and after returning his gaze back to Thomas, placing his hands to his side, he answered. “I wish to meet the facts of life—the vital facts, which where the phenomena or actuality the Gods meant to show us, face to face, and so I came here.”

     “I don’t quite understand you, sir. What life can a man profit from this place? There is nothing but sediment and emptiness,” Thomas replied, bewildered by Thoreau’s statement.

     At this, Thoreau’s smile widened, his eyes seeming to drill through Thomas’ own. In that smile, Thomas could see another, less appealing characteristic of the man: his unconventional face, the ugliness that surely plagued the tall man, another possible—if not frank—reason for his departure from society: hiding, not basking, in the wilderness of the forest.

Fall at Walden Pond.
Photo by Troy B. Thompson/
Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism
     “Life! who knows what it is—what it does? If I am not quite here I am less wrong than before,” Thoreau replied, taking a step to the right and walking past Thomas, towards the pond.

     “But what about the silence? Does it not bother you?”

     Without turning around, for his gaze remained on the pond, Thoreau shook his head, his mess of hair swaying in the wind, which provided no comfort from the increasing heat bearing down on the afternoon turf.  “Sound was made not so much for conveniences, that we might hear when called, as to regale the sense—and fill one of the avenues of life.”

      It was, Thomas thought, like speaking to someone foreign, someone lacking the ability to translate mind to mouth, like a child searching for understanding in grunts and cries. Thoreau was exactly like what he expected, especially after the briefing at the university, where warnings about the man’s strange sensibilities remained hidden in conversation. Only a few more inquires, Thomas thought, and then down to business.

     Walking over to where Thoreau had perched himself by the pond, Thomas wiped the sweat from his face and spoke, “There is a certain melancholy to this place, sir, or does that not bother you as well?”

     Thoreau tilted his head to the right and sighed, his hands gently playing with a small twig. “There can be no really black melan-choly to him who lives in the midst of nature, and has still his senses. All nature is classic and akin to art—The sumack and pine and hickory which surround my house remind me of the most graceful sculpture.”

The replica of Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond.
Photo by Chiot's Run/
Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism
     “And what of religion? You spoke of God, but what did you mean? Do you attend sermon on Sunday?”

     To this question, Thoreau seemed irritated, for he suddenly grunted and tossed the twig to his side, his attention drifting from the pond to Thomas. “The preacher, instead of vexing the ears of drowsy farmers on their day of rest, at the end of the week, (for Sundays always seemed to me like a fit conclusion of an ill spent week and not the fresh and brave beginning of a new one) with this one other draggletail and postponed affair of a sermon, from thirdly to 15thly, should teach them with a thundering voice—pause & simplicity.”

     “So you say that it is too dry? Or lacking the vitality of truth?  What do you mean?” Thomas asked, but Thoreau had stood up and started to walk towards his cabin, intent on finishing the conversation with the closing of a door.

     His entire body drenched from the temperature of the forested sauna, Thomas, picking up his pace to catch Thoreau before he disappeared, shouted at his back. “Are you going to do the lecture then?”

     Before there was a reply, Thoreau was out of sight, leaving Thomas to venture back to the train, back to Concord, and though the heavy-set man thought of pursuing Thoreau, trying one more time for the answer, he figured he would just wait, leave the task to someone else more suited to it. The university, after all, did have other representatives, and Thomas, already exhausted, decided to leave the man alone, leave him to his dirt and trees.

     “Perhaps, sending a letter would suffice. Surely the man has a mailbox,” Thomas said, turning around, a smile forming on his thick lips.

     “Definitely, a letter will do.”

Works Cited
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden, Civil Disobedience, And Other Writings, Authoritative Texts, Journal, Reviews And   
Posthumous Assessments, Criticism. 3rd ed. New York: W. W. Norton Co Inc, 2008. Print.


Jacob Lambert (right) receives an award and cash prize for winning
first place in the 2013 F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum
Literary Contest. Dr. W. Blake Gerard (left), Lambert's
English professor, also received an award and cash prize
from the Fitzgerald Museum, presented by museum board
 member Martha Cassells (center) at a museum reception.
Photo from F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum. 

Fortunately for modern literary tourists, the real Walden Pond has been preserved as a state reservation and is still accessible today in a condition almost as pristine as Thoreau knew it in the 1840’s. Any student who has ever had to write a paper or essay on Thoreau might appreciate the humor in this story, but it also reintroduces Thoreau to modern readers. After reading this story, I immediately pulled out my Kindle Fire and downloaded a copy of the classic Walden and started reading it again. I found myself laughing at Thoreau’s humor and found some new resonance with his writing that I didn’t seem to have when I was younger.

If you click on the tourism links below, you can learn more about how to visit Walden Pond. If only such links were also available in the book Walden itself, then perhaps generations of current and future readers might be introduced to a unique and inspiring literary tourism attraction outdoors. If every new person who read Walden in the future were to be offered links inside the book inviting them to Walden Pond, that could have a strong economic impact on the state of Massachusetts over generations, considering that Walden is a classic work that will be read by millions of students over time. The real Walden Pond offers swimming, canoeing, and hiking, so stop by and soak up the beauty of nature perhaps while soaking up some classic literature as well.

If you would like to learn more about the sponsor of the literary contest, please also click on the links to the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum below. The Fitzgerald museum holds events throughout the year such as 1920’s Flapper galas, book signings from New York Times bestselling authors, poetry and writing contests, and art and movie exhibitions, to name a few. Helping to judge the literary contest has been one of my favorite aspects of working with the museum. We do have our own tourism edition of Fitzgerald’s classic 1920 debut novel: This Side of Paradise: Interactive Tourism Edition. Our tourism edition also has links to literary destinations related with Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.

Walden Pond State Reservation
F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum
Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism 

Friday, September 20, 2013

“Damn the Torpedoes! Full Speed Ahead!” How Historic Sites Could Help Save the Future of the Economy

Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay, site of the famous
Battle of Mobile Bay in the Civil War 
Part of my job is scouting out areas that would make ideal settings for tourism novels and short stories. The Mobile Bay area—where Admiral David Farragut shouted the famous lines above during the Civil Warwas the latest destination. The city of Mobile can be read about in countless nonfiction history books, since it was founded in 1702 by the French, but what about all the people who don’t read history books but who do love reading novels? Fiction has the flexibility to move outside the boundaries of historical facts and jump into modern scenarios using real historical locations.

For example, when I walk through historic Fort Morgan, the Confederate fortress that guarded Mobile Bay, I not only imagine the cannons blazing out shells against Farragut’s invading fleet 150 years ago, but I also imagine a climatic chase scene of a modern novel through the same creepy tunnels and dark, shadowy chambers. Historical sites like Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines have a unique, powerful feel that modern buildings can’t compete with for a dramatic story setting. Walking through the fort today, I can feel that power pulling on my imagination. What would happen if many writers came here and competed on who could compose the best tourism short story to draw tourists in? Sometimes when the creative gates are opened, surprising results come in. And more importantly, tourism short stories can become the foundations for tourism novels that capture even more nearby locations within a larger story.
A creepy tunnel in Fort Morgan, the possible setting
for a modern suspense novel?
This wouldn’t be the first time that a historic site was the setting for a tourism short story contest. The mysterious Moundville Archaeological Park near Tuscaloosa was the target setting for the Inaugural SELTI Writing Contest. Although the Native American mounds were steeped in history, it was a surprisingly modern take on them that won with Kathryn Lang’s "Digging Up Bones".

Tourism short story competitions can also cover a larger area like Mobile Bay, as in the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest in northeast Alabama’s beautiful Lookout Mountain region. Originally, only the top story from the five finalists in that contest was going to be published in Lookout Alabama magazine, but the final five were so good that the magazine is publishing all of them in separate editions. The first place winner, "The Totem" by Natalie Cone, was published in the Summer edition, and just recently another finalist, Shawn Blankenship’s “Coming Home,” was published in the Fall edition.
Fort Conde in Mobile, a French colonial fort and museum.
So what does the Mobile Bay area offer for tourism fiction? A ferry runs between Fort Morgan and its sister historic site Fort Gaines across the Mobile Bay on Dauphin Island. A bridge runs from Dauphin Island up to the city of Mobile, where two more historical attractions could serve as inspirations. Fort Conde is a restored French colonial fort with a museum, and the Museum of Mobile offers a very impressive two-story collection in the historic town hall. The USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park offers its own dramatic settings with a full-size World War II battleship and submarine along with countless other military vehicles on display.

The rooftop pool of the Battle House Hotel overlooks
Mobile Bay and the city skyline.
The historic Battle House Renaissance Hotel offers high-end accommodations with a full-service spa next to a rooftop outdoor pool that overlooks the scenic Mobile skyline and bay. Or tourists can choose the smaller bed and breakfast option with places like the charming Fort Conde Inn.

The downtown Mobile area has a wide range of dining within easy walking distance along Bienville Square and Cathedral Square in front of the beautiful and historic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (do stop inside the cathedral for inspiring architecture and art). For literary lovers, there’s even a bar named Boo Radleys! The French architectural influence gives downtown Mobile a colorful and festive flavor much like New Orleans. There’s the Mobile Carnival Museum by itself and another great carnival collection in the Museum of Mobile.
French architecture gives downtown
Mobile a colorful character.
You can click on all the links above to visit the websites of each of the places mentioned, but the same links could also be in a tourism novel. An area like Mobile Bay could be the setting for multiple tourism novels, from romance to mystery to suspense, and all could include tourism guides at the end that drew readers towards the real tourism attractions. Although paper novels can guide readers at the end to a website that includes the links, readers would have to type in the website address or search for it, but Kindle or iPad novels can let readers click on the links and instantly browse the tourism websites without having to wait. E-readers with web browsers could even allow a reader to book a hotel room in the area while reading the book if the link is added by the publisher. The only problem is that most writers and publishers around the country haven’t started including these types of tourism links yet.
Blind Fate, the first novel with an
interactive tourism guide. Could Mobile
be the setting of a future tourism novel?
If you would like to read tourism novels that do include the links already, try the suspense novel Blind Fate or This Side of Paradise: Interactive Tourism Edition, two special publishing projects of SELTI. Blind Fate is set in real tourism attractions of the Montgomery area (told from the unique “perspective” of a blind protagonist), and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel This Side of Paradise (from 1920) is largely set in Princeton. Blind Fate was featured in USA Today for its innovation in tourism promotion within a novel.

After visiting the Mobile Bay area, I would be very excited to see what writers could produce that would draw tourists to the local attractions. Sometimes a tourism short story competition can start things off, but government and corporate partners help speed things up on that front. Cities and regions have to work to attract writers to do these types of tourism fiction projects, just as they do to attract films or factories but at far less investment.

The potential certainly exists in Mobile Bay for a bestselling tourism novel that could bring in millions in new revenue, like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil did for Savannah. The Alabama Legislature recently passed a joint resolution inviting authors to write about real Alabama tourism attractions and encouraging cities to pursue grants to attract authors, but the legislature left the initiative up to individual cities and counties to pursue such projects.
Beautiful Bienville Square in downtown Mobile
With the nation’s economy on such shaky ground, most cities would love to pursue a new way to attract tourism revenue, so a Mobile Bay area tourism short story contest could showcase the bay’s attractions on a national level for any cities that would like to follow the same contest model. If the concept of tourism fiction works for Mobile, then wouldn’t it work for San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, and Seattle? Once the idea of setting novels in tourism attractions (and including the related tourism links) catches on nationally, the resulting boom in tourism will help bolster the national economy, which is 70% based on consumer spendingexactly the kind of spending produced by tourism.
Charming Cathedral Square in downtown Mobile.

Suppose companies like Amazon created “tourism novel” categories so that readers who were looking for those types of stories could find them easily, whether they were looking for a city to visit or were already going there and just wanted to get to know its attractions better. If fifty percent of the new novels that hit the market had a tourism guide related to the story, how would that impact the national economy? This is an interesting question that the publishing and tourism industries should consider, along with state governments that need new revenue and taxes that come directly from tourism.

Since historic sites work so well as the settings for tourism fiction, they could indeed help save the future of the economy by inspiring a new wave of consumer spending based on tourism novels. Setting the stories in the modern day allows the fictional characters to do fun things like stay in the real Fort Conde Inn or Battle House Hotel, to have a conversation with another character in Cathedral Square, and to have a drink at the Royal Street Tavern while listening to live piano music. Let tourism fiction writers be inspired by the unique settings of Mobile Bay and see what develops!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Natalie Cone's Story "The Totem" Wins Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest

Laurel Falls in DeSoto State Park, the inspirational setting for Natalie Cone's tourism short story "The Totem,"
winner of the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest.

Story By: Natalie Cone
Tourism Attractions: DeSoto State Park, The Bookshelf Etc.
Location: Fort Payne, Alabama
Photos By: Randy Grider, Lookout Alabama Magazine. Click any photo to enlarge!
Natalie Cone,
winner of the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest

Congratulations to Natalie Cone, whose tourism short story "The Totem" won the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest! Read Natalie's story below, which will be published in the inaugural issue of Lookout Alabama magazine this summer. Natalie also won the 2013 SELTI Tourism Fiction Award and a $500 prize from the Alabama Tourism Department for promoting tourism to the Lookout Mountain Alabama area in a fun new way: through a tourism short story. The award and prize were presented by Senator Clay Scofield, chairman of the Alabama Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee, at the recent Lookout Alabama summit held at Cook Castle in Fort Payne, Alabama.
Senator Clay Scofield awards Natalie Cone the
2013 SELTI Tourism Fiction Award and a $500 check
from the Alabama Tourism Department.

The photos in the story below are of the real locations, the Bookshelf Etc. bookstore and DeSoto State Park, both in Fort Payne. Click on the links in the tourism guide at the end of the story to find out how to visit these places in person, not just read about them in a story. The tourism guide also includes links and information on surrounding tourism attractions to make a fun-filled family or romantic vacation in the Lookout Mountain Alabama area.

The real Connie from the Bookshelf Etc. bookstore in
Fort Payne, Alabama, sells a magical book with an
eagle totem to the fictional character Roy.

Roy James ran his hand across the soft leather book cover. The symbol of an eagle with outstretched wings was imprinted on the front, with no title or author. The woman at The Book Shelf had recommended it when he wandered into her store looking for a good read to pass the time until the rain stopped and the sun shone again. “It's guaranteed to bring out the child in you,” she'd said with a twinkle in her kind eyes. Connie, he thought, drawing her name to mind.

He'd paid for it and left, jogging through the rain back to his jeep. Beville, a shaggy brown dog, greeted him from the passenger's seat. Roy tossed the book beneath the dog's feet and twisted the key in the ignition, returning back to his quiet campsite at DeSoto State Park.

Sitting in a lawn chair, Roy watched as the rain poured in rivers off the awning. At 48, he was a retired Second Lieutenant in the army, and his camper was his home. Moving from state to state was the only life he was accustomed to, and it suited him well.
Roy reads the magical book before falling asleep at his
DeSoto State Park campsite.
As the sounds of gunfire filled his ears from a distant memory coming to life, he unconsciously rubbed at the bullet wound scarring his left shoulder. It was a permanent reminder of the day his life had been saved, and the day that Lieutenant Carter Beville died saving it.

Roy cleared his throat to force down the rising emotion and patted the dog's head, relieved when the echoes of gunfire faded into the sounds of rain beating the ground. He opened the cover of the book in his lap and began to read the handwritten pages.

It was the warmth of the sun that woke him. Roy uncurled from his lawn chair and yawned, feeling refreshed after such a deep nap. Roy stood and stretched taking a deep breath of fresh, rain-dampened air. The moment his pants slipped from his waist and crumpled at his feet, he knew there was a problem.
Roy awakes in his ten year-old body.
“What the...” he muttered as he looked over at Beville, who stood as tall as his chest.

“Beville, you're huge.” It was when he spoke the words that he realized his voice had lost its depth. Roy waded out of his jeans and tripped on the hem of his shirt as he stumbled into the camper and stood in front of the mirror. “What's happening?” he asked his smooth, freckled-face reflection.

He lifted his sleeve and found the scar gone. He scratched his head as he tried to remember the last thing he did before falling asleep.

“The book,” he said as he darted back outside and retrieved it from the ground. He remembered reading about the Cherokee Indian Chief that learned the secret of staying young forever. Roy shook his head. “This can't be real.”

The woman from the neighboring campsite stared as she hung clothes on the line. He tugged at his shirt awkwardly.

“Bingo,” he said to himself as he noticed the small jeans that she pinned up. He waited until she left before snapping the jeans and a t-shirt off the line.

“Hey, what do you think you're doing?” a voice called from behind him.

Roy turned, unable to think of a lie quickly enough. “If I told you, you'd never believe me.”

The boy's blue eyes glittered with the opportunity of a secret. He glanced back toward his own camper, where his mother shuffled around inside. He shifted his attention back to Roy. “Try me.”

“I fell asleep a grown man, and woke up like this.” The boy blinked, glanced at Roy's over-sized shirt, then nodded. Roy continued. “I read this book that I bought earlier today. I think it may have done something to me, because the next thing I know, I... well...” Roy held out his arms. “See?”

“That's so cool,” the boy said, then stuck out his hand. “I'm Aiden.”

“I'm Roy,” he said, shaking Aiden's hand. “So, you believe me, then?”

“Of course I do. Don't you believe in magic?”

“No. That's ridiculous.”

Aiden shook his head and sighed. “Let's see this book of yours.”

He thumbed through the book while Roy changed.

“Did you notice the map at the end of the book? It matches the one for DeSoto State Park. It says that a Cherokee figured out the secret of true life, but it's hidden at Laurel Falls.”

“What are you suggesting?”

Before Aiden could answer, Beville slurped a long tongue over his arm. “Great dog you have,” Aiden laughed. “He should come with us.”

“Come where?”

“To Laurel Falls. If we can find this totem, maybe it will have some kind of reverse effect and make you into a man again.”

“What totem?”

“It's the way Cherokee Indians stored magic, by making totems.”

“I don't know. I mean, how do we even know what it looks like?”

Aiden held up the book. “It's on the cover.”

Roy laughed, despite himself. “Well, I guess we should go try to find this totem.”
Roy and Aiden prepare to hike to Laurel Falls in
DeSoto State Park.
At the trail head, Aiden spread out the map. “If we start here it will lead us right to Laurel Falls. If the totem has stayed hidden all these years, it must be tucked away out of sight. I think it is probably behind the falls somewhere.”

Roy grinned. “You're pretty smart for a kid. How old are you?”


“Me, too. I think.”

“I learned a lot of these things in boy scouts. I don't have a dad, so my mom likes for me to stay involved in boy-type stuff.”

“Why don't you have a dad?”

Roy and Aiden hike the real trail to Laurel Falls.
Aiden folded the map carefully and tucked it into his shirt pocket. “My mom never got married, but she wanted a baby really, really bad. So she prayed, and God brought her a baby.”

“Well, I had a mom, but she died when I was really little. I don't really remember her. My dad once told me that my eyes were like hers, but he never talked about her much.”

Aiden nodded, straightening his backpack. “Yeah, I know what you mean. So, are you ready to go?”

Roy eyed Aiden's full pack. “Is all that really necessary?”

“Like I learned in boy scouts, always be prepared.”

Roy chuckled. “You would make a great soldier.”

Within minutes, Roy found Aiden to be very inquisitive. As Aiden fired off questions, Roy found himself talking about growing up as a general's son, moving over and over. He told about how hard it was to make friends only to leave them again, so he'd never bothered to make any at all. He told stories about Lieutenant Beville, and the time they'd gotten into trouble for building sand castles in the desert. He told him the jokes they used to share, and how Beville had died.
The boys arrive at Laurel falls

When the boys finally reached the falls, Aiden led the way around the other side. Laurel Falls was a majestic cascade of water over two tiers of rock. There was a deep pool at its base, and the thick woods around both sides made them feel as if they'd discovered a secret place.

“I think if you crawled over from this side and flatten yourself between the tiers, you could search behind the falls,” Aiden said.

Roy nodded, then took a deep breath and began the climb, easing onto the damp rock on his belly. He inched forward, wincing against the cold water droplets that trickled into his eyes. Once Roy was behind the falls, he began to feel around, wishing he'd brought a light. “This is stupid,” he shouted back, feeling nothing but cold rock beneath his hands.
Roy finds the totem from the book
buried behind Laurel Falls.

Just before giving up, Roy felt a mossy patch at the back of the rock. He dug deep into the wet mud. When his fingers wrapped around a small, loose stone, he dragged it out and wiped it clean.
It was the totem. An eagle with outstretched wings, just like the cover of the book.

Roy sighed with relief, gripping the small carved stone. He held it to his forehead and wished himself back into his real body. Nothing happened.

“Did you find anything?” Aiden shouted.
Roy didn't answer. He backed out of the crevice and descended the rock back to the base of the falls, and held out the totem.
Roy attempts to use the totem's magic
to make himself older again.

“I found it, alright,” he said. “But it doesn't work. All of this was for nothing.”

Roy tossed the totem into the pool of water and stormed away, leaving Aiden behind.

By the time Roy reached his camp, it was getting dark, and the temperature had dropped. He built a fire and huddled near it, wrapping his arms around Beville for warmth. He had abandoned his wet, muddy clothes for the over-sized jeans and shirt. At least they were dry, even if they did hang from his small frame.

Aiden appeared from the shadows and sat down. “I don't know how things are in the army, but in boy scouts, we learned that you should never leave a man behind.”

“I'm sorry, Aiden. I should have never left you like that.”

“It's okay. I just want to say one thing. Magic isn't supposed to be just some fun trick. When a person experiences magic, it means they have something to learn.” He held out the totem.
Aiden returns the totem to Roy.

Roy took it, the stone warm from Aiden's hand. “Did you learn that in scouts, too?”

“No. I learned that from my mom. I attached it to some twine I had in my pack so that you can wear it around your neck. That way you'll always remember me.”

Roy slipped the totem around his neck. “I'll always remember you,” he said. “You're the best friend I never had.”

Aiden smiled. “Goodbye, Roy. We're leaving in the morning. I hope that one day I get to see you again.” He rose and returned to his own camp.

Roy curled up to the fire. With the totem clutched in his fist, he drifted off to sleep.

Roy woke with a start, the fire still hot beside him. The first thing he noticed was how much smaller the totem felt in his hand. He sat up and touched his left shoulder where his scar had returned. He leaped to his feet, and miraculously, his pants stayed in place.

When he heard laughter from the neighboring campsite, he ran over to show Aiden that the totem had worked. Aiden and his mother looked up from their seat at the picnic table, surprised at his sudden appearance. Aiden frowned at the strange man standing before him, then recognition filled his eyes. 

“Hi, Roy.”
Once Roy returns to his older body, he meets
Aiden's mother, Rachel.

Aiden's mother stood, her glossy brown hair hanging in waves at her shoulders. She held out a small hand. 

“I'm Rachel. It's nice to meet Aiden's new friend. Would you like to join us for dinner? It's just roasted hot dogs. But we have plenty for a third.”

“And a fourth,” Aiden laughed as Beville snagged a hot dog from the table.

Rachel giggled. Roy couldn't help but notice that her eyes glittered when she laughed.

Aiden patted the seat next to him. “Do you believe in magic, now?”

Roy smiled. “Sure do.”


Just before closing time at The Bookshelf, Connie meticulously dusted the shelves. She restocked a few titles that had recently sold, making sure to leave a space at the end of the shelf. Before her eyes, a leather-bound book appeared, bearing an image of a dragon on the front.

She smiled. “Good for you, Roy. One adventure down, another to go.”


Official Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest Results
First Place "The Totem" by Natalie Cone
Second Place "Canyon Casanova" by Neal Wooten
Third Place "Coming Home" by Shawn Blankenship
Fourth Place "Mountain Memories" by Dedra Tuten
Fifth Place "Udowhi Odalv (Beautiful Mountain)" by Melonie M. King

SELTI and Lookout Alabama magazine wish to sincerely thank all those who entered the contest and the judges who volunteered their time to help us select a winner. All of the five stories listed above represent the Lookout Mountain Alabama area well, and each will be published in a future quarterly edition of Lookout Alabama magazine, so be sure and sign up for a subscription.

Laurel Falls, the Bookshelf Etc., and Desoto State Park are all real places to visit in or near Fort Payne, Alabama. However, these attractions are only a few of many scenic places in the Lookout Mountain Alabama area. Other area attractions showed up in many of the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest. stories, so the tourism links below offer more information on how to visit the area. Seeing these sights in person is the only way to fully appreciate the breathtaking beauty of this preserve of national wonders. Some of the area amenities include charming cabins and luxurious lodges, quaint bed and breakfasts with spectacular views, delicious independent restaurants, and unique local shops. Lookout Mountain Alabama offers a getaway, both physical and mental, from the stresses of everyday modern urban life. Browse through the links below for a taste of what it would be like to slip away either on a fun-filled family vacation or a more intimate romantic adventure. Lookout Mountain Alabama offers both!


Story Links

Area Links

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest Finalists Announced

Cook Castle, the venue where the winner of the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest will be announced.
Cook Castle is the home of Jeff Cook, of the famous Fort Payne music group Alabama.
Photo by Cook Castle Events.
The winner of the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest will be announced May 10 during the Lookout 2013 summit at Cook Castle. Lookout 2013 will celebrate the Lookout Mountain region's potential and launch Lookout Alabama magazine. The judges for the competition were very pleased with the five finalists, who are listed below in alphabetical order next to their short story title. The first place winner's story will be published here on SELTI in May and in the first print edition of Lookout Alabama magazine in June, which will be distributed throughout the Southeast.

Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest Finalists 
(in alphabetical order)

Shawn Blankenship for "Coming Home"
Natalie Cone for "The Totem"
Melonie A. McClenden-King for "Udowhi Odalv (Beautiful Mountain)"
Dedra Tuten for "Mountain Memories"
Neal Wooten for "Canyon Casanova"

One of these finalists will be declared the winner of the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest and receive the 2013 SELTI Tourism Fiction Award. Many thanks go out to everyone who entered this year's writing contest. Lookout Alabama magazine plans to publish more of the finalists' stories in future editions of the magazine.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Alabama Legislature Passes Resolution Inviting Authors To Write Tourism Fiction Set In Real Alabama Attractions

Senator Clay Scofield presents writer Kathryn Lang with the
2012 SELTI Tourism Fiction Award for her story that promoted
Moundville Archaeological Park. Now the Alabama Senate is
asking writers across the state to follow up with more tourism stories. 
Write it, and they will come! That is the concept behind Alabama Senate Resolution SJR25, "Expressing support for authors and publishers who produce works of fiction set in real Alabama tourism attractions." The basic idea: have the state, cities, and counties invite authors to write fictional short stories and novels set in real Alabama tourism attractions. These works would include informational tourism guides at the end showing readers how to visit the real places in the story. If readers connect with the characters in the stories, then they might come visit the real places where the action in the story took place (think romance, mystery, suspense with a real tourism element).

A key part of this idea is that new e-readers like Kindles, iPads, and smart phones allow readers to instantly click on related tourism websites if there are links embedded by the publisher in the fictional stories. So, if someone were reading a tourism novel set in Montgomery, like Blind Fate, then the reader could click on links inside the novel to the websites of the real attractions and learn how to literally step inside the settings of the story.

The full text of the resolution is below, which was passed by both houses of the legislature on April 24. SJR25 was introduced and sponsored by Senator Clay Scofield, Chairman of the Alabama Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee. Senator Scofield recently did an interview with Alabama Public Radio about this concept of inviting authors to promote the state's attractions in their fictional works. Listen to the APR interview by clicking here.

In the mean time, the winner of the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest, set in the beautiful Lookout Mountain area, will soon be announced. The writing contest was one of the models for the senate resolution and could serve as the model for many other similar tourism fiction contests around the state. The five finalists for the contest were selected, and judging for the first place winner completed (the winner was notified by phone). Come back here for the May SELTI feature to read the winning story! The winning short story will also receive a $500 prize from the Alabama Tourism Department and be published in the inaugural issue of Lookout Alabama Magazine.
Little River Falls in Lookout Mountain, Alabama, a setting
in the Lookout Alabama SELTI Writing Contest, the
project model for Senate Resolution SJR25.

Senate Resolution SJR25

By Senators Scofield, Allen, Beasley, Beason, Bedford, Blackwell, Brewbaker, Bussman, Coleman, Dial, Dunn, Fielding, Figures, Glover, Holley, Holtzclaw, Irons, Keahey, Marsh, McGill, Orr, Pittman, Reed, Ross, Sanders, Sanford, Singleton, Smith, Smitherman, Taylor, Waggoner, Ward, Whatley and Williams
First Read: 14-FEB-13


WHEREAS, tourism helps to create and sustain jobs in the economy of the State of Alabama, helps to stimulate local economies through consumer spending, and generates tax revenues for municipal, local, and state government programs; and

WHEREAS, consumer spending represents a critical percentage of the state economy and job base and 70 percent of the national economy; and

WHEREAS, recent federal tax increases will have a dampening impact on Alabama's economy and consumer spending levels, requiring some type of method to increase consumer spending to avoid a negative impact on economic growth; and

WHEREAS, new marketing and technological advances in publishing allow readers to instantly learn about real tourism attractions within the stories they read if writers and publishers connect them through informational guides and links; and

WHEREAS, readers tend to connect emotionally with fictional characters and the places in which those characters interact, creating a significant but largely untapped potential for boosting tourism around the state in an entirely new and effective way through the private sector fiction publishing market; and

WHEREAS, nationally, few publishers or writers have taken advantage of or applied this new marketing technology to tourism fiction; and

WHEREAS, the Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative, an Alabama project, has provided working models for tourism fiction projects that could be used by many writers, publishers, and municipal and county governments; now therefore,


(1) Invites authors and publishers to consider using Alabama tourism attractions as settings for fictional stories and novels, thereby boosting the state economy.

(2) Expresses support for those private sector writers and publishers who produce tourism fiction projects set in real Alabama tourism attractions.

(3) Encourages municipal, county, regional, and state governments to develop ways and means to attract authors to write fictional stories in real Alabama tourism attractions and thereby boosting real tourism dollars around the state.

(4) Recommends that local governments develop ways and means to work on a local level in attracting tourism fiction projects and on a statewide level to attract writers from outside the state in promoting real Alabama tourism attractions.

(5) Calls upon educational institutions, including high school and university English, creative writing, marketing, and travel and leisure programs and departments to promote Alabama tourism fiction through providing professional input where asked and class assignments where appropriate.

(6) Advises that the state apply for federal grants to promote tourism fiction throughout the state and design a promotional method to be available nationwide.

(7) Requests that citizens participate in promoting tourism fiction projects by recommending tourism attractions in which to set fictional stories through polls, by reading tourism fiction, and by advising local, state, and federal representatives and officials to promote local areas through fiction.