History of The Atlanta Writers Club
During the year 1914, Charlie Chaplin made his film debut, the protection of copyright was established, the US Federal Reserve Bank opened for business, and a Serbian nationalist assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo, sparking the global cataclysm of the Great War.In the Carnegie Library in Atlanta that same year, a mere fifty years after Sherman and his troops incinerated the city, a small group of writers and editors gathered to establish a social club for the advancement of literature and promotion of the written word. They decided to call themselves the Atlanta Writers Club and elected to be an elite society with membership by invitation only.
Prominent representatives of the turn-of-the-century literati were asked by members to address their periodic dinners, sumptuous affairs enjoyed in ball gowns and tuxedos, reflecting the dignity of their mission and social standing. Early editors of The Atlanta Journal, The Atlanta Constitution, and The Atlanta Georgian would be counted among their members, as would the first Georgia Poet Laureate, distinguished professors, accomplished journalists, and an array of successful novelists, poets, and playwrights. They banded together to share the camaraderie of their literary fellowship, strengthen their professional connections, and explore avenues for expanding the reach of their publications.
Camaraderie, Connections, and Inspiration
For a century this band of men and women committed to the craft of writing would survive wars, a worldwide Depression, social upheavals, economic downturns and recoveries, and vast technological developments. They would meet in the Atlanta Women’s Club mansion, in libraries, churches, nursing homes, and university auditoriums. They would have hundreds of members at times and at others, only a handful.
The demographics of their membership would shift in ways their literary ancestors could not imagine. They would publish books bound in leather and on e-readers. Their imaginations would take their readers to remarkably different worlds and their creativity would be expressed in magnificently varied ways. But the core dedication would remain, this unwavering devotion to words and ideas, the experiences they represent and the universes they evoke. These thin lines of ink, scripted by the efforts of AWC writers in successive generations, run through the past century like endless, living streams, emptying into the vast ocean of the human spirit. Some of these words remain, while others have been swept away by time. However, the artistic impulse, the urge to capture thought and immortalize it on a page, the inspiration to dream and hope and write is the legacy that was envisioned ten decades ago and has been endowed to the current members of this special association.
The Club Today
What was once an exclusive, almost aristocratic, coterie has become a profoundly egalitarian group of more than 700 members that welcomes all who have a fundamental desire to write, regardless of background. Our members span the range of genres and experience, and this mix of novelists, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, journalists, essayists, academics, and assorted scribblers, representing those who are just starting to explore the possibility of becoming a writer to those who have been successfully publishing for years, has generated a wonderfully effective and encouraging environment for creative growth.
We offer our members exceptional monthly programs with speakers from all aspects of the book business, as well as regular workshops with recognized experts, the biannual Atlanta Writers Conference, and peer critique groups scattered around the city. We have a visible involvement in the Decatur Book Festival and a host of other local literary festivals and events. We have cooperative relationships with the Georgia Writers Museum, the Georgia Center for the Book, Georgia Romance Writers, Sisters in Crime–Georgia Chapter, and other literary organizations. We co-lead the biennial Townsend Prize for Fiction and support a scholarship for a deserving English major at Georgia State University-Dunwoody.
The Atlanta Community
Our influence and interests stretch from local bookstores to university writing programs to libraries to regional conferences – in fact any place where there are those who love books and aspire to write them – and we continue to stretch our involvement with associations of writers throughout the area. With a number of strong university writing programs in the city, a rich historical tradition, a cultural matrix that encourages diversity and creativity, and a growing network of authors and publishers, Atlanta is starting to attract the attention of the wider literary world. And the Atlanta Writers Club is a significant contributor to these changes and beneficiary of these developments.
This link offers a brief history of this estimable Club, what many of us consider to be a cherished family of writers past and present. Past AWC Presidents Adrian Drost, George Weinstein, and Valerie Connors have done a marvelous job sifting through mountains of historical records to distill the essential story of our group. I trust you will take the time to read through this narrative and share in the lives and accomplishments of those who, for one hundred years, have been stubbornly devoted to words. Even more so, my hope is that once you reach the last page, you will be inspired to pick up your own pen, create your own art, and maybe even join us as fellow travelers along the way.
Clayton H. Ramsey
Director of the Townsend Prize for Fiction
AWC President, 2009-2013