Mason earns Hall-Waters prize for writing

Published 10:50 pm Thursday, March 29, 2012

What sets Bobbie Ann Mason apart from other writers is her ability to “touch things that touch all of us – to make all things new and fresh.”

Dr. Steven Cooper’s introduction of Mason, the 2012 recipient of the Hall-Waters Prize at Troy University, was simple but, in just a few words, summed up the impact that Mason’s writing has on a board spectrum of readers.

“Her writing is not moonlight and magnolias,” said Cooper, the chair of the Troy University Department of English. “It’s McDonald’s. It’s the New South. It’s the South we live in. But she is also able to render the older South of the early 1900s with power and understanding.”

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The Hall-Waters Prize is presented regularly to individuals who have made significant contributions to Southern heritage and culture in history, literature or the arts. Past recipients include Shirley Ann Grau, Rick Bragg, Sena Jeter Naslund and U.S. Representative John Lewis.

The Hall-Waters Prize is endowed by Troy University alumnus, Dr. Wade Hall of Union Springs as a memorial to his parents, Wade Hall, Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth Waters Hall. It was presented to Mason at a luncheon Thursday on the University campus hosted by the Troy University English departments.

In accepting the award, Mason expressed appreciation to Hall and Troy University for the prestigious recognition.

“I’m deeply honored to receive this prize and touched that it was established by Wade in honor of his parents,” she said. “I think honoring one’s parents is the worthiest reason to establish an award.”

Mason said she has always loved words, even as a child at rural Cuba School in Kentucky. And, like many young people, she grew up and left the farm for the big city life.

“I grew up in a place where ‘ain’t’ ain’t wrong,” Mason said. “But I wanted to get out to see the world.”

The “world” she chose was New York City. “Life is so literary.”

In New York, she continually looked for things to write about.

“The voices that I heard were of family,” she said. “Their lives were the ones I kept coming back to. I was not ashamed of the language of the South. I drew me back. I knew that I could use it. I could write the words to tell the story.”

Mason’s 1980 New York debut “Shiloh” was about Kentucky and the homefolks were excited and honored.

“Nobody had written about ordinary people from Kentucky before,” Mason said.

In 1990, Mason returned home and her journey from home and back again has been inspired by the love of words. “Like Wade Hall, my journey has come full circle,” she said.

Hall and Mason share a love of home and the people who have made them who they are. “Alabama is fortunate that Wade has returned home where he can share his many talents,” Mason said.