The Georgia Writers Association is a nonprofit support and advocacy group for writers in the state. The mission of the organization is to seek “to improve the quality of life for writers by providing information about the literary industry and skills-building knowledge; fostering ongoing communication among writers of diverse literacy, genres, geographies, ethnicities and backgrounds; increasing public awareness of the lives and works of contemporary Georgia writers; encouraging the imagination and integrity of the written word; and organizing activities that celebrate the achievements of writers across the state of Georgia.”
Founded in 1994 by writers Geri Taran and Anthony Grooms, and literary agent Susan L. Graham, the association sponsors conferences, seminars, monthly meetings in several cities, writing contests, and Georgia Writers News/Mag, a bimonthly journal. Taran served as executive director until 2006, when she was succeeded by Ralph T. Wilson. Taran also selects the annual recipient of the association’s Taran Family Memorial Award, which honors “special literary achievement in a spiritual, humanitarian, or environmental endeavor.”
Especially noteworthy among the association’s activities are the annual Georgia Author of the Year Awards (GAYA). Shortly after its founding, the Georgia Writers Association assumed responsibility for the awards, which were first given in 1964 by the Dixie Council of Authors and Journalists. Commercially and independently published authors from Georgia are eligible for nomination. Awards in a variety of categories, including poetry, fiction, biography, memoir, history, essay, self-help, first novel, and children’s literature, are announced and presented at an annual banquet.
Prominent winners of the GAYA include David Bottoms, for his poetry collection Vagrant Grace (1999); Michael Bishop for his short story collection Other Arms Reach Out to Me: Georgia Stories (2017); Turner Cassity, for his poetry collection Devils and Islands (2007); Jimmy Carter, for his essay collections The Virtues of Aging (1998) and Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis (2005); Pearl Cleage, for her novel I Wish I Had a Red Dress (2001); Judith Ortiz Cofer, for her essay collection Woman in Front of the Sun (2000); Mary Hood for her short story collection A Clear View of the Southern Sky (2015); Terry Kay, for his novels Valley of Light (2003) and The Book of Marie (2007) and his short story collection The Greats of Cuttercane (2012); John Lewis, for his memoirs Walking with the Wind (1998) and March: Book Three (2016); Frank Manley, for his novel The Cockfighter (1998) and short-story collection Among Prisoners (2000); and Philip Lee Williams for his essay collection In the Morning: Reflections from First Light (2006), novel Campfire Boys (2010), and epic poem The Flower Seeker: An Epic Poem of William Bartram (2011).
The organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award has been given to such notable figures as Bettie Sellers (2004), Furman Bisher (2009), Terry Kay (2011), Ferrol Sams (2012), and Judith Ortiz Cofer (2017).
The Georgia Writers Association is housed at and partially sponsored by Kennesaw State University in Cobb County. Other sponsors include the Georgia Council for the Arts, the Georgia General Assembly, and the National Endowment of the Arts.