Patti Callahan Talks Historical Fiction at South

By: Hayden Cordova | Lifestyle Editor

Award-winning author of more than 15 novels and Alabama and Carolina resident Patti Callahan visited South Alabama. On Feb. 13, Callahan spoke as a part of the Stokes Creative Writing program at the Faculty Club on campus, hosting a writing workshop and reading open to the public.

Callahan’s novels “The Bookshop at Water’s End” and “The Favorite Daughter”

 While visiting writers in the past have held writing workshops with classes, the event marked the first time that such a workshop was available to the public, allowing students, faculty, and anyone else interested to hear Callahan’s advice on writing in the historical fiction genre to participate.

Karen Peterson, Senior Instructor in the Humanities department, expressed her excitement at the new prospect.

“I don’t know of any other time that we’ve had a writer come as a part of the Stokes Program and host a workshop that’s open to the community,” said Peterson.  “Not just having them visit just a class but hosting a workshop that anyone can participate in is really exciting to me. I thought [Callahan] gave a lot of great practical advice about how to develop character.”

In her workshop and reading, Callahan discussed the extensive process behind writing and researching her bestselling foray into historical fiction “Becoming Mrs. Lewis”, which chronicles the life and love story of Joy Davidman with theologian writer C.S. Lewis.  A passion project of Callahan’s for many years, “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” recently won her the prestigious 2020 Harper Lee Award.

Callahan’s success in Becoming Mrs. Lewis has garnered a multitude of fans, including South student Natalie Schuler, who was in attendance at Callahan’s reading and first discovered Callahan in a humorous way.

“I first heard about Patti Callahan because she came to visit the University of Mobile last year, where my Dad is a professor,”  Schuler said. “He bought a copy of her book and I stole the book from him to read, so he bought a second copy and then my mom stole that one too.  So everyone in the family is a fan of Callahan’s writings.”

Schuler went on to discuss what drew her to Callahan’s writings in the first place.

“Callahan’s very straightforward and easy to read, she gets to you pretty easily early on and keeps you there with her writing,”  Schuler said. “The amount of detail that she pays attention to regarding historical accuracy is amazing. She did a great job researching C.S. Lewis and his family, Joy Davidson and her family; she’s really honest with her research.  I’m actually an English major with a literature concentration, so I’m not even involved in the creative writing aspect, but you can appreciate writing of all kinds at these readings.”