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Selma Featured in 2016 SELTI Writing Contest

Selma bridge

Historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in downtown Selma

Selma, AL — August 17, 2016 – Selma, the city that helped transform voting rights, is now helping to transform the nation’s tourism industry by introducing an innovative concept: tourism fiction. The Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Information is partnering with two other organizations to cosponsor a unique contest that challenges writers to compose a short story designed to draw new tourists to the area through fiction. Although the Selma area is filled with intriguing attractions to inspire authors, the concept of writing fiction to attract tourists could be adapted to attractions in every state of the nation, making the contest an intriguing model for other cities.

According to Landon Nichols, Destination/Marketing Coordinator for the Chamber, “We are excited to be pioneering a new approach that will draw visitors to our area, but we are most excited about the potential for this model. We believe that this genre of writing could serve to benefit destination marketing organizations of every size, from Los Angeles to Lower Alabama.”

The 2016 SELTI Writing Contest: Selma and Dallas County is cosponsored by the Southeastern Literary Tourism Initiative (SELTI) and the Alabama Tourism Department. The contest is open to any writer, is free to enter, and will earn the first place winner a prize of $500 and the 2016 SELTI Tourism Fiction Award, which will be presented in Dallas County. Congresswoman Terri Sewell will also present a Congressional recognition certificate to the winner. The full contest rules can be found online at selti.org, where the winning story will be published in December. The online story will include a tourism guide with photos and informational links, showing readers how to literally step into the setting of the story.

“It would be impossible for writers to visit the Selma area and not be inspired, and the stories they write can help share the experience here with their readers on a whole new, deeper level,” said Patrick Miller, founder of SELTI. Modern publishing technologies can also significantly enhance the tourism element found in these types of stories, Miller added. “Today’s popular tablet computers like the Kindle allow readers to click on links inside books that open up websites, which creates the potential for an explosive new market for promoting tourism attractions around the country through novels and short stories.”

Fifty-one years ago, Selma set the stage for one of the most dramatic confrontations of the Civil Rights Movement. Armed State Troopers assaulted a large group of peaceful marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on their way to Montgomery to seek equal voting rights. The scene unfolded on national television news and helped change the political will of the nation, leading to swift passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma today helps visitors learn more about the movement, and Oprah Winfrey assisted in the production of a movie depicting the events surrounding the struggle. Thousands commemorate the bridge crossing every year, and even several U.S. presidents have participated.

Selma was also the site of an important Confederate munitions factory and served as the final battleground for Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Every year, the Civil War-era Battle of Selma is reenacted. Also every year, a bevy of Selma’s antebellum and architecturally significant homes are on public display as part of the Historic Preservation Society’s Pilgrimage. Even outside of the city, county locations can inspire writers, including the nearby ghost town of Cahawba, which once served as the state capital and now has an interpretive history park including active archaeological digs.

“The publishing and tourism industries both experience times of economic upheaval ,” said Miller. “By combining their strengths together, they can create a new market where thousands of readers start enjoying novels and stories that guide them to interesting places to visit like Selma. And thousands of visitors can translate into millions of dollars in new tourism spending in cities and states that can attract and promote those types of stories. People only spend thirty seconds passively watching standard tourism commercials, but they are actively engaged for hours with their favorite novels. How much is that time worth in advertising?”

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