The Daily Beast reported yesterday that publicity shy Harper Lee made a surprise appearance at an Alabama literary luncheon:

“One day shy of her 86th birthday, wearing a white T-shirt with flowers on the front and black-and-white checked piping around the collar and sleeves, black-and-white plaid pants, and black canvas sneakers, she turned up unexpectedly at the Community House, a rental party space near the golf course in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.”

During the luncheon, he South Alabama Writers’ Symposium gave out their Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year. Lee arrived in a wheelchair, (she suffered a stroke several years back), to the mild hum of the astonished participants. “Lee is not a recluse, but she famously stopped granting interviews in 1964.

That morning, George Lendegger, a sponsor of the event and former owner of the local paper mill, said he’d been by to see Nelle (that is the novelist’s first name, which she left off when she published her first and only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird). When he told her he was in town to present the Harper Lee award, she asked, ‘Well, do I get one?’

And sure enough, Harper Lee got a Harper Lee award, a foot-tall bronze replica of the top of the old Monroe County courthouse, the place where young Nelle Harper sat in the balcony and watched her lawyer-father at work. After Lendegger walked the award over to her and it was plunked down on the table, the crowd of about 175 stood up and clapped. Harper Lee did not speak, but she did beam.

The official recipient of this year’s Harper Lee Award was Fannie Flagg, a TV personality (she co-hosted Candid Camera with Alan Funt and was a regular on the Match Game) who began writing fiction in the 80s.

Check out the complete story here.

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