“LeVar Burton Reads” Spotlights New Short Story by Karen Bender

The podcast hosted by the star of Roots, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Reading Rainbow is presenting a new short story penned by Hollins’ Distinguished Visiting Professor of Creative Writing.

“The Cell Phones” by Karen Bender, which will appear in her forthcoming collection, The New Order, is the focus of the latest episode of “LeVar Burton Reads,” which “invites you to take a break from your daily life, and dive into a great story.” Launched in 2017, the podcast has previously featured stories by such acclaimed authors as Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami, Octavia Butler, and Ray Bradbury. Each work of short fiction read on the podcast is handpicked by Burton.

Earning selection for “LeVar Burton Reads” is just the latest accolade for Bender. Her short story collection, Refund, was a Finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction and shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize; it was also a Los Angeles Times bestseller. Another of her books, Like Normal People, was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, a Los Angeles Times bestseller, and part of the Barnes and Noble Discover program. Her stories have appeared in magazines including The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, Guernica, and The Harvard Review, have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories and Best American Short Stories, and won two Pushcart prizes.

Bender joined the Hollins faculty in 2015. She has also taught creative writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Warren Wilson College, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Chatham University, Antioch University Los Angeles, and Tunghai University in Taiwan.


2018 Grad Wins Hallberg Award for Creative Nonfiction

Rachael Walker ’18 has been named the recipient of the Fourth Annual Bill Hallberg Award in Creative Writing, presented by the Department of English at East Carolina University (ECU).

The competition is open to undergraduates at colleges and universities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, and this year’s award was given for excellence in creative nonfiction.

Walker, who graduated this spring from Hollins with a degree in English, was recognized for her essay, “A Small Seed of Fate Carried Inside Me.”

“As politics continue to make women’s reproductive rights a national conversation, Rachael Walker’s ‘A Small Seed of Fate Carried Inside Me’ reminds us of the personal, often fraught relationships women have to their bodies,” said Renee K. Nicholson, assistant professor of multi and interdisciplinary studies at West Virginia University and a judge in the contest. “As it explores the terrain that is women’s bodies, it complicates it by simultaneously addressing what it means to be of mixed ethnicity. Gently threading these ideas through sections, Walker takes us through familial relationships as well as the journey to better understand the self.”

Walker will receive a $150 cash prize. A reading of her winning essay will take place at ECU on Wednesday, November 14 at 3:30 p.m.


Hollins to Launch Creative Writing Major in 2018-19

Hollins University has long earned its place on the literary map, producing dozens of writers of national and international acclaim, including Pulitzer Prize winners Annie Dillard, Henry Taylor, and Natasha Trethewey; bestselling authors Lee Smith, Jill McCorkle, and Beth Macy; Kiran Desai, winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award; Madison Smartt Bell, recipient of a Strauss Living Award for literary excellence from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; and Will Schutt, winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition.

Now, Hollins’ Jackson Center for Creative Writing, which offers both a concentration and a minor in creative writing in addition to a Master of Fine Arts degree in the field, is introducing an undergraduate major in creative writing, beginning in the 2018-19 academic year.

“ ‘Where students mature into authors’ is one of the Jackson Center’s guiding principles and is even more relevant with the advent of this new opportunity for undergraduates,” said Cathryn Hankla, professor of English and creative writing and chair of the English and creative writing department at Hollins.

“At Hollins, we strive to create an environment in which each undergraduate and graduate creative writing student develops a way of seeing and saying that is distinctively their own,” added Patricia Hammer, vice president for academic affairs. “The new creative writing major strengthens this commitment. It ensures that we will continue to successfully foster new generations of authors in growing their craft.”

Hankla explained that the new major in creative writing will emphasize a multi-genre approach in its core curriculum. “The major will provide students with a working knowledge of three genres, along with ample opportunity for focused exploration through individual projects and classes in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or cross-genre writing and literatures,” she said, noting that the major will be intertwined with the study of literature, “which the department views as essential.”

The new major features allied study in dance, visual art, film, music, or theatre, and will immerse students in a diversity of writers, writing theories, and literary experiences on campus. The major will be closely tied to the Jackson Center’s other distinctive offerings, including the Louis D. Rubin Jr. Writer-in-Residence program, the Lex Allen Literary Festival, and the visiting writers series.

“The creative writing major will offer students a systematic study of the field with an outstanding faculty of published authors,” Hankla stated. “I don’t know of any liberal arts college with as many authors of multiple books who are permanent faculty.

“I’m excited that Hollins, with its amazing publishing legacy of graduates and faculty, will add this to its curriculum.”

The Jackson Center endows substantive scholarships for undergraduate students. New students may choose to submit their work for Creative Talent Awards.

Home to Hollins’ undergraduate and graduate writing programs, the Jackson Center for Creative Writing was initiated in 2008 through a $5 million gift from Susan Gager Jackson ’68 and her husband, John Jackson. It maintains Hollins’ long-standing reputation among the top creative writing programs in the nation.

 

 


Hollins Professor’s New Novel Garners Considerable Attention

The author of one of the country’s most-talked-about new novels also happens to be a member of the Hollins University faculty.

Associate Professor of English Elizabeth Poliner’s As Close to Us as Breathing (Lee Boudreaux Books) has been named an Amazon Best Book for March 2016 and is one of four new releases this month that W magazine calls “must reads.”  Reviews have also been published or are forthcoming in The New York Times as well on NPR.org and in People, Good Housekeeping, and Washingtonian magazines.

As Close to Us as Breathing is the story of a close-knit Jewish family that strives to cope following a tragedy that occurs while summering at the Connecticut shore in 1948. Publishers Weekly calls the book “an exquisitely written investigation of grief and atonement, and an elegy for a Jewish family bound together by tradition and tribe.” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward P. Jones says, “Vivid, complex, and beautifully written, [it] brims with characters who leave an indelible impression on the mind and heart. This moving story of the way one unforgettable family struggles with love and loss shows an uncommon depth of human understanding. Elizabeth Poliner is a wonderful talent and she should be read widely, and again and again.”

In conjunction with the novel’s publication, Poliner will be appearing at the following bookstores during March and April:

Tuesday, March 15: Newtonville Books, Newton, MA, 7 p.m.

Thursday, March 17: RJ Julia Bookstore, Madison, CT, 7 p.m.

Saturday, March 19: Politics & Prose, Washington, DC, 6 p.m.

Sunday, March 20: Book Court, Brooklyn, NY, 4 p.m.

Tuesday, March 22: Longfellow Books, Portland, ME, 7 p.m.

Saturday, April 9: Op. Cit Books, Taos, NM


Hollins Writers Make National Book Awards Shortlists

Two Hollins authors are among the twenty finalists for one of the nation’s most prestigious literary prizes, the National Book Awards.

Five finalists each in the Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature categories were announced on October 14.

Karen E. Bender, who joined the Hollins faculty this fall as the university’s Distinguished Visiting Professor of Creative Writing, is a first-time finalist in the Fiction category for her short-story collection, Refund. She is the author of the novels Like Normal People and A Town of Empty Rooms, and her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and other magazines. She has previously won two Pushcart Prizes.

“The tales told in Karen Bender’s Refund, a collection of stories that centers on money and family, are exquisitely composed portraits of modern life, and chances are you will encounter characters that remind you a little or a lot of yourself,” said the Chicago Tribune. “That’s the brilliance of Bender’s storytelling….[her] ability to transform observations of life into uncomfortably realistic stories cannot be denied.” 

Hollins alumna and world-renowned photographer Sally Mann is on the shortlist in the Nonfiction category for her memoir, Hold Still. She has previously received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and her photographs are held by major institutions internationally.

The New York Times called Hold Still “uncommonly beautiful” while The Atlantic described the bestseller as “gorgeously written and convincing.”

Mann’s many books include Second Sight (1983), At Twelve (1988), Immediate Family (1992), Still Time (1994), What Remains (2003), Deep South (2005), Proud Flesh (2009), and The Flesh and the Spirit (2010).

The National Book Awards will honor this year’s winners at a ceremony in New York City on November 18. Each recipient will be given a bronze sculpture and a $10,000 cash prize.

 


Hollins Appoints Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing

brownHollins University has named author and professor Carrie Brown as distinguished visiting professor of creative writing. She will join the Hollins faculty in August.

Brown is the author of five novels, including The Rope Walk (Pantheon Books, 2007), Confinement (Algonquin Books, 2004), The Hatbox Baby (Algonquin, 2000), Lamb in Love (Algonquin, 1999), and Rose’s Garden (Algonquin, 1998), and a collection of short stories, The House on Belle Isle (Algonquin, 2002). Her short fiction has appeared in such journals as One Story, Glimmer Train, The Georgia Review, and The Oxford American, and she regularly reviews fiction for major newspapers. Her work has been translated into several languages, and she has read at literary festivals, libraries, bookstores, and colleges and universities across the country.

Brown is a two-time winner of the Library of Virginia Book Award and a past recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and the Barnes & Noble Discover Award. In 2009, The Rope Walk was selected by the Iowa Public Library as the “All Iowa Reads” book and as the “Lynchburg, Virginia Reads” book by the Lynchburg Public Library.

Brown earned a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Virginia and is currently associate professor of English and Margaret Banister Writer-in-Residence at Sweet Briar College, where she teaches creative writing courses in fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. She also serves as coordinator of international programs for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a year-round residential working retreat center for visual artists, writers, and composers.

Brown succeeds David Huddle, who has served as distinguished visiting professor of creative writing at Hollins since 2009. The professorship is a one-year, full-time, renewable position.


Will Schutt M.F.A. ’09 Wins Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition

schuttPoet Will Schutt, who received his MFA in creative writing from Hollins University in 2009, has been named a winner in the 2012 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition, the longest-running poetry prize in the United States.

The competition’s judge, prize-winning and critically acclaimed poet Carl Phillips, chose Schutt’s manuscript, Westerly, for the award. Yale University Press will publish Westerly in April 2013.

Schutt’s poems and translations appear in Agni, FIELD, Harvard Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. He has also received awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Stadler Center for Poetry, and the James Merrill House. He holds a BA from Oberlin College and resides in Wainscott, New York.

Awarded since 1919, the Yale Series of Younger Poets celebrates the most prominent new American poets by bringing the work of these artists to the attention of the larger public. Earlier winners of the prize include Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, and Robert Hass.

 


Hollins Graduate Natasha Trethewey Named U.S. Poet Laureate

tretheweyHollins University alumna and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey was named Poet Laureate for 2012-13 by the Library of Congress on Thursday.

Trethewey, the daughter of Hollins English professor Eric Trethewey, is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University in Atlanta and served as the 2012 Louis D. Rubin Writer-in-Residence at Hollins. The Hollins Theatre staged an  adaptation of her book of poems, “Bellocq’s Ophelia,”earlier this year.

Trethewey is a native of Gulfport, MS and earned her Master of Arts degree in English and creative writing from Hollins in 1991. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2007 for her collection, “Native Guard,” which pays tribute to African American soldiers who were stationed near the city during the Civil War. She has garnered numerous other prestigious writing awards and was named Mississippi’s Poet Laureate in January, a four-year appointment she will continue to hold.

Trethewey, the 19th U.S. Poet Laureate, will take up her duties in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary season with a reading of her work on Thursday, September 13.

In announcing the appointment, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, said, “Natasha Trethewey is an outstanding poet/historian in the mold of Robert Penn Warren, our first Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Her poems dig beneath the surface of history—personal or communal, from childhood or from a century ago—to explore the human struggles that we all face.”

Trethewey succeeds Philip Levine as Poet Laureate and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position including W. S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, and Rita Dove.

She is the author of three poetry collections, including “Native Guard,” (2006), winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; “Bellocq’s Ophelia” (2002); and “Domestic Work” (2000). Her newest collection of poems, “Thrall,” is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2012. Trethewey is the author of a nonfiction book, “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast” (2010).

The Poet Laureate is selected for a one-year term by the Librarian of Congress. The choice is based on poetic merit alone and has included a wide variety of poetic styles.

Photo by Jon Rou


Jackson Center for Creative Writing to Co-Sponsor Largest Literary Conference in North America

jacksoncenterThe Jackson Center for Creative Writing at Hollins University is joining the National Book Critics Circle, the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, the Academy of American Poets, and a number of other prominent organizations in sponsoring the 2013 Annual Conference & Bookfair of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP).

The conference will take place March 6-9 in Boston,  highlighting over 1,900 authors, editors, teachers, and publishers and including 520 literary events. Eleven thousand people are expected to attend. Among the featured presenters are Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott, New York Times best-selling author Augusten Burroughs, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Don DeLillo, Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder, and many others.

“We have never before assembled such an impressive range of distinguished authors,” said AWP Executive Director David Fenza. “We are excited that AWP’s conference continues to grow in prestige while we provide a growing audience for writers and publishers.”

The Jackson Center is the sole sponsor of the AWP’s bookfair, an annual showcase of over 600 exhibitors and the nation’s largest marketplace for independent literary presses and journals, creative writing programs, writing conferences and centers, and literary arts organizations.  The bookfair will run concurrent to the conference and is open to all registered conference attendees, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

The Jackson Center for Creative Writing is home to Hollins’ esteemed undergraduate and graduate writing programs, which have produced dozens of writers of national and international acclaim.

AWP’s mission is to foster literary achievement, advance the art of writing as essential to a good education, and serve the makers, teachers, students, and readers of contemporary writing. Founded in 1967, AWP supports nearly 50,000 writers, over 500 college and university creative writing programs, and 125 writers’ conferences and centers.


Will Shutt MFA ’09 Receives Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly

schuttPoet Will Schutt, who earned his MFA in creative writing from Hollins University in 2009 and went on to win the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets competition last year, has received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly for his first collection of poetry, Westerly, published by Yale University Press.

Publisher’s Weekly is widely considered to be “the bible of the book business” and publishes approximately 8,000 pre-publication book reviews each year.

The review of Westerly notes, “The latest winner of the venerable Yale Younger Poets Prize turns out to be terse, well-traveled, resolutely unfashionable, and, finally, wise,” and concludes, “everything in [Westerly] heralds a seriously important career.”

Schutt’s poems and translations appear in Agni, FIELD, Harvard Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. He has also received awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Stadler Center for Poetry, and the James Merrill House.