Each spring, we host a distinguished writer-in-residence who works with graduate and selected undergraduate students. Louis D. Rubin Jr. founded Hollins’ renowned creative writing program.

2024 Writer-in-Residence

Nickole Brown

Nickole Brown received her M.F.A. from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, studied literature at Oxford University, and was the editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson. She worked at Sarabande Books for 10 years. She’s the author of Sister, first published in 2007 with a new edition reissued in 2018. Her second book, Fanny Says (BOA Editions), won the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry in 2015. Currently, she teaches at the Sewanee School of Letters M.F.A. Program and lives in Asheville, NC, where she volunteers at several different animal sanctuaries. Since 2016, she’s been writing about these animals, resisting the kind of pastorals that made her (and many of the working-class folks from the Kentucky that raised her) feel shut out of nature and the writing about it. To Those Who Were Our First Gods, a chapbook of these first nine poems, won the 2018 Rattle Prize, and her essay-in-poems, The Donkey Elegies, was published by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2020. In 2021, Spruce Books of Penguin Random House published Write It! 100 Poetry Prompts to Inspire, a book she co-authored with Jessica Jacobs, and she regularly teaches online as part of the SunJune Literary Collaborative. She’s also the president of the Hellbender Gathering of Poets, an annual environmental literary festival set to launch in Black Mountain, NC, in October of 2025.

Recent Writers-in-Residence

2023: Anne Boyer

Anne Boyer is the author of the memoir The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care, which won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. At age 41, the acclaimed poet was diagnosed with highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer. For a single mother living paycheck to paycheck who had always been the caregiver rather than the one needing care, the catastrophic illness was both a crisis and an initiation into new ideas about mortality and the gendered politics of illness. Boyer was also the inaugural winner of the 2018 Cy Twombly Award for Poetry and winner of the 2018 Whiting Award in nonfiction/poetry. Boyer is a 2020 Windham-Campbell Prize recipient, and was the 2018-19 Judith Wilson Poetry Fellow at Cambridge University.  She is also the poetry editor for The New York Times Magazine for 2023. Her books include A Handbook of Disappointed Fate and the 2016 CLMP Firecracker Award-winning Garments Against Women.

2022: Akhil Sharma

Akhil Sharma was born in Delhi, India, and immigrated to the United States in 1979. Sharma’s most recent novel, Family Life, won the 2015 Folio Prize for Fiction, the IMPAC International Dublin Literary Award, and was named a New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year. His first novel, An Obedient Father, set in Delhi during the period of Rajeev Gandhi’s assassination, won the PEN/Hemingway prize, a Whiting Award, and has been published in numerous languages. He is also an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in the New Yorker and the Atlantic as well as a number of other publications. Akhil Sharma is a Professor of Practice in the Duke University English Department.

2021: Marilyn Chin

Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon. She received a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in Chinese literature and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. Her books have become Asian American classics and are taught in classrooms internationally. Her most recent book is A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton, 2018). Chin’s other books of poems include: Hard Love Province, Rhapsody in Plain Yellow, Dwarf Bamboo, and The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty. Her book of wild girl fiction is called Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen.

2020: Patricia Spears Jones

Patricia Spears Jones is author of the poetry collections PainkillerFemme du MondeThe Weather That Kills, and A Lucent Fire: New and Selected PoemsShe is the 11th winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize, one of the most prestigious awards for American poets. She is a recipient of grants and awards from the NEA, NYFA, and a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Award in 2015. Essence.com named her one of its “40 Poets They Love in 2010.” Her work is widely anthologized.

2019: Pam Durban

Pam Durban’s books include two collections of short stories, All Set About with Fever Trees (1985) and Soon (2015), and three novels: The Laughing Place (1993); So Far Back (2000), winner of the Lillian Smith Award for Fiction; and The Tree of Forgetfulness (2012). She is the Doris Betts Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina.

2018: Janisse Ray

Author of six books including Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, a New York Times Notable Book that was as chosen as the Book All Georgians Should Read.

2017: Li-Young Lee

Beloved author of poetry collections such as Behind My Eyes and The City In Which I Love You, Li-Young Lee has received numerous accolades.

2016: Tom Drury

Drury has published five novels with Grove Press and written short stories for McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, A Public Space, The New Yorker, and more.

2015: Rebecca McClanahan

Author of 10 books. Her most recent, The Tribal Knot, is a multigenerational memoir. Numerous writing programs assign one of her books on writing, Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively.

2014: Karen Salyer McElmurray M.A. ’89

Her memoir, Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey, was an AWP Award Winner for Creative Nonfiction. Her novels are The Motel of the Stars and Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven.

2013: Karen Osborn ’79

She has written four novels: PatchworkBetween Earth and SkyThe River Road, and Centerville. She received a Notable Book of the Year Award from The New York Times.

2012: Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91

In June 2012 Trethewey was named U.S. poet laureate for 2012-13 (reappointed for 2013-14) by the Library of Congress. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Lillian Smith Award for her collection Native Guard, Trethewey wrote two previous poetry collections, Bellocq’s Ophelia, and Domestic WorkBeyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was published in fall 2010. In January 2012, she was named poet laureate of Mississippi. She is professor of English and the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Emory University.

Writers-in-Residence Since 1961

Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Writer-in-Residence Program (named in 2000)

  • 2023: Anne Boyer
  • 2022: Akhil Sharma
  • 2021: Marilyn Chin
  • 2020: Patricia Spears Jones
  • 2019: Pam Durban
  • 2018: Janisse Ray
  • 2017: Li-Young Lee
  • 2016: Tom Drury
  • 2015: Rebecca McClanahan
  • 2014: Karen Salyer McElmurray M.A. ’89
  • 2013: Karen Osborn ’79
  • 2012: Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91 (Pulitzer Prize, U.S. Poet Laureate)
  • 2011: Carol Moldaw
  • 2010: David Payne
  • 2009: Kelly Cherry
  • 2008: Christine Schutt ’70
  • 2007: Elizabeth Seydel Morgan ’60
  • 2006: James Dodson
  • 2005: Dara Wier
  • 2004: Denise Giardina
  • 2003: LeAnne Howe
  • 2002: Wayne Johnston
  • 2001: Paul Zimmer

Endowed fund established in 1994 to honor Wyndham Robertson ’58

  • 2000: Kelly Cherry
  • 1999: Brendan Galvin
  • 1998: Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey ’60
  • 1997: Kathy Acker
  • 1996: John Engels
  • 1995: Ellen Douglas

Writers-in-Residence 1961-1994

  • 1994: Mary Gaitskill
  • 1993: Carolyn Chute
  • 1992: David Adams Richards
  • 1991: Denise Giardina
  • 1990: Jean Gould
  • 1989: Katie Ketcher Lyle ’59
  • 1988: Alan Cheuse
  • 1987: Mark Smith
  • 1986: Stephen Becker
  • 1985: Richard Bausch
  • 1984: F. T. Prince
  • 1983: Alice McDermott
  • 1982: Mark Smith
  • 1981: George Garrett
  • 1980: Derek Walcott (1992 Nobel Prize in Literature)
  • 1979: William Goyen
  • 1978: Henry Taylor M.A. ’66 (Pulitzer Prize)
  • 1977: Richard Adams
  • 1976: Lee Smith ’67
  • 1975: Sylvia Wilkinson M.A. ’63
  • 1974: Diane Wakoski
  • 1973: Elizabeth Spencer
  • 1972: Angus Wilson (illness prevented his coming)
  • 1971: Kay Boyle
  • 1970: Malcolm Cowley, William Harrison, and Sylvia Wilkinson M.A. ’63
  • 1969: Louise Bogan
  • 1968: Malcolm Cowley and Shelby Foote
  • 1967: Colin Wilson
  • 1966: William Jay Smith
  • 1965: Benedict Kiely
  • 1964: A group of visiting writers including Flannery O’Connor, Robert Penn Warren, and Eudora Welty
  • 1963: Howard Nemerov
  • 1962: William Golding (1983 Nobel Prize in Literature)
  • 1961: John Aldridge