Carson McCullers Center announces 2016 writing fellow

Melissa Pritchard
Melissa Pritchard

The Columbus State University Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians has announced the 2016 Marguerite and Lamar Smith Writing Fellow.

Award-winning author Melissa Pritchard is the 11th recipient of the competitive fellowship named for McCullers’ parents.

Each year, the fellow resides and writes from September to December in the McCullers Center, 1519 Stark Ave., the childhood home of the celebrated late writer. The fellowship is designed to afford the recipients an uninterrupted period of time to dedicate to their work.

McCullers Center director Nick Norwood explained in an email to the Ledger-Enquirer why a panel of CSU writing professors chose Pritchard among more than 40 applicants for the Columbus fellowship: “Melissa has an impressive record of publication, her writing sample was outstanding, and she is working on a novel set in Georgia so living and working in the Smith-McCullers House was a perfect fit.”

In an interview via email, Pritchard wrote Tuesday, “I am as thrilled as anybody could possibly be! Carson McCullers has long been one of my favorite writers, I’ve taught her stories and novels in classes, I re-read her work regularly and always find it fresh and astonishing. It’s a tremendous honor to receive this fellowship.”

She applied for the fellowship “because of my admiration for Carson McCullers, and because a three month residency offers a fantastic opportunity to get significant work done. To be able to work without distraction is one of the greatest gifts a writer can be given.”

While in Columbus, she plans to leverage her location by working on a historical novel largely set on the Sea Islands off Georgia’s coast.

“I will probably take one or two short research trips there while I’m working at the Carson McCullers Center,” she said. “To be in Georgia, writing in Carson McCullers’ childhood home, with a chance to re-visit one of the major settings of my novel, is pure miracle.”

Pritchard, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University, has written eight books of fiction, a biography and essays, including:

▪  Her 1987 story collection, “Spirit Seizures,” won the Flannery O’Connor Award, the Carl Sandburg Literary Award and the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award. It also was a New York Times Editor’s Choice and Notable Book of the Year.

▪  Her 1995 story collection, “The Instinct for Bliss,” was a New York Times Editor’s Choice and won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize and the Claudia Ortese Prize in North American Literature.

▪  Her 1998 novel, “Selene of the Spirits,” was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

▪  Stories from her 2002 collection, “Disappearing Ingenue,” won the Pushcart and O. Henry prizes.

▪  Her 2004 novel, “Late Bloomer,” was a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year.

▪  Her 2012 short story collection, “The Odditorium,” was a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, an Oprah Magazine Book of the Year and a Library Journal Small Press Best.

▪  Her 2014 novel, “Palmerino,” was a Lambda Literary New and Noteworthy Book, a Publishers Weekly Big Indie Book, an American Library Association Over the Rainbow top LGBT selection and an Oprah Magazine Top Title.

▪  Her 2015 essay collection, “A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness and Write,” the first in a series called “The Art of the Essay,” was named one of the Best Books for Writers by Poets and Writers, and a Publishers Weekly Top Ten in the categories of essay, literary biography and criticism.

Pritchard’s work has appeared in anthologies and textbooks, on websites such as Byliner, Longform and Longreads, on stage in New York City and Los Angeles, and in more than 70 journals, including The Paris Review, A Public Space, Conjunctions, Agni, Ecotone and The Southern Review. The Oprah Magazine, The Wilson Quarterly, Arrive, The Nation, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune also have published her work. Atlantic Monthly honored her in 2013 with one of its Best of Journalism Awards.

She was awarded fellowships or grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Brown University’s Howard Foundation, the Ledig-Rowohlt Foundation and the Bogliasco Foundation.

Pritchard, a Phoenix resident, has traveled as a journalist to India, Afghanistan, Ecuador and Ethiopia. In 2009, she established the Ashton Goodman Grant, working with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project to help educate Afghan women and girls.


The Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship contributes to the McCullers Center’s mission to preserve McCullers’ legacy, nurture American writers and musicians, educate youth and foster the literary and musical life of Columbus, the State of Georgia and the American South. The center presents educational and cultural programs for the community, maintains an archive related to McCullers’ life and work, and provides fellowships for writers such as Pritchard.