Molly McCully Brown selected as
2017 Oxford American Jeff Baskin Writers Fellow
In February 2017, the Oxford American Literary Project announced the Oxford American Jeff Baskin Writers Fellowship. Designed to support the writing of a debut book of creative nonfiction, the fellowship offers the winner a $10,000 living stipend, housing, and an editorial apprenticeship with the Oxford American toward a nine-month residency. The fellowship is funded with support from ACANSA Arts Festival, Argenta Arts Foundation, Tenenbaum Recycling Group, Argenta Flats Apartments, and Salter Properties.
We are proud to share that Molly McCully Brown, a 2017 graduate of the MFA program at the University of Mississippi, is the inaugural recipient of the Fellowship. Brown, whose book of poems The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded (Persea Books) was published in March 2017, will spend her Fellowship working on a manuscript titled What We Are. In her proposal, Brown wrote: “The manuscript I am provisionally calling What We Are is a collection of personal essays which approach, from a variety of angles, my evolving understanding of the intersection between the physical body and that intangible other I have come to call the soul.”
Award-winning writers and OA contributors Brian Blanchfield, Bronwen Dickey, and Ada Limón selected Brown after a blind judging process. Blanchfield praised Brown’s work sample in the following citation:
“For the other judges (Ada Limón and Bronwen Dickey) and I, the applicant we now know as Molly McCully Brown was a standout even among a group of thoroughly impressive finalists. The personal essays in her developing manuscript, What We Are, certainly account what it is to live and work and teach and love with Cerebral Palsy; but her condition is not ultimately the subject of the capacious, reflective essays that make up the proposed collection. In understated, supple prose, she writes about the uses and limits of anger; about the relationship between disability and religious devotion; about the ways in which ‘explaining is a kind of erasure’ and yielding to stillness brings discovery. This is unreluctant intellection, candid and crisp and often poignant, and Molly McCully Brown’s a natural.”
Brown’s Fellowship in Central Arkansas will begin in September 2017.
Over the past 25 years, the Oxford American, a quarterly magazine dedicated to documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South, has helped launch and sustain the careers of many significant writers of literary journalism, memoir, reportage, criticism, and the lyric essay. Since 1992, the magazine has published original nonfiction work by such powerhouses as Z.Z. Packer, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Alex Mar, Leslie Jamison, Kiese Laymon, John T. Edge, Jesmyn Ward, Barry Hannah, Wendell Berry, Michelle García, Roy Blount Jr., Stephanie Elizondo Griest, John Updike, and many others, while also routinely publishing emerging writers. The Oxford American, along with its contributors, has received numerous awards, including the 2016 National Magazine Award in General Excellence.
Jeff Baskin, a librarian by trade, was a lifelong and generous literary citizen. His imaginative approach to his work and his programming innovations brought reading and writing to countless in the North Little Rock community. In 2010, he initiated the Laman Writers Fellowship, an annual award that honored Arkansas writers. Past fellows included Grif Stockley, Kevin Brockmeier, Mara Leveritt, Davis McCombs, and Hope Coulter. In partnership with ACANSA Arts Festival, the Oxford American is proud to reinvigorate and expand this legacy to serve writers of creative nonfiction nationally.
Writers of any genre are invited to apply. Although the writer may have published books in other genres, the proposed project must be for a debut book of creative nonfiction. The manuscript may, however, be in any stage of development: draft, agency representation, contracted, or not. For the purposes of this fellowship, creative nonfiction is defined as literary journalism, memoir, reportage, criticism, or the lyric essay.
The Oxford American Literary Project is an equal opportunity nonprofit organization committed to empowering voices underserved by the publishing arena; women, writers of color, LGBTQ writers, those living in fly-over America, and those with disabilities are encouraged to apply. To be eligible, writers must not be in an academic program and must be willing and able to relocate to the Little Rock/North Little Rock area during the fellowship's season. As part of the award is an editorial apprenticeship under the Oxford American’s editor, Eliza Borné, writers must also have an interest in the making of magazines and be willing and able to apprentice at the Oxford American offices for approximately 20 hours a week. The Oxford American does not require that the writer or the proposed project have a particular tie to the South; however, applications of equal literary value that align with the Oxford American’s mission will be given preference. Please visit our F.A.Q. for further information on eligibility.
Complete applications will include blind copies of the following: a 300-500 word book proposal, a 300-500 word statement of interest in magazine editorial work, a creative nonfiction writing sample of no more than 12,000 words excerpted from the proposed project, and a curriculum vitae. The book proposal should include details of the manuscript’s scope and stage; the vitae should prioritize the writer's previous publications and awards, as well as any previous editorial experience. Final judges will be given access to curriculum vitaes; however, the judges retain the right to consider vitaes at their own discretion. Judges also reserve the right to not select a fellow in any given year, depending on work sample quality.
The Oxford American Jeff Baskin Writers Fellowship will be judged blind, via Submittable. Only online submissions will be accepted. Documents should be attached as four separate .PDFs and should offer no identifying information.
Submissions for the 2017-2018 fellowship are closed.
Brian Blanchfield is the author of three books of poetry and prose, most recently Proxies, published by Nightboat Books in 2016, forthcoming from Picador UK in 2017. A collection of essays—part cultural close reading, part dicey autobiography—Proxies was awarded a 2016 Whiting Award in Nonfiction. His first two books are collections of poetry: Not Even Then and A Several World, which received the 2014 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets and was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award for Poetry. Blanchfield lives with his partner John out past the streetlights in Tucson, where he works at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. You can read our interview with Blanchfield here. His close reading of Guy Davenport’s achievements, “Coming Up with Guy Davenport,” is forthcoming in the Spring 2017 issue of the Oxford American.
Bronwen Dickey is the author of Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon, a 2016 New York Times bestseller. Her writing has also appeared in Best American Travel Writing 2009, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Newsweek, Outside, Slate, Garden & Gun, and The San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications, and she has appeared as a featured guest on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross and All Things Considered. In 2009, she received a first-place Lowell Thomas Award in travel journalism and a residency grant from the MacDowell Colony; currently, she is a finalist for a 2017 National Magazine Award in Feature Writing. A contributing editor for the Oxford American, she has written for the magazine for more than a decade; her essay “The Last Wild River,” a reportage feature from the Summer 2008: Best of the South issue can be read here.
Ada Limón is the author of four books of poetry, including Bright Dead Things, which was named a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry, a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, and one of the Top Ten Poetry Books of the Year by The New York Times. Her other books include Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, and Sharks in the Rivers. She serves on the faculty of Queens University of Charlotte Low Residency M.F.A program, and the 24Pearl Street online program for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She also works as a freelance writer, splitting her time between Lexington, Kentucky, and Sonoma, California. Her essay “An American Sound,” a hybrid memoir/profile essay on the Mexican-American singer Lydia Mendoza, originally published in the Oxford American’s 16th Southern Music Issue, can be read here.
Many thanks to our generous sponsors of this program: