Wendy Brenner’s classic 2005 profile of snake enthusiast Dean Ripa, who died Saturday. By now I’ve grown accustomed (and rather devoted) to Dean’s rhetorical style—outrageous overstatement, subsequent qualification—but I think I recognize something else, something authentic here: a certain strain of introverted misanthropy… | May, 2017
Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Book World editor, Ron Charles, applauded the Oxford American’s Spring 2017 issue (which hits newsstands today) and joined us in celebrating the magazine’s twenty-fifth anniversary. “Here’s to the next 25 years of great writing and striking photography from a tough magazine that refuses to fade away,” Charles writes, labeling the OA a “regional magazine that defies the regional label,” which we take as the highest compliment.
When is the deadline? Your application must be submitted by midnight EST on March 30, 2017.
Is there an age limit? No.
Is there an application fee? We ask for a $30 application fee at the time of submission, which will help us cover the administrative costs associated with the prize.
When does the Fellowship begin? The Fellowship begins September 1 and runs to June 1. The Oxford American Jeff Baskin Writing Fellow is asked to remain in residency in the Little Rock/North Little Rock area during the entire fellowship’s term.
I’m not a U.S. citizen. Am I eligible for this fellowship? Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents of the United States.
I already have readings scheduled in other cities during the Fellowship’s term. Will I be allowed to go? Professional travel (and necessary personal travel) is supported with time away, once approved. Holidays are also observed according to the Oxford American employee handbook.
Do you provide housing and a stipend? Yes.
I am disabled. Am I still eligible for the prize? Yes. Upon being notified of receiving the Fellowship, we ask that you let us know of any accommodations you require.
Will I receive the entire $10,000 stipend at once? No. You can expect to receive $1000 upfront to cover the relocation expenses you will incur in late August and $1000 at the beginning of every month to cover your basic living expenses while in residency.
Will the Oxford American take taxes out of my stipend? No. You will need to plan ahead to manage your own tax contributions.
Do I need a car? The Little Rock/North Little Rock area has a reasonably good bus system, as well as a trolley system that moves between the downtowns of Little Rock and North Little Rock. The Oxford American office and your apartment will be possible to connect using public transit; however, the area is not walkable. We advise you to bring a car whenever possible.
May I bring a spouse, partner, or child? Yes.
What can I expect for housing? The apartment is clean, well lit, and furnished, basic utilities (including wifi), and basic kitchen utensils. At the Oxford American office you will be given a computer with which to work; however, the Fellow will want to bring her or his own personal computer if she or he uses one to write at home.
My spouse/partner is a writer/artist and wants studio space. Will you provide it? No. We will be happy, however, to make available our neighborhood real estate contacts. It is common for our interns to find apartments and studios at affordable prices.
Will you accept a hybrid-genre writing sample for the application? A part of the mission of The Oxford American Jeff Baskin Writers Fellowship is to create a unique level of support for the next generation of great creative nonfiction writers. We define creative nonfiction as broadly as we know how (literary journalism, memoir, reportage, criticism, or the lyric essay), but this fellowship only supports manuscripts written in prose that is rooted in fact.
I am not from the South. Am I still eligible? Yes. We do not require that you be from the South to receive the Fellowship. Many of our most award-winning essays are penned by writers who are not from the South, but who instead carry a unique vantage and an impeccable ethos as they approach “the complexity and vitality” of the South's story. The Oxford American's perfect recipient for the Fellowship is an application that puts forward the best creative nonfiction writing sample, in terms of literary quality and original vision, while also sharing a commonality with the Oxford American’s mission. However, literary quality is our first criteria in selection.
Do I list my name on my writing sample? No. Your name must not appear anywhere on any of your application’s documents. Applications with identifying information will be disqualified.
I have already published two books of poems but not a book of nonfiction. Am I still eligible? Yes. The Fellowship supports the writing of a debut book in creative nonfiction, but writers who have published in other genres are still eligible.
I have published a Kindle single in creative nonfiction. Am I still eligible? Yes. Given their length, the Kindle single is considered the digital equivalent of a chapbook, not a full-length book.
I don't have a home computer. May I submit my application in hardcopy via snail mail? No. Only online submissions are accepted.
The book I want to finish while on Fellowship is under contract. Am I still eligible? Yes. Your proposed project may be represented and/or under contract, but it must be your first book of creative nonfiction.
What can I expect for the editorial apprenticeship? Your editorial apprenticeship will be designed by you and your mentor, the Oxford American’s editor, Eliza Borné. In exchange for your service to the magazine, you can expect to acquire skills in pitch development, professional editing, literary and arts curation, digital publishing, and the business of running an arts nonprofit and magazine. You will also gain access to the Oxford American's significant network of literary contacts.
I write in the mornings. Can I expect the apprenticeship hours to flex around my writing needs? Within reason, yes. As long as you reliably contribute approximately 20 hours a week toward your apprenticeship, we will do whatever we can to accommodate your writing schedule as our priority. We define “approximately 20 hours a week” as a flex schedule that on average equals 20 hours a week but takes into balance the at-deadline needs of both the Fellow and the magazine.
Am I eligible to publish in the Oxford American while I am a Fellow? Yes. We encourage all of our editorial staff to be active contributors to the Oxford American, both in print and online.
I understand the Fellow will contribute to the local community while in residency. What is expected? The Oxford American prioritizes your writing time and your apprenticeship over any other obligations or invitations. Because creative economies naturally grow by having populations dense with artists, the fact of the Fellow’s residency alone will contribute significantly to the wellness of our arts culture. You will no doubt receive many invitations during your stay with us, including free tickets to the Oxford American’s entire concert and lecture series; however, all of these invitations are yours to accept or decline at your discretion. The only social obligations we require you attend during your residency are your start-of-Fellowship welcome party and ACANSA Arts Festival community workshop and your end-of-Fellowship reading and dinner.
How are the Fellows selected? The Oxford American editors select from the application pool a shortlist of 5-7 manuscripts for consideration by the final judges. All applications in the shortlist will receive consideration by all three of the final judges. The judges collaborate in jury to select the prize recipient. The entire reading process is conducted blind.
When will I find out if I receive the Fellowship? The recipient will be notified the first week of May and a press release will be published shortly thereafter.
If I am a finalist but not the recipient, will I be announced in the press release? No. The Oxford American will only announce the incoming Fellow.
If I am rejected this year, am I eligible to apply again? As long as you still meet the basic eligibility requirements, you are welcome to apply for as many years as you like.
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.
Notes on the songs from our 18th Southern Music Issue CD: Visions of the Blues.
As we conceived of this issue, we sought a model for our task. (Metaphor, after all, is a hallmark of great blues.) The natural impulse behind this work, music writing—blues music writing, no less—points to the image of the lantern: illuminator, bringing light to darkened places. But a more appropriate one here is the prism: refractor, dispersing pure light to reveal the color spectrum.