From 2009 until 2015, our music issue featured a different Southern state every year (raise your hand if you’ve got them all: Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Georgia).
Last year, we departed from the series to examine “Visions of the Blues.”
In 2017, we are returning to the state series. And we are thrilled to share that it’s your turn, Kentucky.
The Commonwealth gave us musicians like Loretta Lynn and Nappy Roots, Richard Hell and Bill Monroe—just to name a very few—and beloved writers like Crystal Wilkinson, Ronni Lundy, Silas House, and our own poetry editor, Rebecca Gayle Howell. This is just a taste of Kentucky and a taste of what’s to come.
$10,000 for a nine-month residency in Central Arkansas to work on a book of debut creative nonfiction
Submissions for the 2018-2019 fellowship open December 1, 2017 and close March 24, 2018
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 Library 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. The editorial fellow must also have an interest in the making of magazines and be willing to contribute at the Oxford American offices for approximately 20 hours a week as a member of the editorial staff. 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, none of which should include any identifying information. (Simply remove your name from your CV).
Submissions for the 2018-2019 fellowship open December 1, 2017 and close March 24, 2018.
Alex Mar is a writer based in her hometown of New York City. Her first book, Witches of America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)—about present-day witchcraft practice around the country—was a New York Times Notable Book of 2015 in nonfiction, a New York Times Editors’ Pick, among The Millions’ “Most Anticipated Books” of 2015, and one of The Believer’s “Favorite Books” and Huffington Post Books’ “Most Notable” of 2015. Some of her recent work has appeared in the Believer, New York Magazine, Wired, the New York Times Book Review, Elle, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, and the Oxford American (where she is a contributing editor); and her essays were included in both Longreads’ and BuzzFeed’s “Best of 2016” year-end lists. She is also the director of the feature-length documentary American Mystic, currently streaming on Amazon. Alex Mar is currently at work on her second book. Her most recent essay for the Oxford American was “Blood Ties,” on being related to the conquistador Juan Ponce de León and the lies inherent in our ancestry.
Zandria F. Robinson is a native Memphian, sociologist, and writer whose work covers African American experiences at the intersection of identity, inequality, and culture in the post-civil rights South. She earned the Bachelor of Arts in Literature and African American Studies a Master of Arts in Sociology at the University of Memphis and a PhD in Sociology from Northwestern University. She is author of This Ain’t Chicago: Race, Class, and Regional Identity in the Post-Soul South (University of North Carolina Press, 2014), which won the 2015 Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Outstanding Book Award from the Division of Racial and Ethnic Minorities of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and is co-author with Marcus Anthony Hunter of Chocolate Cities: The Black Map of American Life (University of California Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in Issues in Race and Society, the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, the Annual Review of Sociology, Rolling Stone, Contexts, and the Oxford American, where her latest essay is “Border Wars,” about Southern borders, Kentucky hip-hop, and the borders within our own identities. Robinson blogs at New South Negress and tweets at @zfelice.
Timothy B. Tyson is Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and holds faculty positions at Duke Divinity School and the Department of American Studies at the University of North Carolina. He serves on the executive boards of the North Carolina NAACP and the UNC Center for Civil Rights. His 2017 New York Times bestseller, The Blood of Emmett Till, was on the longlist for the National Book Award. Atlantic Monthly says this book “turns the past into prophecy and demands that we do the one vital thing we aren’t often enough asked to do with history: learn from it.” His 2004 book, Blood Done Sign My Name, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Southern Book Award for nonfiction and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s Grawemeyer Award in Religion, among others. It became a 2010 feature film and is assigned each year to the incoming class at the North Carolina Central University School of Law. In 2000, Tyson’s Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power won the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize for best first book in U.S. history and the James Rawley Prize for best book on race from the Organization of American Historians. It also became the basis for a documentary film, “Negroes with Guns: Rob Williams and Black Power,” directed by Sandra Dickson, which won the OAH’s Barnouw Prize for best historical film. Democracy Betrayed: the Wilmington Race Riot and Its Legacy, co-authored with David Cecelski, won the Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America. The National Association of Black Journalists gave its 2007 Excellence Award to Tyson’s “Ghosts of 1898: The Wilmington Race Riot and Its Legacy.” He teaches African American history and culture, race and politics in the United States and the global South to students at Duke University, Durham Technical and Community College, North Carolina Central University, and the University of North Carolina and to the general public. In April 2017, the Oxford American published “The Children of Emmett Till,” a writing-and-audio narrative around Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till.
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 began in September 2017.
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.