Chuck Stewart’s photography provided by Fireball Entertainment Group, courtesy of Chuck Stewart Photographs of John Coltrane, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
n 2017, the Oxford American Literary Project launched 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 Argenta Wealth Management, ACANSA, Argenta Arts Foundation, Tenenbaum Recycling Group, Argenta Flats Apartments, and Salter Properties.
We are proud to share that Micah Fields, a 2018 graduate of the MFA in nonfiction writing program at the University of Iowa, is the recipient of this year’s fellowship. Fields will spend his fellowship working on a manuscript titled We Hold Our Breath. In his proposal, Fields wrote: “My proposed manuscript . . . is a book of narrative nonfiction about the singular city of Houston, the Texas Gulf Coast, and the wild relationship between thatregion’s history of art, industry, and natural disaster. We Hold Our Breath deals with the space and time between two nearly identical storms—Hurricane Carla (1961) and Hurricane Harvey (2017)—using the story of their impact to inform the contemporary understanding of a region and its cultural significance.”
Award-winning writers and OA contributors Alex Mar, Zandria F. Robinson, and Timothy B. Tyson selected Fields after a blind judging process. Robinson praised Fields’s work sample in the following citation: “Micah Fields’s manuscript We Hold Our Breath quite breathlessly blends the rural and urban, past and present, and industrial and postmodern Souths in an artful Texas tale of humans and other animals working with and against land and nature on that state’s coast and in its most populous city.”
Fields’s fellowship in Central Arkansas will run from August 2018 until May 2019. The inaugural Baskin Fellow, Molly McCully Brown, concluded her fellowship in May 2018. Her essay “The Cost of Certainty” was published in the OA’s 100th issue. She is the recipient of the 2018-2019 Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship.
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).
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.
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.