THIS YEAR’S JUDGE
(for prize to be awarded in January 2020)
Tayari Jones – 2019
Tayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, February 2018). An American Marriage, in addition to being chosen as an Oprah Winfrey Book Club Selection, was long-listed for the National Book Award in 2018. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Silver Sparrow was named a #1 Indie Next Pick by booksellers in 2011, and the NEA added it to its Big Read Library of classics in 2016. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. She is a Professor of Creative Writing at Emory University.
Elizabeth Cox – 2018
Elizabeth Cox is the author of poetry and short story collections, in addition to four novels: The Ragged Way People Fall out of Love, Night Talk (winner of the Lillian Smith Award and a finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award), Familiar Ground, and The Slow Moon. She has been recognized with the Robert Penn Warren Award and the North Carolina Fiction Award, and she has been inducted into the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Cox has taught creative writing at Duke University, University of Michigan, University of Massachusetts–Lowell, Tufts University, Boston University, MIT, Bennington College, and most recently at Wofford College, where she shared the John Cobb Chair with her husband, C. Michael Curtis, fiction editor for the Atlantic.
2017 – Tom Franklin
Tom Franklin is the New York Times bestselling author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger Award. His previous works include Poachers, Hell at the Breech, and Smonk. With his wife Fennelly, Franklin co-wrote the novel The Tilted World. The couple have been called “the king and queen of contemporary Southern literature.” Franklin’s other honors and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Edgar Award, the Willie Morris Prize for Southern Fiction, and the Alabama Award for Fiction. He teaches in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.
2016 – Lee Smith
Lee Smith has published thirteen novels and four collections of short stories, including the bestselling novels Fair and Tender Ladies and The Last Girls, winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. In 2016 she published Dimestore: A Writer’s Life, a memoir. She taught for nineteen years at North Carolina State University. Smith is a recipient of the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the North Carolina Award for Literature. Other honors include the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction (the North Carolina Literary & Historical Association) and the Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction (Fellowship of Southern Writers).
2015 – Randall Kenan
Randall Kenan is the author of a novel, A Visitation of Spirits, and a collection of stories, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, which was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other works include The Fire This Time, a work of nonfiction. Among his awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Mary Francis Hobson Medal for Arts and Letters, the Whiting Writer’s Award, the Sherwood Anderson Award, the North Carolina Award for Literature, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Prix de Rome. He has taught at Sarah Lawrence, Columbia University, Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Memphis.
2014 – Jill McCorkle
In addition to her most recent book, Life After Life, Jill McCorkle is the author of nine previous books—four story collections and five novels—five of which have been selected as New York Times Notable Books. The recipient of the New England Book Award, the John Dos Passos Prize for Excellence in Literature, and the North Carolina Prize for Literature, McCorkle has taught at UNC-Chapel Hill, Tufts, and Brandeis where she was the Fannie Hurst Visiting Writer. For five years she was a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Fiction at Harvard, where she also chaired Creative Writing. She is a core faculty member of the Bennington College Writing Seminars. She is also a frequent instructor in the Sewanee Summer Writers Program.