Authors Ron Rash, Lee Smith receive writing honors
Ron Rash, the Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture at Western Carolina University, has won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance book award in the category of fiction for his novel, “Serena.”
Rash’s “Serena” has been a critical success since its 2008 release and has catapulted the South Carolina-born author to the forefront of the literary world.
The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance is a regional organization that represents more than 300 independent bookstores and store owners throughout the Southeast.
“Serena” is set in pre-Depression-era Appalachia, and tells the story of a timber baron and his ruthless wife who come to the North Carolina mountains to seek their fortune.
In addition to his SIBA award, “Serena” made Rash a finalist for the 2009 Pen/Faulkner Award, was called “one of the best books of the year” by Publishers Weekly, and was Amazon’s No. 7 most sought-after book in 2008.
Critics have praised Rash’s ability to majestically convey the North Carolina backcountry, which is a trademark of his work. The Columbia, S.C., newspaper, The State, praised Rash for his ability to “capture the speech and landscape of the Carolinas with an elegant precision” when commenting on his 2006 novel “The World Made Straight.”
Rash is no stranger to critical acclaim. His 2002 novel “One Foot in Eden” won the Appalachian Writers Association’s Book of the Year award and received a gold medal from ForeWords Magazine for best literary novel.In April, Rash was a featured speaker at Western Carolina’s Spring Literary Festival. He continues to host readings of his work across the country.
Smith wins Chowan prize
Novel and short story writer Lee Smith has received the 16th Annual Mary Frances Hobson Prize from Chowan University. A New York Times bestseller, Smith received an Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and recently had a musical adaptation of one of her works, “Good Ol’ Girls,” air on UNC-TV.
Chowan University’s Hobson Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Letters is given each year by the Hobson Family Foundation as a memorial to Mary Francis Hobson, a journalist and poet, who was the first woman to receive the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in journalism from the University of North Carolina.
Smith will receive a medallion and monetary gift at a banquet on April 7, 2010. Smith will also present a lecture about her numerous works, including the collection of new and selected stories “Mrs. Darcy Meets the Blue-Eyed Stranger,” to be published earlier that spring.
Since being born in the Appalachian coal mining town of Grundy, Va., Smith has written all her life, publishing 11 novels and three collections of short stories. Most of her recent works play upon the rich dialect of the Blue Ridge mountains, where she honed her craft by people-watching in her father’s dime store.
Smith’s writing career began in 1966 at Hollins College in Roanoke, Va., where she received a fellowship after submitting a coming-of-age novel to a Book of the Month Club contest. Two years later, that novel, “The Last Days the Dog Bushes Bloomed,” became her first published work of fiction.
Smith was thrust into the spotlight when her fifth novel, “Oral History,” became a Book of the Month Club featured selection in 1983. In 2002, “The Last Girls,” inspired by a raft trip made down the Mississippi with Hollins College friends in 1966, became a New York Times bestseller and a “Good Morning America” Book Club pick, as well as a winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award.
Smith has also written “Family Linens,” dedicated to her husband, journalist Hal Crowther; “Fair and Tender Ladies,” “Me and My Baby View the Eclipse,” her second book of short stories; “The Devil’s Dream” and “Saving Grace.”
“Narrative is as necessary to me as breathing, as air,” says Smith. “The writing itself is a source of strength for me.”
Smith’s most recent novel, “On Agate Hill,” published in 2006, is a historical novel set in the Piedmont of North Carolina during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Barbara Bates Smith has adapted this powerful work into a traveling one-woman, one-hour play with live music integrated throughout.