The Ferrol A. Sams Jr. Distinguished Chair of English, established in 1993, brings a respected fiction writer, poet, or playwright to Mercer University during spring semester. The distinguished writer-in-residence conducts one seminar (ENG 485) and offers readings and lectures during his or her appointment. Made possible by a major grant from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation, this endowed chair honors Dr. Ferrol A. Sams Jr., a physician, author, and distinguished alumnus of the College of Liberal Arts, whose many works include Run with the Horsemen, The Whisper of the River, and Down Town.
Past Sams Writers-in-Residence
Mary Hood — 2010 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence
Although best known for her work as a short-story writer, Hood regularly publishes reviews and essays in popular and literary magazines.
Hood’s first collection of stories, How Far She Went, won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the Southern Review / Louisiana State University Short Fiction Award. And Venus Is Blue, Hood’s second collection, won the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the Dixie Council of Authors and Journalists Author-of-the-Year Award, and the Lillian Smith Book Award. Stories from these two collections have been chosen for twenty-two “best and new” fiction anthologies.
She is also the author of the award-winning novel Familiar Heat. Hood often sets her stories in her native Georgia, a terrain she has described in The New Georgia Guide and knows from the southeastern coast to the northern mountains.
As Sams writer-in-residence, Professor Hood is teaching an advanced seminar in fiction writing, guiding Mercer students in the preparation and submission of stories for publication, and offering two public presentations.
Mark Jarman — 2009 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence
Mark Jarman is the author of numerous collections of poetry: Epistles (Sarabande, 2007); To the Green Man(Sarabande, 2004); Unholy Sonnets (2000); Questions for Ecclesiastes, which won the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Black Riviera (1990), which won the 1991 Poets’ Prize; Far and Away (1985); The Rote Walker (1981); and North Sea (1978). In 1992 he published Iris, a book-length poem.
Jarman’s poetry and essays have been published widely in such periodicals and journals as American Poetry Review, The Hudson Review, The New Yorker, Poetry, The Southern Review, and The Yale Review. During the 1980s he and Robert McDowell founded, edited, and published the controversial magazine The Reaper, selections from which have been published in book form as The Reaper Essays (1996). Two collections of Jarman’s own essays, The Secret of Poetry, in 2001, and Body and Soul, in 2002. He is also co-editor of Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism (with David Mason; 1996).
His awards include a Joseph Henry Jackson Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He is Centennial Professor of English and director of the creative writing program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife, the soprano Amy Jarman; they have two daughters, Claire and Zoë.
As Sams Distinguished Writer in Residence, Professor Jarman is teaching a 400-level course in the writing of poetry to Mercer students, including English majors completing the Creative Writing Track in poetry.
Chris Offutt — 2008 Fiction Writer-in-Residence
Offutt is a critically acclaimed fiction and nonfiction author.
Offutt grew up in the Kentucky hill country and later taught at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Offutt is the author of a novel, The Good Brother; two collections of short stories, Kentucky Straight and Out of the Woods; and two memoirs, No Heroes and The Same River Twice. He is also a screenwriter and has collaborated on projects with comic book artists.
The New York Times called his first nonfiction book, The Same River Twice, the “memoir of the decade” for the 1990s.
Margaret Gibson — 2007 Poet-in-Residence
Gibson grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and now lives in Preston, Connecticut. She is Professor Emerita of the University of Connecticutt.
Gibson is the author of eight books of poetry: Autumn Grasses (2003); Icon and Evidence (2001); Earth Elegy, New and Selected Poems (1997); The Vigil, A Poem in Four Voices (1993); Out in the Open (1989); Memories of the Future, The Daybooks of Tina Modotti (1986); Long Walks in the Afternoon (1982); and Signs (1979). Her most recent publication is a prose memoir entitled The Prodigal Daughter, Reclaiming an Unfinished Childhood (2008).
Several of Gibson’s books and poems have won awards. The Vigil, A Poem in Four Voices was a Finalist for the National Book Award in 1993. Memories of the Future, The Daybooks of Tina Modotti, was co-winner of the Melville Cane Award of the Poetry Society of America in 1986-87. Long Walks in the Afternoon was the 1982 Lamont Selection of the Academy of American Poets. “Earth Elegy,” the title poem of New and Selected Poems, won The James Boatwright III Prize for Poetry. “Archaeology” was awarded a Pushcart Prize in 2001.
She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, a Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Fellowship, and Grants from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts.
Kelly Cherry — 2006 Poet & Novelist-in-Residence
Cherry was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and currently lives in Halifax, Virginia.
Cherry has written 20 books, among them the New York Times best-seller My Life and Dr. Joyce Brothers (1990, 2002), the poetry collection Rising Venus (2002), a translation of Antigone (1999), the essay collection History, Passion, Freedom, Death, and Hope (2005), and Hazard and Prospect: New and Selected Poems (2007) .
She has won many awards including the Pushcart Prize (1977); the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship (1980); and the PEN/Syndicated Fiction Award (1983).
David Bottoms — 2005 Poet & Novelist-in-Residence
Bottoms was born in Canton, Georgia, and graduated from Mercer in 1971. He currently teaches creative writing courses at Mercer.
Bottoms’s first poetry chapbook, Jamming with the Band at the VFW (1978), was followed by the widely acclaimed Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump (1979), which was chosen by Robert Penn Warren as the winner of the 1979 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets. Later books of poems include In a U-Haul North of Damascus (1983), Under the Vulture-Tree (1987), Armored Hearts: Selected and New Poems (1995), Vagrant Grace (1999), and Waltzing through the Endtime (2004).
Bottoms has also published the novels Any Cold Jordan (1987) and Easter Weekend (1990). Honors he has received include the Ingram Merrill Award, the Levinson Prize of Poetry magazine and an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He also has been selected for fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He was appointed poet laureate for the state of Georgia in 2000.
Alvin Greenberg — 2004 Writer-in-Residence
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Greenberg taught in the Macalester College English Department from 1965 to 1999 and currently lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife, poet Janet Holmes.
Greenberg is a writer of fiction, essays, poetry and librettos.
Publications include: the novels Time Lapse (2003) and Going Nowhere (1971); the collections of personal essays The Dog of Memory: A Family Album of Secrets and Silences (2002); the short story collections How the Dead Live (1998), The Man in the Cardboard Mask (1985), Delta q (1983), and The Discovery of America(1980); the collections of poetry Hurry Back (2005), Why We Live with Animals (1990), Heavy Wings (1988), and In/Direction (1978); and the libretto to the opera Apollonia’s Circus (1994). Greenberg is the recipient of the Loft’s 1994 Award of Distinction in Poetry and the 1994 Chelsea Poetry Awards as well as fellowships from the NEA and the Bush Foundation.
Rebecca Gilman — 2003 Playwright-in-Residence
Born and raised in Trussville, Alabama, Gilman now lives in Chicago, Illinois and teaches in the School of Communication of Northwestern University.
Gilman’s many celebrated plays include The Sweetest Swing in Baseball (2004), Blue Surge (2001), The Glory of Living (2001), Boy Gets Girl (2000) and Spinning Into Butter (2000). Her plays have been produced in Chicago, New York and London, among other cities.
Gilman’s many literary awards include: the M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an Emerging Playwright, American Theatre Critics Association, 1998, for The Glory of Living; the Roger L. Stevens Award, Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, 1998, for Spinning Into Butter; the London Evening Standard Theatre Award, Most Promising Playwright, 1999, for The Glory of Living; the George Devine Award, Royal Court Theatre, London, 1999, for The Glory of Living; and the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer, 2008, awarded by the Alabama Writers’ Forum and the Alabama Writers Symposium. The Glory of Living was also a finalist for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize.
Pattiann Rogers — 2002 Poet-in-Residence
Rogers was born in Joplin, Missouri and currently lives in Colorado with her geophysicist husband.
Her collections of poems include: Generations (2004); Song of the World Becoming: New and Collected Poems, 1981-2001 (2001); The Dream of the Marsh Wren, Writing as Reciprocal Creation (1999); Eating Bread and Honey (1997); Firekeeper, New and Selected Poems (1994); Geocentric (1993); Splitting and Binding(1989); Legendary Performance (1987); The Tattooed Lady in the Garden (1986); and The Expectations of Light (1981).
Rogers has been the recipient of two NEA grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Poetry Fellowship. Her poems have won several prizes, including the Tietjens Prize and the Hokin Prize from Poetry, the Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest, the Strousse Award twice from Prairie Schooner, three book awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, and four Pushcart Prizes.
Fred Chappell — 2001 Novelist/Poet-in-Residence
Born and raised in Canton, North Carolina, Chappell taught English for forty years at the UNC-Greensboro. Chappell was the poet laureate of North Carolina from 1997-2002.
He has published an impressive catalog of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. His collections of poetry include: Backass (2004); Family Gathering (2000); Spring Garden: New and Collected Poems (1995); C (1993); Plow Naked (1993); First and Last Words (1989); Source (1985); Castle Tzingal (1984); The World Between the Eyes (1971); Awakening to Music (1979); Midquest (1981), a tetralogy which collected four of his works: River (1975), Bloodfire (1978), Wind Mountain (1979) and Earthsleep (1980). His novels are: Look Back All the Green Valley (1999); Farewell, I’m Bound to Leave You (1996); Brighten The Corner Where You Are (1989); I Am One of You Forever (1985); The Gaudy Place (1972); Dagon (1968); The Inkling (1965); and It Is Time, Lord (1963). His books of short stories are: Moments of Light (1980); and More Shapes Than One (1991). Finally, a collection of his writings, The Fred Chappell Reader, was published in 1987.
Chappell has received numerous honors and awards, including the Thomas Wolfe Prize (2005), the Leila Lenore Heasley Prize, presented by Lyon College (1999), the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry, presented by the Sewanee Review (1996), the T.S. Eliot Award for Creative Writing from the Ingersoll Foundation (1993), and the Bollingen Prize in Poetry of the Yale University Library (1985). Besides being named poet laureate for North Carolina, he has received many awards from that state, including the Sir Walter Raleigh Prize for fiction, eight Roanoke-Chowan poetry awards, and the O. Max Gardner award for teaching.
Stephen Dietz & Allison Gregory — 2000 Dramatists-in-Residence
Dietz was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, and he and his wife, playwright Allison Gregory spend part of their time in Austin, Texas, where he teaches at the University of Texas, and part in Seattle, Washington.
Dietz and Gregory are both active and prolific playwrights, whose plays are frequently produced. Dietz’s plays include: Becky’s New Car (2008), Shooting Star (2008), Yankee Tavern (2007), Last of the Boys (2004), Inventing van Gogh (2004), Fiction (2002), Rocket Man (1998), Still Life with Iris (1997), Private Eyes (1996), The Nina Variations (1996), Lonely Planet (1993), Halcyon Days (1991), Foolin’ Around with Infinity (1987), and More Fun Than Bowling (1986). Gregory’s plays include: Burning Bridget Cleary (2006), Forcing Hyacinths (1994), Fall of Night, Cliffhouse, and Point Deception. The two playwrights have collaborated on several plays for young audiences, including an adaptation of Go, Dog. Go!
Dietz is a two-time winner of the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award, for Fiction and Still Life with Iris. He received the PEN USA West Award in Drama for Lonely Planet, and his play Last of the Boyswas nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Gregory’s play Forcing Hyacinths was honored with the Julie Harris Playwriting Award and the South Coast Repertory Theatre’s California Playwrights Award.
Louis Simpson — 1999 Advanced Poetry Writing
Simpson was born in Kingston, Jamaica and came to the United States at age 17 to attend Columbia University. He currently lives in Stony Brook, New York and teaches at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
Simpson’s collections of verse include the following books: The Arrivistes: Poems 1940–1949 (1949); Good News of Death and Other Poems (1955); A Dream of Governors (1959); At the End of the Open Road, Poems(1963); Selected Poems (1965); Adventures of the Letter I (1971); Searching for the Ox (1976); Armidale(1979); Caviare at the Funeral (1980); The Best Hour of the Night (1983); People Live Here: Selected Poems 1949-83 (1983); Collected Poems (1988); In the Room We Share (1990); Nombres et poussière; There You Are(1995); The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems, 1940-2001 (2003). Other publications by Simpson include a memoir, North of Jamaica (1972), and several works of literary criticism: Three on the Tower(1975); A Revolution in Taste: Studies of Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, and Robert Lowell (1978); A Company of Poets (1981); The Character of the Poet (1986); Selected Prose (1989); and Ships Going Into the Blue: Essays and Notes on Poetry (1994).
Simpson won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1964 for At the End of the Open Road, and has received numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1962, the Edna St. Vincent Millay Award in 1960 and the Prix de Rome in 1957.
Gloria Naylor — 1998 Advanced Fiction Writing
Naylor was born in New York City but spent a formative part of her childhood in Robinsonville, Mississippi.
Naylor’s novels include The Women of Brewster Place (1982), Linden Hills (1985), Mama Day (1988), Bailey’s Café (1992), The Men of Brewster Place (1998), and 1996 (2005). She also edited Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1967 to the Present (1995).
The Women of Brewster Place won the National Book Award for First Fiction in 1983, and was later made into a film starring Oprah Winfrey. She has been awarded Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowshipsand a Lillian Smith Award for her novels.
Sandra Deer — 1997 Advanced Playwriting
Deer’s first play, So Long on Lonely Street (1985), premiered at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta and was later produced in the New York, Los Angeles and London.
Her most recent play, The Subject Tonight is Love (2003), was nominated for the Best New American Play Critics Award.
Deer teaches writing at the Emory Center for Lifelong Learning.
Dana Gioia — 1996 Advanced Poetry Writing
Gioia was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently divides his time between his home in California and Washington, D.C., where he has served since 2003 as the Chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts. Gioia retired from his initial career, as a corporate executive at General Foods, to write.
Gioia has published three collections of poems: Daily Horoscope (1986), The Gods of Winter (1991), and Interrogations at Noon (2001). He has also won acclaim for his works of criticism, including Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (1992) and Barrier of a Common Language: An American Looks at Contemporary British Poetry (2002). In addition, he has published several books of translations, anthologies of Italian poetry, and a libretto for an opera entitled Nosferatu. He also co-edits four literary anthologies with X. J. Kennedy, including Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama.
Gioia’s Interrogations at Noon won the 2002 American Book Award. His Can Poetry Matter? was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award.
Will Campbell — 1995 Advanced Fiction Writing
Campbell was born in Liberty, Mississippi, and currently lives in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. He is an ordained Baptist minister and was closely invloved with the Civil Rights movement as a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; he also helped escort the black students who were integrating the public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Campbell’s published novels and works of juvenile fiction include: The Glad River (1982), Cecelia’s Sin: A Novella (1983), Chester & Chun Ling (1989), The Pear Tree that Bloomed in the Fall (1996), Shugah and Doops (1998), and Bluebirds Always Come on Sunday (1998). His works of nonfiction include: Race and the Renewal of the Church (1962), We Are a Third Race (1962), Up to Our Steeples in Politics (1970), Brother to a Dragonfly (1977; 1992), God on Earth: The Lord’s Prayer for Our Time (1983), Forty Acres and a Goat: A Memoir (1986), The Convention: A Parable (1988), Providence (1992), The Stem of Jessie: The Costs of Community at a 1960s Southern School (1995), And Also With You: Duncan Gray and the American Dilemma(1997) and Rogert G. Clark’s Journey to the House: A Black Politician’s Story (2003).
Campbell’s Brother to a Dragonfly earned the Lillian Smith Prize, the Christopher Award, and a National Book Award nomination. The Glad River won a first-place award from the Friends of American Writers in 1982. Further nonors for his works include a Lyndhurst Prize and an Alex Haley Award.