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Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award Goes to Julia Franks

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The Western North Carolina Historical Association is pleased to announce the selection of the 62nd winner of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award.

This year the winner of the Award is Jullia Franks for her novel Over the Plain Houses.

In making the award the Selection Panel noted: Over the Plain Houses is a stunning debut novel set profoundly in depression-era Western North Carolina and focuses on the familial and communal conflict that arises out of a man’s utter commitment to fundamentalist religion. Without being the least bit sentimental or giving in to any stereotypes about Appalachian people, it tells an utterly compelling story that is deeply rooted in place. In addition, her detailed, nuanced, and poetic observations of farm life and logging educate the reader while rounding out the setting for this affecting work of art. To some panelists the novel was reminiscent of the best prose of Ron Rash and Walker Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

A prize of $1,500 accompanies the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award and will be presented to the author at an annual Award event. The award event, followed by a reception, is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 11, 4-6 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel (31 Woodfin St., Asheville), directly across the street from The Old Kentucky Home. The award reception is being sponsored by the Renaissance Hotel. Event tickets are $10 general admission and $5 for Asheville History Center members. Tickets may be reserved by contacting the Asheville History Center at 828-253-9231.

In addition to the recognition of Julia Franks, for only the fourth time in 62 years, in order to more broadly support the writers of Western North Carolina the other four finalists for the award have also been invited to attend the event and read a brief excerpt from their work. The finalists were chosen from an original group of nominations numbering twenty-nine, and are as follows:

  • Family of Earth: Wilma Dykeman
  • Hazel Creek: Daniel Pierce
  • The Risen: Ron Rash
  • No One Is Coming To Save Us: Stephanie Powell Watts

Ron Rash was a former winner of the Award.

Originated by the Louis Lipinsky family and now supported by Michael Sartisky, PhD and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Board, the Award has been presented annually since 1955 for printed works that focus special attention on Western North Carolina.

To be considered, an entry had to be a published work of fiction, nonfiction, drama, or poetry. It had to be a first edition work. The publication date of the published work to be considered had to be between January 1, 2016 and May 31, 2017 and the author had to be a native of the Western North Carolina region or a resident of WNC for at least twelve months prior to the closing date for the Award. If the author does not qualify as a native or resident, the focus or setting of the work must be Western North Carolina. Western North Carolina includes the Qualla Boundary and the westernmost 25 counties.

The WNC Historical Association presented the first Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award to Wilma Dykeman in 1955 for The French Broad. Last year the winner was Terry Roberts for his novel That Bright Land. Other authors who have received the award include Doug Orr and Fiona Ritchie, Robert Morgan, John Paris, Gail Godwin, John Ehle, Charles Frazier, Robert Brunk, Michael McFee, Lee Smith, Ron Rash, Wiley Cash, and Wayne Caldwell.

The Award Panel this year consists of Michael Sartisky, PhD, Chair, President Emeritus of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities;; Jim Stokely, President, Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Committee; Gordon McKinney, former president, Appalachian Studies Association and WNCHA board member,; Brandon Johnson, English faculty, Mars Hill University; Gwin Jones, Past Chair WNCHA; Tom Muir, Director, Thomas Wolfe Memorial; Ellen Carr, Treasurer, Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Committee; Terry Roberts, PhD, Director, The Paideia Center; and Mimi Fenton, PhD, Immediate past Dean of the Graduate School, WCU.

The Western North Carolina Historical Association is a nonprofit corporation whose mission is to promote and preserve regional history. For more information, please call Michael Sartisky, PhD, Chair of the Selection Committee at 504.250.0055, email [email protected], or Tim Tipton, WNCHA Executive Director at 828.253.9231 email [email protected].