On November 16, 2017, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced the Fiscal Year 2018 recipients of their Creative Writing and Literary Translation Fellowships. Among the recipients are three Arizonans: Jane Armstrong of Flagstaff and Elizabeth Evans of Tucson were awarded Creative Writing Fellowships, a $25,000 award, while Todd Fredson of Scottsdale received a $12,500 Literary Translation Fellowship.
“After toiling away for decades in almost total obscurity, this award provided mind-blowing validation for me.”
Dr. Jane Armstrong, 2018 NEA Creative Writing Fellow
“I was completely incredulous. I thought I was being punked,” says Dr. Jane Armstrong, a professor at Northern Arizona University, on receiving the call informing her she had been awarded the Fellowship. “The first thing I said to the very nice gentleman from the NEA was ‘Are you [expletive] kidding me?’ After toiling away for decades in almost total obscurity, this award provided mind-blowing validation for me.”
Dr. Armstrong’s award will support research for a speculative nonfiction project called “Pedigree: An Ancestral Autobiography.” In this work the author will use genealogy as a way to explore questions of identity.
Elizabeth Evans of Tucson was similarly elated by the news and has big plans for her award:
“To learn that I was one of just 36 writers to win a fellowship from a pool of 1700 qualified applicants—believe me, that did my writer’s heart good! A part of the money will almost certainly fund a research trip to India, where a story has been simmering since my visit to Arunachal Pradesh some twenty years ago. “
While Evans’ award will take her to India to conduct research, Scottsdale writer and translator Todd Fredson’s award will afford him the opportunity to bring the work of a sub-Saharan writer to English-speaking readers, providing $12,5000 in support of his translation of the poetry collection The Future Has an Appointment with the Dawn by contemporary Ivorian writer Tanella Boni (right).
“I’m grateful for the NEA Translation Fellowship and hope it will bring visibility to the West African poets I’ve been translating, as well as the presses who are doing the publishing,” says Fredson. “Literary work translated out of Sub-Saharan Africa is rare, and women, even in the original languages, are drastically underrepresented. Tanella Boni is a foundational figure in African literature but has only a handful of poems translated into English, so I’m excited that the NEA offered support for this translation of her collection, The Future Has an Appointment with the Dawn, which reckons with the Ivory Coast’s recent ethnic violence.”
For each of these new fellows, the award represents an opportunity to not only expand their own creative horizons, but also to use their talents to give something back to their fellow writers and appreciative readers.
“The pieces I submitted [for consideration] are unpublished. They might stay unpublished. I have no control over that,” muses Dr. Armstrong. “But I hope to serve as an example for staying true to your work in spite of constant rejection, showing up every day to write (even if you only have time for a single sentence), and just keeping at it.”
Creative Writing Fellowships
In FY 2018, the NEA will award 36 Creative Writing Fellowships of $25,000 each for a total of $900,000. Fellowships alternate between poetry and prose each year and this year’s fellowships are to support prose—works of fiction and creative nonfiction, such as memoir and personal essays.
The full list of FY 2018 Creative Writing Fellowship recipients is available here.
This year’s fellows hail from 20 states and grew up in settings ranging from the Blue Ridge Mountains to a Midwestern dairy farm to a Native-American reservation in Washington State. The fellows demonstrate an array of backgrounds and interests—from a writer in the tech industry to an opera librettist, an atmospheric scientist to a crime reporter. A third of the recipients have yet to publish their first book while others are critically acclaimed authors.
Through its Creative Writing Fellowships, the NEA gives writers the freedom to create, revise, conduct research, and connect with readers. These fellowships are highly competitive, with 1,692 eligible applicants in FY 2018. Applications are reviewed by a panel through an anonymous process and are judged solely on the artistic excellence of the work sample provided.
Since 1967, the NEA has awarded more than 3,400 Creative Writing Fellowships worth $46 million. Many American recipients of the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and Fiction were recipients of NEA fellowships early in their careers.
Jane Armstrong’s stories and essays have appeared in Newsweek, The North American Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, New Orleans Review, River Teeth, Brevity and elsewhere. Her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She teaches at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Elizabeth Evans is the author of five books of fiction. Her two short story collections are Suicide’s Girlfriend (Harper Collins) and Locomotion (New Rivers). Her three novels are The Blue Hour (Algonquin), Rowing in Eden (HarperCollins), and Carter Clay (HarperCollins). A fourth novel, As Good As Dead, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury. In 2010, Evans received the Iowa Author Award. Other distinctions include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the James Michener Fellowship, a Lila Wallace Award, the Four Corners Award, and selection of Carter Clay by the Los Angeles Times’ Best Books of 1999. In addition to her work at the U of A, she is a frequent guest author at Queens University’s Low-Residence MFA Program in Creative Writing.
Literary Translation Fellowships
In FY 2018, the NEA will award 22 Literature Translation Fellowships of $12,500 or $25,000 each for a total of $300,000.
The full list of FY 2018 Literature Translation Fellowship recipients and their projects is available here.
Through its fellowships in literary translation, the NEA supports the new translation of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and drama into English. Among this year’s projects are award-winning novels, short stories, poetry, and a play from 15 languages and five continents, including works from Japan, Madagascar, and India. In addition, most of the translated works are appearing for the first time in English and ten of them are by female authors.
Todd Fredson is a poet, scholar, and translator of Afro-francophone and West African literature. He has made French to English translations of two books by Ivorian poet Josue Guebo: Think of Lampedusa and My country, tonight. Fredson is currently working with Azo Vauguy to translate from French and Bété to English Vauguy’s book-length poem, Zakwato, which is an adaptation of a myth from the Bété ethnic group in the Ivory Coast. Fredson was a 2015-16 Fulbright Fellow to the Ivory Coast. The future has an appointment with the dawn will be published by the University of Nebraska as part of its African Poetry Book Series.