Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award semifinalists announced

Press release from the Western North Carolina Historical Association:

The Western North Carolina Historical Association today announced the selection of semifinalists for the 62nd annual Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award.

Originated by the Louis Lipinsky family and now also 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.  In order to more broadly support the writers of Western North Carolina, this is the fourth year that semifinalists, and later finalists, will be announced in addition to the Award winner.

To be considered, an entry had to be a published work of fiction, nonfiction, drama, or poetry and a first-edition work.  The publication date of the published work had to be in the calendar year 2016 or between January 1 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 12 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 western-most 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 This Bright Land.  Other authors who have received the award include Robert Morgan, John Paris, Gail Godwin, John Ehle, Charles Frazier, Robert Brunk, Michael McFee, Lee Smith, Ron Rash, Wiley Cash, Wayne Caldwell, Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr.

A prize of $1500 accompanies the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award and will be presented to the author at an award event at the Renaissance Hotel, Saturday, November 11, 2017 at a public event including readings by the finalists.  Please reserve this date.

The Award Panel this year consists of Michael Sartisky, Chair, President Emeritus of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities; Gordon McKinney, former president, Appalachian Studies Association and WNCHA board member, Jim Stokely, board member, Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Committee; Brandon Johnson, Englishfaculty, 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 at Western Carolina University.

This year’s nine semifinalists were chosen from an original group of 29 nominations. The semifinalists encompass a broad range of genres, including novels, poetry, history, and memoirs.  The semifinalists are:

  •      Family of Earth by Wilma Dykeman
  •      Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks
  •      Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin
  •      The Weight of the World by David Joy
  •      We Once Were Here by Michael McFee
  •      Hazel Creek by Daniel Pierce
  •      The Risen by Ron Rash
  •      No One Is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts
  •      Confronting the Silence by Walter Ziffer

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  and, or Tim Tipton, WNCHA Executive Director at 828.253.9231 or visit

About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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