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Mercer Awards Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature to Lee Smith

January 22, 2013
MACON — Mercer University’s Southern Studies Program has named writer Lee Smith as the recipient of the 2013 Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature. The Sidney Lanier Prize honors significant career contributions to Southern writing in drama, fiction or poetry. Smith will give a public reading in the Presidents Dining Room of the University Center on Saturday, April 13, at 3 p.m. The reading is free and open to the public. Lee Smith (photo by Susan Woodley Raines). “Lee Smith tells stories about people in southern Appalachia facing change, keeping tradition, raising families, living, loving, dying, leaving and returning,” said Dr. David A. Davis, chair of the selection committee and an assistant professor of English at Mercer. “Her books are a microcosm of the human experience, using the mountains to accentuate beauty and hardship.”


A native of southwest Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains, Smith has published 12 novels, including Oral History, Family Linen and Fair and Tender Ladies, and four collections of short stories throughout her career. Her novel, The Last Girls, published in 2003, was a New York Times bestseller and a “Good Morning America” Book Club pick. She has received numerous awards throughout her career: the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the North Carolina Award for Literature and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the State Library of Virginia. Her most recent book is a collection of new and selected stories published in 2011, titled Mrs. Darcy and the Blue Eyed Stranger.

“I am so pleased and honored to accept the Lanier Prize,” Smith said. “I look forward to talking with everybody there.”

The Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature is named for Sidney Lanier, the 19th Century Southern poet born in Macon. Lanier wrote “The Song of the Chattahoochee” and “The Marshes of the Glynn.”

The selection committee for the Lanier Prize includes Mercer professors, eminent scholars of Southern literature and members of the Macon community. In addition to Dr. Davis, the committee members include Trudier Harris, professor of English at the University of Alabama; Michael Kreyling, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt University; Minrose Gwin, Kenan Professor of English at the University of North Carolina; Matt Martin, Knox Professor of Humanities at Wesleyan College; Pam Thomasson, past president of Historic Macon; Sharon Colley, associate professor of English at Middle Georgia State College; Sarah Gardner, professor of history at Mercer University; and Gordon Johnston, professor of creative writing at Mercer University.

Smith will also speak at a luncheon on April 13 for finalists of Mercer’s Sidney Lanier creative writing scholarship competition. The competition is open only to high school juniors with high aptitude for writing. Winners will receive up to $5,000 per year toward the cost of tuition at Mercer. To be eligible, students must complete an application and submit either a work of short fiction of no more than 700 words or two poems totaling no more than 700 words. For more information, and to apply, go to: https://mercer.edu.185r.net/survey/?id=178

Mark Vanderhoek
(478) 301-4037
vanderhoek_m@mercer.edu