Carrie Brown, an associate professor of English at Sweet Briar, is one of three finalists for the 11th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards in the fiction category for her novel, “The Rope Walk” (Pantheon Books). It’s a familiar place for Brown, who is now a four-time finalist and two-time winner of the prize.
She won the category in 2005 for “Confinement” and in 2001 for “The Hatbox Baby.” A collection of short stories, “The House on Belle Isle and Other Stories,” was on the short list in 2003.
“The Rope Walk” is Brown’s fifth novel. Set against a backdrop of AIDS, 9-11, hurricanes, tsunamis and war, it is the story of 10-year-old Alice, the motherless daughter of a Shakespeare professor, and her friend Theo, a mixed-race boy who is living with his grandparents.
Brown, who has served as the College’s Margaret Banister Writer-in-Residence since fall 2007, began writing fiction after her husband, John Gregory Brown, became director of Sweet Briar’s creative writing program in 1994. She left a job she loved reporting and editing for a successful Maryland newspaper chain for 12 years.
“It was the first time in my life I hadn’t had to put on business clothes and go to work,” she said of the transition, adding that Sweet Briar proved an “easy place to work and be productive.”
She published her first novel, “Rose’s Garden,” in 1998 and followed it with “Lamb in Love” in 1999.
Another of this year’s Library of Virginia Literary Award finalists also has a Sweet Briar connection; Constance Merritt was the College’s Banister Writer-in-Residence from 2002 to 2005. The Lynchburg resident is nominated in poetry for “Blessings and Inclemencies: Poems” (Louisiana State University Press). Merritt’s previous works include “A Protocol for Touch,” winner of a Vassar Miller Prize in poetry.
The 2008 finalists were selected from 138 books nominated for the awards. According to a Library of Virginia press release, the awards were first given in 1998 to recognize the best books published the previous year by a Virginia author or in the case of nonfiction on a Virginia theme.
In a statement reflecting on the awards’ 10-year history, Brown said they have “brought deserved attention to the state’s rich community of writers.” She believes the recognition also keeps with the Library’s role in collecting and preserving Virginia’s written heritage – a collection she says everyone who visits Richmond should take the time to see.
“I’m really sincere in my enthusiasm for the Library of Virginia,” she said. “The building itself, just the stuff they have in there is totally cool.”
The winners will be announced at the 11th Annual Virginia Literary Awards Celebration, which will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Tickets to the gala are $85. For information, call (804) 692-3900.
The winners of the People’s Choice Award, the Weinstein Poetry Prize and the Whitney & Scott Cardozo Award for Children’s Literature also will be announced that evening.
Literary award recipients receive $3,500 and a crystal replica of a book.
Category: Creative Writing