Sweet Briar professor a finalist for Library of Virginia’s 20th Annual Literary Awards

Sweet Briar professor John Gregory Brown
John Gregory Brown, Julia Jackson Nichols Professor of English at Sweet Briar College, is in the running for the Library of Virginia’s 20th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards.

Brown is nominated in the fiction category alongside Kelley Kerney (“Hard Red Spring”) and Lee Clay Johnson (“Nitro Mountain”) for his latest novel, “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere.” Nonfiction finalists include “Hidden Figures” author Margot Lee Shetterly, Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf (“Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination”) and Belle Boggs (“The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood”), who will read at Sweet Briar in November. Poetry finalists are Rita Dove (“Collected Poems: 1974–2004), Cathryn Hankla (“Great Bear”) and Sally Keith (“River House”).

In May, the Library of Virginia also announced the finalists for its People’s Choice Awards — one of them is Brown’s wife and fellow Sweet Briar professor, Margaret Banister Writer-in-Residence Carrie Brown.

“It’s a great honor to be named a finalist for this award,” Brown said. “This is the first of my novels to make use of Virginia as a setting, so it’s particularly gratifying to have the book recognized in this way. And it will be great fun, of course, for Carrie and me to attend the awards together this year.”

The Library of Virginia awards in poetry and fiction honor Virginia authors, while the nonfiction award is given to a writer working on a Virginia subject. Finalists were chosen by an independent panel of judges from hundreds of books nominated for the awards. The winner in each category will be selected from among these finalists and receive a monetary prize of $2,500.

"A Thousand Miles From Nowhere" cover“A Thousand Miles From Nowhere,” Brown’s fourth novel, follows the strange journey of Henry Garrett, who flees New Orleans just as Hurricane Katrina approaches. Haunted by his past, Henry stops in a small Virginia town, where tragic events — and a curious cast of characters — derail his quest for solitude.

“The author methodically conveys a sense of time and place, weaving in references to Kate Chopin’s classic 19th-century novel set in New Orleans, ‘The Awakening,’ and vivid descriptions of the city in the wake of the 2005 hurricane,” writes Publishers Weekly. “Brown is an expert storyteller, and his latest only further reinforces that claim.”

Born and raised in New Orleans, Brown is the author of the novels “Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery,” “The Wrecked, Blessed Body of Shelton Lafleur” and “Audubon’s Watch.” His honors include a Lyndhurst Prize, the Lillian Smith Award, the John Steinbeck Award, a Howard Foundation fellowship and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book of the Year Award. At Sweet Briar, Brown directs the creative writing program. He holds a B.A. in English from Tulane University and master’s degrees in English from Louisiana State University and from The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.

The Library of Virginia’s annual literary awards were first given in 1998 to recognize the best books published the previous year by Virginia authors or on a Virginia theme. The winners of the fiction, nonfiction and poetry awards — as well as the People’s Choice Awards — will be announced at the 20th Annual Library of Virginia Awards Celebration Honoring Virginia Authors & Friends on Oct. 14. Award-winning author Adriana Trigiani will again serve as host for this event. David Baldacci will be honored this year with a Literary Lifetime Achievement Award.

For ticket information, please call 804-692-3813. For more information about the awards, contact Amy Bridge at the at 804-692-3590 or amy.bridge@lva.virginia.gov.

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