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UW Professor Receives Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year

February 22, 2017
man in cowboy hat sitting outside in a chair, legs crossed, looking into the distance
UW Creative Writing Program Associate Professor Brad Watson is the recipient of the 2017 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year. (Nell Hanley Photo)

University of Wyoming Creative Writing Program Associate Professor Brad Watson is the recipient of the 2017 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year.

Watson, a University of Alabama alumnus, received the award, given to a living, nationally recognized Alabama writer who has made a significant lifelong contribution to the state. Watson will receive the honor during the Alabama Writers Symposium dinner in Monroeville, Ala., April 20.

“The honor of receiving the Harper Lee Award includes not only following the many great writers who have already received it, joining their ranks in that regard, but of course, the association with Harper Lee herself and her great novels,” Watson says.

Lee, from Monroeville, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning American classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” in 1960, died last February.

UW Creative Writing Program Director Jeff Lockwood praises his colleague for his ability to connect with students.

“This extraordinary honor earned by Brad Watson goes to show that the arts at UW have the capacity to be nationally recognized and celebrated if provided with resources -- and we have been enormously fortunate that the Excellence Fund has allowed the Creative Writing Program to flourish,” Lockwood says. “While Brad is being recognized as a literary gift to the nation, keep in mind that this extraordinary author is in the classroom teaching Wyoming’s young people the ins and outs of writing fiction. Not many universities provide this intimacy between undergraduates and leaders in the arts.”

Originally from Mississippi, Watson joined the UW faculty in 2005. He previously taught at the University of Alabama, Harvard University, the University of California-Irvine and the University of Mississippi. He has held fellowships through the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lannan Foundation and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

He received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama, and has worked as a reporter and editor for Alabama newspapers, including The Montgomery Advertiser.

“Brad Watson is most deserving of the Harper Lee Award,” says Don Noble, host of “Bookmark,” Alabama Public Television’s literary interview show. “He is the best Southern fiction writer of his generation.”

Watson’s latest novel, “Miss Jane,” was among 10 nominees last fall for the prestigious National Book Award for Fiction. His first novel, “The Heaven of Mercury,” was a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award for Fiction and received the Southern Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction. He has written two collections of short stories -- “Last Days of the Dog-Men,” which received the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1997, and “Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives,” which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2011. Additionally, he won an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2013.

The Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year is presented annually by Coastal Alabama Community College at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville.

For more information, email Watson at wwatson@uwyo.edu.


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