Literary awards coming fast for Western’s Ron Rash

CULLOWHEE – At the rate he’s been collecting awards lately, Ron Rash, the Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, is going to need a bigger display case.

Ron Rash

Ron Rash

Less than three months after being notified that he is among the nation’s recipients of the prestigious O. Henry Prize for short fiction for 2005, Rash now gets word of two significant awards for Appalachian literature.

Rash is winner of this year’s Weatherford Award for Fiction presented by the Appalachian Studies Association and Berea College for his second novel, “Saints at the River.” The award, which includes a $500 honorarium, was announced as part of the Appalachian Studies Conference held March 18-20 at Radford University in Virginia. Past recipients of the award include John Ehle, Lee Smith and Charles Frazier.

Rash also will receive the 2005 Thomas and Lillie B. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing, presented by Morehead State University in Kentucky. The award, which includes a $1,000 prize, was established through a bequest by the late Lillie D. Chaffin, associate poet laureate of Kentucky. It is presented in conjunction with the Bluegrass ‘n’ More festival, set for June 3-5. Past recipients include Silas House, Denise Giardina and James Still.

Rash, who teaches in Western’s English department, is author of two critically acclaimed novels based in the Appalachians – his debut novel “One Foot in Eden,” which was Western’s freshman summer reading selection for 2004, and “Saints at the River.” “One Foot in Eden ” won the 2003 Appalachian Writers Association Book of the Year Award and Foreword Magazine’s Gold Medal for Best Literary Novel of 2002. The Fellowship of Southern Writers presented Rash the James Still Award for Writing of the Appalachian South in November 2004.

Rash came to Western in 2003 from the University of South Carolina, where he served as visiting writer in the graduate creative writing program. At Western, he has helped set up a series of performances, readings and lectures that highlight mountain culture.