Western Distinguished Professor Ron Rash wins NEA fellowship award

CULLOWHEE – Ron Rash, a distinguished professor in the English department at Western Carolina University, is a recipient of a writing fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Arts for the year 2006.

Ron Rash

Ron Rash

Rash, author of such award-winning books as “One Foot in Eden,” is the only writer from North Carolina and one 50 nationwide selected for the Creative Writing Fellowships in Prose. The agency received more than 900 applications for the fellowships of $20,000 each.

“The award will allow me to write full time in the summer on a new book of fiction,” said Rash, who joined the Western faculty in 2003 as the John A. Parris and Dorothy Luxton Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies. “The selection jury is made up of fiction writers, so it’s especially meaningful to have my work selected by fellow writers.”

Mary Adams, an associate professor in Western’s English department, won a National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowship last year. The highly competitive back-to-back awards to Western faculty demonstrate the high quality of the English department, said Rash, who also won a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1994.

The creative writing fellowships are part of more than $20.4 million in funding the National Endowment for the Arts announced Thursday. They represent a direct investment in American creativity by encouraging the production of new work and allowing writers the time and means to write or translate, said an NEA representative.

“This year the National Endowment for the Arts celebrates its 40th anniversary of leadership in the arts,” said NEA Senior Deputy Chairman Eileen Mason. “Through these grants and fellowships, the NEA continues its legacy of bringing arts of the highest quality to communities nationwide.”

Rash has authored books of poetry, short stories and novels including “One Foot in Eden” and “Saints at the River.” His awards include the O. Henry Prize for short fiction, the Weatherford Award for Fiction and the 2005 Thomas and Lillie B. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing. One of his short stories, “Chemistry,” is the subject of a film project at Western.

At Western, Rash has worked with the Mountain Heritage Center on a performance series that highlights Appalachian culture. Presenters have included a Cherokee storyteller, an Appalachian novelist, gospel singers and an archaeologist.

He also has brought writers to campus including Ted Kooser, the U.S. poet laureate, and Beth Henley, author of “Crimes of the Heart.”

For more information, contact Western’s English department at (828) 227-7264.