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Thursday, Sep 23, 2021

Lanier Prize awarded to Ellen Gilchrist

Ellen Gilchrist was awarded Mercer’s Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Writing on April 22.

The prize is awarded in recognition of a “significant career contribution to southern writing,” according to the Mercer Southern Studies website. Past recipients include Ernest Gaines and Spencer B. King Jr.

Gilchrist has a career spanning seven decades and has focused her writing on “her life, the lives of Southern women and the changing South,” said David Davis, chair of the Sidney Lanier Prize Committee. At the award ceremony Davis described Gilchrist as having a “Kaleidoscopic vision of the South.”

Davis also described Gilchrist’s writing as peeling away the “gentile veneer of the South.”

Gilchrist was born in Mississippi and has written 23 books in genres including poetry, short stories and fiction. She was first published in 1981 with her book titled “The Land Surveyor’s Daughter.” Her latest book, published in 2016, is a collection of autobiographical essays titled “Things like the Truth: Out of My Later Years.”

At the award ceremony Gilchrist received a large bronze medallion from Davis.

“I can put that with the only time I ran a marathon,” she said while getting the award. “I am honored to be here. I don’t know how many ways to say that.”

After receiving the award Gilchrist read her short story “Revenge,” which is about a young girl named Rhoda who wants to pole vault like her brothers and cousins.

“You can get revenge through writing,” Gilchrist said before beginning her story.

She also gave writers advice.

“Don’t dream it. It’s as simple as walking down a tree-lined street,” she said. “The more you write, the more you know.”

Gilchrist thanked the audience for the “pleasure of [their] company.”

After the ceremony and reading, Gilchrist signed books.


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