Foundation Awards MacColl Johnson Fellowship to Three RI Writers

Three Rhode Island writers have been named recipients of prestigious MacColl Johnson Fellowships from The Rhode Island Foundation. Angel Green, Michael Morse, and Stephanie Reents will receive $25,000 each – one of the largest no-strings-attached awards available to writers in the United States.

The Robert and Margaret MacColl Johnson Fellowship Fund, established at the Foundation in 2003, provides up to three artist fellowships each year, rotating among composers, writers, and visual artists on a three-year cycle. The financial support of $25,000 enables artists to concentrate time on the creative process, focus on personal or professional development, expand their body of work, and explore new directions. In the last eight years, 24 composers, writers, and visual artists have received more than $600,000.

The 2012 MacColl Johnson Fellows are:

  • Angel Green is on the faculty at University of Rhode Island (URI), teaching in the interdisciplinary studies program and the English department. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, she has published short stories in URI Review, Potomac Review, and African American Review and has been honored with the URI English Department’s Creative Nonfiction Award (1999), the Nancy Potter Short Story Award (2000), and a URI Foundation Dissertation Fellowship (2000). Green is working on an historical sociology that explores “American racism sited on the black female body.” A Newport resident, Green plans to use the fellowship to travel to Barbuda and the African island of Goree for research, as well as to a former breeding plantation off the coast of North Carolina. The fellowship will also allow Green to take some time off from teaching to focus on writing.
  • Michael Morse has served as an emergency medical technician and firefighter with the Providence Fire Department for more than 20 years. He will retire from service this year and hopes to transition into a full time writing career. Morse has published two narrative non-fiction books: Rescuing Providence (2007) and Responding EMS: It Happens Now(2011). Both books follow Morse on the job as he responds to emergencies throughout the city. A native of Warwick, this is the first grant or fellowship to which Morse has ever applied. Having spent many years working on an old computer between emergency calls, Morse plans to use a portion of his grant to purchase a new computer.
  • Stephanie Reents has taught as an assistant professor of English at Holy Cross since 2005. She has been named a Bread Loaf Conference Scholar, a Stegner Fellow, and a Rhodes Scholar. Her first book, The Kissing List (2012) received wide praise, including from The New Yorker and The New York Times. Additionally, Reents’ short stories have been included in the O. Henry Prize Stories, noted in the Best American Short Stories, and appeared in numerous journals. A resident of Providence, Reents plans to use the fellowship to take a leave from her teaching duties and return to Oxford, England, the setting of her novel in progress, The Claustrophobic House.

The Fellows were determined by a panel of four out-of-state professionals in the literary arts. The panel also named three finalists. These writers receive no cash award, but were recommended to be recognized:

  • Thomas McBee, the author of This Fragile Fortress, columnist for an online literary magazine The Rumpus, and contributor to and The New York Times.
  • E.C. Osondu, a Nigerian writer and Providence College assistant professor known for his short stories, including the award-winning Waiting and Janjaweed Wife.
  • Max Winter, author of the soon-to-be-completed novel, Louder than Good, and recipient of a 2012 RISCA Fellowship.

Rhode Islanders Robert and Margaret MacColl Johnson were both dedicated to the arts all their lives. Mrs. Johnson, who died in 1990, earned a degree in creative writing from Roger Williams College when she was 70. Mr. Johnson invented a new process for mixing metals in jewelry-making and then retired to become a fulltime painter. Before he died in 1999, Johnson began discussions with the Foundation to create what has become this prestigious fellowship program in music composition, literature, and visual arts.

Guidelines and applications for the 2013 fellowships, which will be awarded to visual artists, will be available on the Foundation’s website after July 1, 2013. For more information and application details, see Robert & Margaret MacColl Johnson Fellowships.

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