Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Muse: Idaho's Writer-in-Residence

Novelist Brady Udall was appointed Idaho's Writer-in-Residence on July 1 and will serve through June 30, 2013. Udall, author of The Lonely Polygamist (W.W. Norton, 2010), is associate professor  in the M.F.A. creative writing program at Boise State. His other work includes The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint (Vintage, 2002; available through resellers) and Letting Loose the Hounds:  Stories (W.W. Norton, 1980). His work has appeared in The Paris Review, among other publications, and his stories and essays have been featured on NPR's This American Life program.

Idaho's Writer-in-Residence from July 1, 2007, to July 1, 2010, was Anthony "Tony" Doerr. An award-winning short-story writer and novelist, Doerr has published The Shell Collector: Stories (Penguin, 2003), About Grace: A Novel (Penguin, 2005), Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World, a memoir (Scribner, 2008), and Memory Wall: Stories (Scribner, 2010).

The position — the highest level of literary recognition accorded an Idaho writer — originally established as state Poet Laureate in 1923 was first held by Irene Welsh Grissom, who served until 1948. She was succeeded by Sudie Stuart Hager, who held the position from 1949 to 1982. In 1982, the name was changed to Writer-in-Residence, the position was opened to fiction and nonfiction writers, and the term of office restricted to two years. The first writer named under the new title was Ron McFarland, a poet, essayist, nonfiction writer who served one year, from 1984 to 1985. 

Since McFarland, 10 writers, including Doerr, have held the job: Robert Wrigley (1986-1987), Eberle Umbach (1988-1989), Neidy Messer (1990-1991), Daryl Jones (1992-1993), Clay Morgan (1994-1995), Lance Olsen (1996-1998), Bill Johnson (1999-2000), Jim Irons (2001-2004), and Kim Barnes (2004-2006).

An appointee is selected by the governor from a list of recommendations prepared for the Idaho Commission on the Arts by a nongovernmental panel with three out-of-state writers. Recommendations are based on Idaho applicants' submissions of writing samples, rendered anonymous for judging and rated for artistic excellence, contributions to the field, and oral presentation. 

Idaho's Writer-in-Residence, who receives $2,666 annually, is required to present 12 public readings during his or her three-year term, eight of which must be in rural communities, and may be required to give three additional readings at special public events. (The amount of compensation has been changed several times. In 1986, the award was $10,000 for two years and 12 public readings. In 1998, the term of service was changed to three years and the award reduced to $8,000 over the term.) The award recipient receives allowable travel expenses in addition to the monetary award. He or she is limited to two nonconsecutive awards in a lifetime.

Responsibility for the Writer-in-Residence Award rests with the state arts commission.


Brady Udall Website

Interviews with Brady Udall: Book Browse, Identity Theory (2002), Bookslut (June 2010), The Seattle Times (May 2010)

Brady Udall Huffington Post Column

Anthony Doerr Website

Christopher Mohar, "Prayer, Inquiry, Memory: An Interview with Anthony Doerr", Fiction Writers Review, August 4, 2010

Doerr Reading Essays at PopTech 2009: Butterflies on a Wheel and Am I Still Here?

History of Writer-in-Residence Award

Idaho Center for the Book Newsletter, Vol. 15, No. 2, October 2009 (This issue of the biannual publication is devoted to information about the Poet Laureate/Writer-in-Residence Award and has brief features on Eberle Umbach, Daryl Jones, Lance Olsen, Clay Morgan, William Johnson, Jim Irons, Kim Barnes, and Anthony Doerr.)

Idaho Commission on the Arts

Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series: Idaho Poet Laureates

Idaho Writer-in-Residence Award

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