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Four new fellows join Emory's Creative Writing Program

Four young writers have begun their fellowships in Emory’s nationally recognized Creative Writing Program: Gabriel Houck, Katie Condon, Kimberly Belflower and Josh Wilder.

Emory has gained a national reputation in recent years as an incubator for young creative writers, due in no small part to an impressive faculty led by Jericho Brown, Winship Distinguished Research Professor in Creative Writing and director of Emory’s creative writing program. Brown, winner of the 2009 American Book Award for his first poetry collection, “Please,” is one of only five finalists for the 2019 National Book Award for poetry for his latest collection, “The Tradition.”

Other faculty who draw students to the acclaimed creative writing program include Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hank Klibanoff and award-winning author Tayari Jones, whose best-selling novel “An American Marriage” won the Women’s Prize for Fiction and other honors. 

As the fall semester began, the Creative Writing Program and Theater Studies department welcomed four talented young writers for two-year fellowships in fiction, poetry and playwriting. Fellows teach and mentor students while also working on their own creative projects. 

All four fellows will share their work as part of the 2019-2020 Creative Writing Reading Series. The first event, featuring fiction writer Gabriel Houck and playwright Kimberly Belflower, will be Monday, Nov. 18. A reading featuring poet Katie Condon and playwright Josh Wilder is set for Feb. 18, 2020.

Playwriting: Kimberly Belflower

“My work is largely about young women finding their voice and recognizing their worth in a world that teaches them to be small,” says playwright Kimberly Belflower. “It’s unabashedly feminist and feelings-first.”

The Georgia native’s play “Lost Girl” received the 2018 Kennedy Center Darrell Ayers National Playwriting Award. 

During her tenure at Emory, Belflower plans to continue writing new work for the theater, television and film. Among her many in-process works are a theater adaptation of “Wuthering Heights” and a TV pilot about boy bands and online fan communities. A reading of Belflower’s play “The Use of Wildflowers” will be part of the Playwriting Center during Theater Emory’s Brave New Works festival in 2020.

Belflower finds much inspiration in Emory undergraduates. “My playwriting students are making the most exciting work — wild and weird, super specific and risky, beautiful stuff,” she says. “The balance they strike between supporting and challenging each other and me is an inspiration. I leave every class feeling energized and lucky.”

Poetry: Katie Condon

Poet Katie Condon’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House and Prairie Schooner. Her forthcoming book, “Praying Naked,” follows a speaker “who embraces both the thrill and subsequent shame associated with lust, religion and grief,” explains Condon. 

“It’s an honor to serve as Emory’s Poetry Fellow,” says Condon. “It’s not beyond me how fortunate I am to be a part of this academic and creative community for the next two years.”

Condon also feels privileged to have the opportunity to interact with Emory’s creative writing undergraduates. “They are driven, curious and are willing to experiment and take creative risks,” she says. “I feel deeply fortunate to work with such an invested and talented group of students.” 

Fiction: Gabriel Houck

Fiction writer Gabriel Houck’s career started in journalism; however, while working on the nonfiction book project he built his doctoral study around, Houck began to suspect his writing may be better suited to a different medium.

“I didn’t have the instincts of a journalist,” he says. “I wanted to tell true stories, but the more I wrote and published essays, the more I kept running into my own limits as a writer.” 

In fiction, Houck found the freedom to explore truth and the human condition in a way that suits his particular brand of writing. “Fiction writing is invention, self-scrutiny and risk, but most of all, it is a diligent form of empathy,” Houck says. “It gives me just enough permission to blend memories, collage details, atomize and re-process experience into the characters and settings and texture of something new.” 

The New Orleans native’s work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His first collection, “You or a Loved One,” won the 2017 Orison Fiction Prize.  

Playwriting: Josh Wilder

Josh Wilder writes plays that he describes as “inner-city magical realism,” largely inspired by what he calls his “universe of six blocks” – the Philadelphia neighborhood of his childhood. “My work touches the political, social, familial and magical aspects of living in the broken and forgotten neighborhoods of America,” he says.

Wilder’s work has been produced at the Kennedy Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Atlanta’s own True Colors Theatre Company. His plays have garnered numerous awards, including the Holland New Voices Award, the Lorraine Hansberry Award, and the Rosa Parks Award. 

For his part, Wilder greatly enjoys teaching the “ambitious, adventurous and forward-thinking” playwriting students he’s come in contact with at Emory. “This fellowship offers me space and time to write,” says Wilder, “but it’s also a great opportunity to strengthen my skills as an educator and nurturer of the next generation.”

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