Writers Uwem Akpan, Daniel Brook and Mary-Ann Tirone Smith are recipients of a prestigious, nine-month writing fellowship supported by the Bennet Fellows Program at the UNLV Black Mountain Institute (BMI), an international center for creative writers and scholars. The BMI writers-in-residence each receive $50,000 to produce a piece of literary work in an uninterrupted environment beginning this fall. Additionally, writers will discuss their work in a public forum and be available to mentor students in UNLV's nationally recognized creating writing programs.
"BMI recognizes Las Vegas as a valuable social laboratory providing writers opportunities to observe diverse cultures, communities of all ages and unique political and work environments," said Carol Harter, Black Mountain Institute executive director. "The BMI fellowship gives writers ample time and access to create dialogue with several accomplished writers - many of whom are UNLV faculty and guests of the BMI readings and panel series."
BMI awards three to five fellowships each year to exceptional writers who have published at least one highly acclaimed book before the application deadline. The fellows each have an office, computer and access to the UNLV Lied Library.
Akpan is a Nigerian-born author, who received the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book in the African region for his short stories collection, "Say You're One of Them," which was also selected for Oprah Winfrey's book club. He is the recipient of the 2009 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the 2009 PEN/Beyond Margins Award. While at the BMI, Akpan will work on a novel about street kids in Kenya and a novel about child trafficking in Gabon. Akpan's fellowship is supported by Tom and Mary Gallagher.
Brook is the recipient of the BMI-Kluge Fellowship and will spend a portion of his time in Las Vegas and a portion at the John W. Kluge Center for the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. He is the author of "The Trap: Selling out to Stay Afloat in Winner Take All America," and was the recipient of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Fellowship in 2008. As a BMI fellow, he will write on the architectural history and westernization of St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai and Dubai. He received the 2000 Rolling Stone College Journalism Competition and received the John Hershey Prize for outstanding nonfiction work.
Smith's book, "Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir," which examines a classmate's murder and her brother's undiagnosed autism in the 1950s, was named by National Public Radio as a best work of nonfiction for 2006. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon. Smith is the author of eight novels and taught fiction writing at Fairfield University. Smith's book reviews have been published in The Boston Globe, The Hartford Courant and The New York Times. Her fellowship is supported by Diana L Bennett.
Founded in 2006, the Black Mountain Institute (BMI) at UNLV supports a series of initiatives that promote humanistic and cross-cultural dialogue, including public readings and panel discussions, degree programs in creative writing, residential writing and faculty research fellowships and literary publications.