Author Lee Smith is the 2013 winner of the Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature.
Mercer University’s Southern Studies Program awards the Sidney Lanier Prize to honor significant contributions to Southern writing.
The stories Smith writes are often about the southern Appalachian Mountains. Her works include the novels “Oral History, Family Linen,” “Fair and Tender Ladies” and “The Last Girls,” as well as collections of short stories. Her most recent book was “Mrs. Darcy and the Blue Eyed Stranger.”
According to Dr. David Davis, chair of the selection committee and assistant professor in the English department, Smith’s stories “capture the poetic language, the changing landscape, the family traditions, the hardship and humanity of the mountains.”
Dr. Davis also said that Smith is one of the greatest writers in America, and the department is “deeply honored that she will accept the prize.”
This is the second Sidney Lanier Prize the Southern Studies program has awarded to a writer.
Last year, the Southern Studies Program awarded the author Ernest Gaines, who wrote novels such as “A Lesson Before Dying” and “Of Love and Dust” the Sidney Lanier Prize.
Lee Smith will come to Mercer to give a reading of her work that is open to the public.
According to Dr. Davis, “The writer who receives the prize comes to Mercer to give a public reading, so the university and the community benefit from the talents of a major writer.”
The award received its name for the Southern poet Sidney Lanier. Sidney Lanier was a 19th century poet who was born in Macon.
The award received its name from Lanier to recognize Macon’s important contributions to southern writing.
Lanier’s work includes poems such as “The song of the Chattahoochee” and “The Marshes of Glynn.”
According to Dr. Davis, Mercer has the only undergraduate Southern Studies Program in the country.
The Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature is just one part of the Southern Studies Program at Mercer.
Other events held by the Southern Studies Program include the Lamar Lectures, which according to Dr. Davis is “the most prestigious series of lectures on the history and culture of the U.S. South.”
The Southern Studies Program also awards a Lanier Scholarship to prospective Mercer students if they excel in a creative writing competition.
The intent of the scholarship is to attract talented writers to Mercer.
Members of the Selection Committee for the Sidney Lanier Prize include several Mercer professors, scholars, and members of Macon’s community.
Some of the members of the committee include Sharon Colley, associate professor of English at Middle Georgia State College; Sarah Gardner, professor of History at Mercer; Pam Thomasson, former president of Historic Macon; and several others.
Smith’s public reading will be in the Presidents dining room.
The reading will take place on Saturday, April 13 and is open to the public.