Miller is pictured with Silas House and Lee Smith.
HOUSE AWARDS FIRST JEAN RITCHIE FELLOWSHIP TO MILLER
July 2, 2008 - Harrogate, Tennessee—Mindy Beth Miller, 25, of Grapevine, near Hazard, is the winner of the 2008 Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian Writing. The prize is $1,500 and is awarded to an Appalachian writer who shows overwhelming promise in the continuation of great writing in the region.
The fellowship is named for Ritchie, 85, who is an award-winning musician and writer who has been cited as a "national treasure" by the New York Times. Besides being an internationally known singer, songwriter, activist, and musicologist, Ritchie is also the author of several books.
Ritchie's best known work is Singing Family of the Cumberlands. The book has never been out of print since its 1955 publication and is known as one of the major classics in Appalachian literature.
Miller, the daughter of Lonnie and Linda Miller, currently works as a substitute teacher while she earns a Master of Fine Arts degree from Spalding University in Louisville. Miller is a 2001 graduate of Alice Lloyd College, where she graduated summa cum laude and was the class valedictorian. She has been writing since she was a child.
“I feel as though my work has been validated, and if I continue to work very hard, I could have the chance to play a part in the long legacy of great Appalachian writing,” Miller says.
The fellowship is awarded through Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) in Harrogate, Tenn., during the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival, an annual event that honors writers of the region like James Still and Jesse Stuart, both alums of LMU. The fellowship is funded by an anonymous donor and the judging process is completely blind, with a panel of judges within the region choosing several finalists that are then sent out of state to be judged by another panel of nationally-known authors. "Having read Ms. Miller's work, it is apparent that she is a major talent who will go onto properly represent our region," says Silas House, author of well-known books like Clay's Quilt and A Parchment of Leaves, who is director of the festival.
Miller says she takes the charge of being an Appalachian writer very seriously and hopes to write novels and short stories that pay tribute to this place and its people. “I love the people of Appalachia, and I believe that their stories are as significant as those of all other people in this country,” Miller says.
Miller was given the prize on June 14 in a banquet at the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival that ended with a keynote address by acclaimed Appalachian author Lee Smith. Miller names House and Smith as her two main influences.
Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs available at LMU, contact the Office of Admissions at 423-869-6280 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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