What she Dared not Imagine: Southern New Hampshire University Faculty Member Jessica Anthony Receives Maine Arts Commission Fellowship

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As a writer, novelist Jessica Anthony has always valued imagination over experience. “When I started writing fiction, I often struggled with real life and invention,” she said. “But as soon as I let go of what I ‘knew’, as soon as I began aiming for pure unadulterated invention, the boundaries suddenly disappeared. It was a very freeing, happy experience not to have to rely on experience to tell a story.”

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Jessica is a very popular mentor in our program whose wit and storytelling verve just shine from the podium during the faculty readings at our residencies. Anything that allows an artist like this to produce new work faster is good for all of us.

As a writer, novelist Jessica Anthony has always valued imagination over experience. “When I started writing fiction, I often struggled with real life and invention,” she said. “But as soon as I let go of what I ‘knew’, as soon as I began aiming for pure unadulterated invention, the boundaries suddenly disappeared. It was a very freeing, happy experience not to have to rely on experience to tell a story.”

Another part of real life, though, involves having the opportunity to tell your stories in the first place, and for Anthony—who teaches on the faculty of Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction program—that just got easier as well. She is the recipient of a 2013 Individual Artist’s Fellowship Award from the Maine Arts Commission. This comes with a $13,000 grant, which is believed to be the biggest award to a single artist made by any state arts agency in the country.

This month the Maine Arts Commission announced the recipients of five such awards, the purpose of which is to “reward artistic excellence, advance the careers of Maine artists, and promote public awareness regarding the eminence of the creative sector in Maine.”

Anthony’s is the sole literary fellowship. Her “artistic excellence” credentials rest in part on her debut novel “The Convalescent” (McSweeney’s, 2009), which won the Amanda Davis Award. She is also co-author (with Rodrigo Corral) of the 2012 young adult novel “Chopsticks,” and she is a winner of the Summer Literary Seminars fiction contest.

Anthony’s short fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s, Best American Voices, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and the Mid-American Review. She has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, the Ucross Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Anthony also teaches creative writing and literature at Bates College, and is currently working on several novellas. “Every writer dreams of receiving extraordinary support for his or her work, but does not dare imagine it,” she said. “Receiving the Individual Artist Fellowship means many things to me, but above all, it means the gift of time—time to allow the subconscious connections buried within a novella to rise up and present themselves, and time to break from life’s routine to write.”

SNHU MFA program director Diane Les Becquets, also a novelist, said, “Jessica is a very popular mentor in our program whose wit and storytelling verve just shine from the podium during the faculty readings at our residencies. Anything that allows an artist like this to produce new work faster is good for all of us.”

It’s the sort of award that might have seemed at one time like “pure, unadulterated” invention to Anthony. But now that it’s very much a part of real life, her own pure invention will enjoy a much freer and more intuitive rein.

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