Pen/Hemingway Recognition

Pen/Hemingway Recognition

Every writer has a dream award, the one that she knows would change life forever. Pen/Hemingway, an award for first fiction book, has always been one of those for me. It’s the kind of award that you can get only when you are starting out. Only first-time fiction writers are eligible. It’s a fairy tale award. A Cinderella story award. A happy ending for a first book, and a beginning for just one lucky writer a year–plus a powerful nod to finalists and honorable mentions.

Founded by Mary Hemingway in 1976 to honor her husband Ernest, and to recognize “distinguished first books of fiction,” the award is administered by the wonderful PEN organization for writers.

Some of my favorite writers have won this award, here are just a few:

1981 – Joan Silber for Household Words

1985 – Josephine Humphreys for Dreams of Sleep

1993 – Edward P. Jones for Lost in the City

The recognition that comes from this award starts careers, lets the world know you are writing something worth reading. Plus, how cool is it to have your name in the same paragraph with Hemingway’s?

Yesterday afternoon I got the confirmation that Accidental Birds of the Carolinas was selected for Honorable Mention for the Pen/Hemingway award.

I am still so excited that I’m not quite breathing right. Today I celebrate by calling friends, doing a little yoga, and taking the dog for a very long walk, a glass of wine with a friend. Tomorrow, it’s back to writing the next thing. But ahh, the sweetness will linger through my days. Thank you, Mr. Hemingway, and your lovely wife Mary.

To read about this year’s winner, finalists, and honorable mentions, see


Pomegranate Books Homecoming

Pomegranate Books Homecoming
Kathleen Jewell

I don’t live in Wilmington, NC, but sometimes it seems like home. It is the town where my first publisher released my first book. My first review was written by homeboy Ben Steelman, who’s now published the first review of my second book. The bookstore where I first read here, Bristol Books, is no longer in business, but the manager, Nicki Leone, is still in town and still making books her living–now working for SIBA, the great independent bookstore organization for the South.  A new independent bookstore, Pomegranate Books, owned by Kathleen Jewell, is a jewel of a store,

The Great Wicker Chair

with a big wicker chair for an author to sit in, and rows and rows of favorite books on the tables and shelves. Now Accidental Birds of the Carolinas takes its place on the shelves.

Rarely have I had a reading feel like a reunion! Last night’s reading crowd included Kelly, whose childhood curiousity about my (somewhat gritty) writing can now be assuaged–he’s all grown up now!; Blonnie, who’s now published two novels of her own; her writing group friend Peggy; my old pal

Hudson and Friends

Virginia Holman, memoirist and fiction writer, plus her beautiful LARGE son and husband; Jonnye, a great reader and friend since the day a tornado busted up a reading in Southport and we just sat and told stories; Nan, a fellow author at Coastal Carolina, whose Southern voice rings out famously on WHQR commentaries; Dorothy, the stalwart librarian of a terrific town library. It is extraordinary to have gathered around me such loyal readers and friends. Thank you all for making “book tour” an embodiment of the motto I stole from lovely Margaret in E.M Forster’s HOWARDS END: “Only connect. ”

For surely that is what we do when we read and talk and listen together.

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