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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2002
Shay Youngblood, award-winning poet, playwright, novelist is new University of Mississippi Grisham writer-in-residence

June 3 , 2002


Shay Youngblood

OXFORD, Miss. — Shay Youngblood finds magic in the written word. As a toddler and avid reader, she even dreamed of living in a library.

As the 2002-03 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, Youngblood shares her literary fascination when she assumes the teaching post in August.

An award-winning poet, playwright and fiction writer, she is the newest recruit for the 10-year-old program, which embraces emerging Southern writers. Relocating to the University of Mississippi to teach creative writing is “like coming home,” Youngblood said, after a stint as a visiting professor for New York University’s graduate creative writing program.

She is set to teach fiction in the fall and a multi-genre workshop next spring.

“Being from Georgia and having spent many summers in southern Alabama, the music, the food, the poetry in a turn of a Southern phrase, the thick smell of pine trees and a heavy rain coming are all familiar to me,” she said. “I appreciate being part of new writers’ growth by offering my experiences as a writer and teacher.”

Joseph Urgo, chair of the UM Department of English, said he and his colleagues are looking forward to Youngblood’s arrival. “Shay was a hit at the Oxford Conference for the Book, delivering a riveting reading from her book Black Girl in Paris,” he said.

The Oxford community “has a rich literary history and I expect to be inspired to create new work,” said Youngblood, whose short story “Born With Religion” won a Pushcart Prize. “When I heard about the blues archives at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, I thought I might also attempt to work on a project that would combine my love of music and theater.”

Youngblood’s other work includes Soul Kiss and The Big Mama Stories. Her play Talking Bones received the Kennedy Center’s Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award in 1993, and Shakin’ The Mess Outta Misery received best playwright, producer, director and supporting actor awards from the Hollywood NAACP Theater Awards in 1991.

“The Grisham fellows are accomplished writers, and I’m honored to be part of such a distinguished group,” said Youngblood, who has degrees from Brown University and Clark-Atlanta University. “The generosity of the Grisham residency will allow me to not only develop new work and encourage new writers, but it also gives me the opportunity to be in a community with colleagues whose work I admire.”

The annual appointment, which includes housing and a stipend, is funded by the novelist and his wife, who were Oxford residents for several years. Recipients are required to teach writing workshops and participate in department activities.


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