English professor awarded prestigious NEA creative writing fellowship

Camille Dungy portrait
Professor Camille Dungy, Department of English

English Professor Camille Dungy has been awarded a prestigious $25,000 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The NEA has a long history of providing funding for the creation and translation of some of the world’s best literature. The fellowships are highly competitive, with awards split between Creative Writing and Translation. Dungy won a Creative Writing NEA Fellowship in Prose for 2018. There were 1,692 eligible applicants for the Creative Writing category this year.

She was excited about it, too.

“I was circling Old Town looking for parking, because I’d been trying to run in to Old Firehouse Books to pick up some gift certificates,” she said. “I pulled over in a fire lane when I realized the call was from the NEA. Even with my car’s hands-free phone system, I would have been too ecstatic and distracted to drive safely.”

Dungy, an award-winning author of four full-length poetry collections and the editor of three poetry anthologies, released her first collection of literary essays this summerGuidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History. The book is about the intersection of multiple identities, the convergence of various histories and the rich diversity of place.

Cover of Camille Dungy's book, Guidebook to Relative Strangers
Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History is Camille Dungy’s first collection of literary essays.

Guidebook has generated positive feedback from readers and critics alike. Since its release this summer, Dungy’s been giving readings around the country promoting the book. When asked what the book tour has been like, Dungy responded, “Oh, goodness, it’s wonderful! To know I’ve written books that are reaching so many people is deeply gratifying. So much of writing happens in solitude, and I’m glad now to have a chance to share this work more widely with the world.” 

The recent announcement of the 2018 NEA Awards states that through its Creative Writing Fellowships, the NEA “gives writers the freedom to create, revise, conduct research, and connect with readers.”

When asked how the fellowship would support her work, Dungy said, “Knowing the prize committee believed in my project means a huge amount. I know how compassionately competitive this process is, and to see my name included with the list of this year’s other 35 fellows … it’s the sort of vote of confidence writers dream about!”

Dungy’s award will support her as she works on a new project.

“Starting a new project always means writing one page, and then another,” she said. “Eventually everything will clarify, but I’m not there yet. Still, my prose work began that way. I found myself writing in the direction of the essay. It was scary because, for me, it was new. But look what just happened with that! This prize helps build my faith that I can trust my new projects.”

The Department of English is part of CSU’s College of Liberal Arts.