Carolina Wren Press establishes Lee Smith Prize

by Sarah Hager

The Triangle has always supported (and produced) great writers, but one Triangle-based publisher is taking it one step further. Chapel Hill-based Carolina Wren Press has established the Lee Smith Prize to be awarded to a novel by an author from, living in, or writing about the American South.  The author chosen for the inaugural Lee Smith Novel Prize receives an award of $1,000 and publication of one novel.  The biennial prize seeks to find and promote novelists who can explore and expand the definition of southern literature.

The Press, originally founded in 1976 by Judy Hogan, has positioned itself as having a deep local base and providing a home for quality southern literature. It also provides opportunities for works by authors “traditionally underrepresented in mainstream publishing, such as women, southerners, people of color, and talented midlist authors looking for new publishing homes.” The company runs as an independent nonprofit and is known for their support of Triangle writers and poets, from publishing and promotion to bringing more literary events to the local community.

In establishing this prize, Carolina Wren Press combined their passion for helping authors and southern literature with honoring a prominent author in the genre, teacher Lee Smith. The prize, named in Smith’s honor, aims to inspire both local and national writers to create or find a niche for their current unpublished works.

“Lee Smith has been such an unfailingly gracious, giving, and supportive mentor and influence for so many other writers and readers both here in the South and around the country that we felt it was time there was a major publication prize named for her,” Robin Miura, co-director of Carolina Wren Press, said. “She is interested in exploring the ways that the South has changed and is continually changing—how that affects those of us from this region and those coming to this region—and that is something we are also excited to explore.  We are thrilled and honored that Lee Smith has agreed to lend us not only her name, but also her wholehearted support for this prize.”

The first winner of the Lee Smith Novel Prize will be chosen next year and the first novel will be published in 2015.  This prize is open to local, regional, national, and even international authors as long as there is a connection in the work to the American South. Submissions will be accepted electronically until November 30, 2013.  More information on how to submit and requirements are on Carolina Wren Press’ website. Only electronic submissions will be considered.  For the Lee Smith Novel Prize, board members will read submissions blindly.  The editorial board will then vote to choose a winner to be published.

“Contests are a great way to level the playing field so that experienced and emerging writers can all throw their hats into the same ring and have an equal chance at being published,” Mirua said. “We are completely open to reading works by new and unknown writers and are hoping we will find new and exciting voices in southern literature through this prize.”

Operating on a shoestring, donations and a grant-funded budget, Carolina Wren Press welcomes support to help get the Lee Smith Novel Prize off the ground.  If Triangle arts supporters and friends would like to honor Lee Smith with a tax-deductible gift to support the prize, they can send a check to Carolina Wren Press, 120 Morris St., Durham, NC 27701, or they can donate online.

For more information about Carolina Wren Press and the Lee Smith Prize, you can visit their websiteFacebook, or Twitter.

Sarah Hager is a graduate of N.C. State University and currently works in marketing. She DJs at WKNC 88.1 and is enthusiastic about North Carolina’s music scene. In her free time, she enjoys going to shows, reading and playing guitar. You can follow Sarah on Twitter  or email her. 

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