BOONE—Abigail DeWitt of Burnsville, a visiting assistant professor at Appalachian State University, is one of 18 individuals who have received a North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship for 2015–16.
Each fellowship recipient will receive $10,000 to support creative development and the creation of new work. Recipients were selected by panels comprised of artists and arts professionals with expertise in each discipline.
DeWitt teaches in the creative writing program in Appalachian’s Department of English.
Her published work includes the novels “Dogs” and “Lili” and a short essay about writing published in “What Writers Do.” Her short stories have been published in several literary journals, including The Carolina Quarterly, Salamander and The Journal and a new story from her collection will soon be published in the Alaska Quarterly Review. She also has been noted in the anthology Best American Short Stories.
The NC Arts Council fellowship will support Dewitt’s work on a collection of linked short stories titled “The Sex Appeal of the French & Other Stories” based on her mother’s experiences as a French teenager living under Nazi occupation, and on Dewitt’s and her siblings’ experiences growing up half-French in Chapel Hill during the 1960s.
“My mother’s father was killed at Auschwitz; her mother and sister died in Normandy in the D-Day bombs,” DeWitt said. “When French children of my generation whined or complained, our mothers told us, ‘If you’d known the war, you’d hush.’ I wanted to know, to understand what I’d missed. Writing these stories about survivor guilt, ‘collateral damage’ and the ways trauma filters down through the generations is my attempt to make sense of what is beyond all sense.”
DeWitt grew up traveling between France and the U.S. and still returns there as often as possible. The fellowship will enable her to spend time in France researching the specific places and events that appear in her stories. “In particular, I want to spend time in Normandy. After my mother’s home was bombed, no one in the family ever went back, so, ironically, it’s the part of France I’m least familiar with.”
DeWitt is also starting a new novel about the punishments suffered by young French prostitutes who slept with Germans during WWII, and will research that while in France.
DeWitt’s awards include a Michener Fellowship, Tyrone Guthrie Residency Fellowship and a grant from the Asheville Arts Alliance. She received her BA from Harvard University and her MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.
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