GREENVILLE—Miriam Herin of Greensboro is the winner of the 2018 Doris Betts Fiction Prize competition for her story “Lucky.” She will receive a prize of $250 from the North Carolina Writers’ Network, and her story will be published in the North Carolina Literary Review’s 2019 print issue.
Miriam Herin’s second novel, A Stone for Bread, published by Livingston Press of West Alabama University, was selected as one of Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2016. The author’s first novel Absolution won the 2007 Novello Press Literary Award, was a Finalist for Foreword Magazine’s 2007 Novel of the Year, and received the Independent Publisher's 2008 Gold Award for Best Fiction, Southeast Region. A native of Miami, Florida, she has lived in the Washington, DC, area and New York City, as well as in South Carolina where she earned a Ph.D in English Literature. She has taught Composition and Literature at Appalachian State University and Greensboro College, among other places. She spent over six years in inner city Charlotte organizing and directing a program for Southeast Asian teenagers, whose families were refugees from the Vietnam War, the genesis for the story “Lucky.”
This year’s final judge, Stephanie Powell Watts, received the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her debut story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need (Ecco Press, 2012), which was also named one of 2013’s Best Summer Reads by O: The Oprah Magazine. Her debut novel, No One Is Coming to Save Us (Ecco Press, 2017), the Inaugural Sarah Jessica Parker Pick for Book Club Central, was described as “a backwoods African-American version of The Great Gatsby” by Janet Maslin in The New York Times Book Review. Born in the foothills of North Carolina and receiving her BA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Watts currently lives with her husband and son in Pennsylvania where she is an associate professor at Lehigh University.
This year’s Betts competition drew 141 submissions. Watts selected Herin’s story from eighteen finalists, saying, “With inventive, deftly rendered scenes ‘Lucky’ tells the story of the protagonist, Sokha’s, epic journey to buy rice and a bottle of cola from a neighborhood store. Sokha is haunted by tragedy, and her memories of the Red Khmer in Cambodia many decades past rise unbidden and unwelcome as she navigates the streets of her American town.” Watts describes “Lucky” as “an intimate, tender story about the loss of community, our mutual fear of our neighbors, and the boundaries of our faith,” and says she will be "thinking about this beautiful story for a long time.”
Watts picked “Corin and Dorinda” by Asheville resident David Brendan Hopes for second place, calling it “a wise story that is, at its heart, a story of disappointment. Despite being an accomplished scholar and teacher, Dorinda watches while her husband gets the ‘real job’ and becomes more and better ensconced in the English department at his small rural college. ‘Corin and Dorinda’ is an emotionally intelligent story about what we are owed and what duty we have to the people in our lives in happy times and especially when we don’t get what we desperately need.” Hopes’s story will be published in NCLR Online 2019, which comes out in January or early February.
David Brendan Hopes is a Professor in the Department of English at UNC-Asheville. His novel, The Falls of the Wyona, won this year's Quill Prize from Red Hen Press; it is scheduled for publication at the end of the year. His plays Uranium 235 and Night Music have recently played at Asheville's Magnetic Theater, and his latest book of poems, Peniel, was published by St. Julian Press in 2017.
Watts also noted the finalists “Life List” by Ray Morrison and “For A Blaze of Sight” by Beth Gilstrap for honorable mention and remarked upon the strong narrative voice of finalists Mamie Potter in “Moving” and Chris Verner in “A Plague on the World.” Other finalists for the 2018 Doris Betts Fiction Prize were Colena Corbett’s “Definition of Perspective,” Fielding Clarke’s “Lost in Translation,” Frederica Morgan Davis’ “You & Me & John & Yoko,” Molly Edmonds’ “The Judge,” Ruben Gonzales’ “Her Red Slippers,” Thomas Johnson’s “End of the Line,” Ronald Jackson’s “Dog Jesus,” Callie Lewis’ “Tapeta Lucida,” Patricia Poteat’s “Pin Curls,” Lynn Sadler’s “Incarnation(s),” Sherry Shaw’s “Hyacinth Drive,” and Jennifer Vogel’s “The Eagle’s Nest.”
The annual Doris Betts Fiction Prize honors the late novelist and short story writer Doris Betts, the first to call North Carolina “the writingest state.” The competition is sponsored by the nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network, the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages of development. Betts’s support of writers, both her UNC students and countless other protégés, is manifested in the Network’s reminder that, particularly in North Carolina, “Nobody Writes Alone.” For additional information about the North Carolina Writers’ Network, visit www.ncwriters.org.
A two-year subscription to NCLR will include the 2018 issue, coming out this summer with the winning story from the 2017 Betts competition, as well as the 2019 issue, featuring Herin’s winning story from this year’s competition and an interview with Stephanie Powell Watts. Subscribe at www.nclr.ecu.edu/subscriptions.