Literary excellence

Published 6:39 am Monday, April 21, 2014

By J. E. Barker

University Relations

MURFREESBORO – As Southern author Sharyn McCrumb is poised to earn the 20th anniversary of the Hobson Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Arts & Letters at the free lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 28 in Vaughan Auditorium, she reflects on her own roots and the journey that has brought her this recognition.

“For twenty years Chowan has partnered with the Hobson Family Foundation to expose the university community as well as the public to outstanding writers of the South,” explains Chowan Provost Dr. Danny Moore. “The Prize recipients, from Kaye Gibbons in 1995 to Sharyn McCrumb in 2014, represent the epitome of southern literary excellence.”

“It is, of course, lovely to be in the company of fine Southern writers, and I am glad to be recognized by the people in my home state,” remarked McCrumb, a Wilmington native who admitted to knowing most of the previous winners and enjoying their works. “The fact that the award has honored many distinguished and well-known authors brings it to the attention of a wide audience.”

McCrumb is no stranger to awards either. Having made the New York Times’ Best-Sellers List with several of her books like She Walks These Hills and The Rosewood Casket, McCrumb has been honored with the Library of Virginia Award, as well as a number of regional awards, including the Wilma Dykeman Award for Historical Writings from the East Tennessee Historical Society. McCrumb was also awarded the Audie Award for the Best Recorded Book for the narrative of her work Ghost Riders.

Throughout her career, McCrumb has spoken in universities and libraries across the country, including the Smithsonian, and abroad at the University of Bonn in Germany, a mountain studies conference in Alberta, Canada, as well as teaching and serving as writer in residence at several colleges.

McCrumb’s mountain lifestyle sets her apart from others in her literary field in order to rise to distinction, even amongst the previous Hobson recipients.

“Most of your previous Hobson recipients have been academics, and I live on a remote farm in the Virginia Blue Ridge,” she stated.

Her unique perspective and passion for Appalachia’s local history are what drives her creative endeavors.

“As a native North Carolinian, I have always been interested in the history and folklore of the Carolina mountains. There are wonderful, little-known stories in western NC, and significant people who never got the opportunity to tell their own stories,” she explains. “I try to tell the stories that deserve to be remembered. Most of my recent works are concerned with the idea of preserving and sharing North Carolina’s heritage.”

In The Ballad of Frankie Silver, McCrumb tells the story of the first woman to be hanged for murder in North Carolina for the hatchet death of her husband in 1831. In Ghost Riders, McCrumb chronicles the Civil War in the Carolina mountainsides through the narration of then North Carolina Governor Zebulon B. Vance, who is also visited upon in The Ballad of Tom Dooley where Vance is the defendant for possibly North Carolina’s best known murderer, Tom Dula.

Published this past September, her latest novel King’s Mountain, the likely focus for her Hobson Lecture as she receives the award on April 28, is a story too important to be forgotten, according to McCrumb.

King’s Mountain is a battle few people have heard of. An unpaid citizen militia of frontiersmen defeated a Loyalist regiment in a battle just west of Charlotte in 1780,” McCrumb tells. “At that point in the revolution, George Washington and the Continental Army were losing the war. The victory of the Over Mountain Men inspired the patriots to keep fighting. Thomas Jefferson called King’s Mountain ‘the turning point of the American Revolution’.”

Just as the Over Mountain Men helped propel the nation into independence, Sharyn McCrumb helps propel the Hobson Prize into mainstream academia as the latest in a long line of fine recipients.

“The future of the Hobson Prize is bright,” stated Provost Moore, “As the university remains steadfast in its commitment to promote excellence in Southern writing, encouraging individuals to put literature at the center of their lives.”

This year’s Hobson Lecture and Prize on Monday, April 28 features a dinner and conferral of the award (reservations required) at 6 p.m. in the Chowan Room and the Hobson Lecture and Booksigning to follow at 7:30 p.m. in Vaughan Auditorium.

For more information, call Nancy Cox at 398-6211 or e-mail