Every writer dreams of having both the time and money to focus solely on the story or poem inside them that is demanding to be written. Thanks to the generosity of John and Renée Grisham, two talented young writers have spent the last four years living the writer’s dream in Oxford. And, in May 2006, Anna Baker and James Everett became UM’s first Grisham fellows to complete a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing.
With a $60,000 package that includes a stipend and tuition waiver over three years, Grisham Fellowships are offered to two students annually in this nationally competitive program that is unlike any other in Mississippi.
“I really admire John Grisham because he is generous and invests in people who are just showing promise,” said Baker, a St. Helena, Calif., native who earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Montana.
Before attending the university, Baker lived overseas and taught English in Istanbul, Turkey, and Budapest, Hungary. She now teaches writing classes in the UM English department. Her poetry and short stories have been published in Crazyhorse, the Arkansas Review, the Atlanta Review, Vox and The Pinch. Last summer, Baker was named a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and has was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry.
Everett, who is from Jackson, is now the floor manager at Off Square Books in Oxford. He made the storySouth’s Poets Under 30 list in 2004. The Internet-based literary magazine features the South’s best fiction, nonfiction and poetry.
“Everyone is convinced that I’ll go on for a Ph.D., and maybe I will,” said Everett, who was a Patricia Cornwell Scholar in Creative Writing at Davidson College in North Carolina. “I seem to thrive on the academic side, and I love teaching.”
David Galef, professor of English and MFA program administrator, was impressed with Baker’s and Everett’s work.
“Anna writes like a dream. Her style is distinct, imaginative and evocative, and James’ poetry is cerebral but also sensuous in a neat, knowing way,” Galef said. “The best way to show how a program has succeeded is to show writing produced by stellar students.”