• John Pipkin (Photo by Carlos Barron).
    John Pipkin (Photo by Carlos Barron).

Author John Pipkin has been named Writer in Residence at Southwestern University for the next three years.

In this position, he will serve as a “window into the world of writing” for Southwestern students.  He will invite people to campus who bring a variety of perspectives on writing and the publishing industry, and will develop other activities related to the world of writing such as round table discussions and/or writing workshops. In addition, he will serve as a resource to help make Southwestern students aware of opportunities for internships and/or volunteer activities related to writing and the publishing industry. 

Pipkin has taught creative writing at Southwestern since 2007. He burst onto the national literary scene in 2009 with his first novel, Woodsburner. The book is set in Concord, Mass., in the spring of 1844, and tells the story of a forest fire accidentally ignited by Henry David Thoreau a year before he decides to live alone at Walden Pond.

Woodsburner earned Pipkin the Center for Fiction’s 2009 First Novel Prize, which came with a $10,000 cash award. Several newspapers picked it as one of the best 100 fiction and nonfiction books of 2009, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor. Woodsburner also earned Pipkin the Fiction Award in the 10th Annual Massachusetts Book Awards and the 2010 Steven Turner Award for Best First Novel from the Texas Institute of Letters.

The Texas Institute of Letters also has awarded Pipkin the prestigious Dobie-Paisano Fellowship, which will enable him live and work at J. Frank Dobie’s 254-acre ranch west of Austin for six months beginning in March 2011.

Pipkin will use his time at the ranch to complete his second novel, which he is tentatively calling The Blind Astronomer’s Atlas. The story is set in Ireland around the time of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. It focuses on a young woman whose father is an astronomer. When he goes blind, she decides to continue his work and search for a new planet. The manuscript is due to the publisher in July 2011.

Pipkin received his Ph.D. in British literature from Rice University in 1997. He was an assistant professor of humanities and rhetoric at Boston University until he moved to Austin in 2000. He served as executive director of the Writers’ League of Texas until 2007.

“We are delighted that Dr. Pipkin accepted our invitation to serve as writer in residence at Southwestern,” said Provost Jim Hunt. “We look forward to the ways in which he will enrich the educational experience of our students by sharing with them his rich experiences as a writer and through his contacts in the world of writing and publishing.”


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