Chowan University announces 2018 Mary Frances Hobson Award Recipient

MURFREESBORO, NC –  Chowan University is pleased to announce Jim Grimsley as the 2018 recipient of the Mary Frances Hobson Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Letters. Grimsley’s most recent work is titled How I Shed My Skin, a memoir about school desegregation in North Carolina.  The memoir marked his return to Algonquin Books in 2015, although Grimsley has been recognized for his writing since the early 1980’s. His short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 3 times. He was nominated for a GE Outstanding Young Writer Award in 1983, and his story “City and Park” was listed as one of the outstanding short stories of 1982.

Grimsley was born in rural eastern North Carolina in September of 1955.  He studied writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Doris Betts and Max Steele.  His 19 published short stories and essays have appeared in several quarterlies to include DoubleTake, New Orleans Review, Carolina Quarterly and the New Virginia Review.

Grimsley’s first play, The Existentialist, was produced at ACME Theatre in 1983. In 1984, his second play, The Earthlings, was produced at 7Stages.  In 1986, Grimsley became Playwright-in-Residence at 7Stage, a position he still holds today. In 1987 Grimsley’s third play, Mr. Universe, was produced, winning the Southeastern Playwriting Contest in 1986 sponsored by Southern Exposure, and ultimately receiving praise from the New York Times and winning the George Oppenheimer/Newsday Playwriting Award in 1988.

In 1993, Grimsley received the Bryan Family Prize for Drama by the Fellowship of Southern Writers for his illustrious work as a playwright. He also has several other full-length plays. The Decline and Fall of the Rest and The Borderland were both produced at 7Stages, a book of plays titled Mr. Universe and Other Plays was published in 1998 by Algonquin Books, and several other plays were produced throughout the early 2000’s.

Grimsley’s first novel was published in the United States by Algonquin Books in 1994, titled Winter Birds.  It was first published in German in 1992, and then translated and published in French too.  Winter Birds received the Sue Kaufman Prize for best first novel from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a PEN/Hemingway Award finalist. Since, Grimsley has published eight novels, to include Dream Boy, My Drowning, Kirith Kirin, The Ordinary, The Last Green Tree, Forgiveness, Jesus is Sending You This Message, and his most recent How I shed My Skin, many of which have received honors and awards.  His books have been printed in 9 different languages to include Hebrew, German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, and of course English.

In 1997, Grimsley received the Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Writers Award accompanied by a three-year writing fellowship.  In 2005, he accepted the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among various other awards and honors.

The prize will be conferred on Monday, April 2, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. at a dinner in the Chowan Room in Thomas Dining Hall. Following the dinner and conferral, Grimsley will deliver the Hobson Lecture at 7:30 in Vaughan Auditorium in Robert Marks Hall. The annual event brings the University and community together each spring.

The Mary Frances Hobson Lecture and Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Letters is awarded annually by Chowan University to recognize the distinguished achievement of a person in the field of arts and letters. Preference is given to Southern writers and poets or those authors whose work relates to the South. The recipient, who receives a medallion and monetary gift, presents a lecture entitled “The Mary Frances Hobson Lecture,” which is open to all area residents, Chowan University students and personnel, and all enthusiasts of the arts and letters in the region. Initiated in 1995 by the Hobson Family Foundation of San Francisco, the award serves as a memorial to Mary Frances Hobson (1912-1993), a journalist and poet, who was the first woman to receive the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in journalism from the University of North Carolina.

For more information about the 2017 Mary Frances Hobson Lecture, please contact Dr. Moore, Provost Chowan University at

Amanda Bradshaw Sharpe | University Relations |

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MURFREESBORO, NC –  Chowan University is pleased to announce Jim Grimsley as the 2018 recipient of the Mary Frances Hobson Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Letters.
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