Nationally-recognized author Stephanie Powell Watts will return to her alma mater, UNC Charlotte, on Oct. 3 and 4 for a public lecture, a fiction writing workshop for students and a classroom visit.
Watts will read from her fictional writings on Oct. 4 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the Denny Building, Room 120. The public is invited.
An English faculty member at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University, where she teaches fiction and creative non-fiction, Watts grew up in Caldwell and Wilkes counties and earned her English degree from UNC Charlotte in 1997. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri, where she was a Gus T. Ridgel fellow.
She was named one of two Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award finalists earlier this year for her debut short story collection, “We Are Taking Only What We Need” (BkMk Press.) The honor is considered the country’s most important prize for a first work of fiction. She also was a finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Award, USA Book News and ForeWord Reviews. The book earned a place on the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award longlist.
The story, “Unassigned Territory” earned the prestigious Pushcart Prize in 2007, another top literary honor. Her stories have been included in “New Stories from the South: Best of the Year,” 2007 and 2009. One story was named a 2007 Distinguished Story in “Best American Short Stories,” edited by Stephen King.
Her short fiction, poems and essays also have appeared in “Oxford American,” “New Letters,” “African American Review,” “Tartts IV,” “Tampa Review,” and “Obsidian III.”
With her North Carolina roots, Watts explores the themes of the South, family and religion. Watts is a former Jehovah’s Witness who also worked in shoestring and furniture factories, and she draws from these and other experiences in her stories.
Watts and her husband, Bob Watts, wrote a community column for the Charlotte Observer in the mid-1990s. She has recently completed a novel, which is not yet published.