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Novelist Miriam Herin Wins 2018 Doris Betts Fiction Prize

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Miriam Herin of Greensboro, North Carolina, is the winner of the 2018 Doris Betts Fiction Prize competition for her story “Lucky.” She will receive a prize of $250 from the North Carolina Writers’ Network, and her story will be published in the North Carolina Literary Review’s 2019 issue.

Miriam Herin is the author of Absolution, which won the 2007 Novello Press Literary Award, Independent Publisher’s Gold Award for Best Fiction, and was also a finalist for Forward Magazine’s 2007 Novel of the Year, and A Stone for Bread, selected as a Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2016. The author, a native of Miami, Florida, has lived in Washington, DC, and New York City, as well as in South Carolina where she earned a PhD in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. She has taught composition and literature at Appalachian State University and Greensboro College, among other places. She has also worked as an editor for Good Housekeeping Magazine and the Winston-Salem Journal and freelanced as a writer, editor, public relations consultant and producer of films and videos. She is currently working on a novel that follows a Charleston slave girl of mixed race on a quest to find her Seminole warrior father.

Final judge Stephanie Powell Watts selected Herin’s story from 18 finalists, saying “With inventive, deftly rendered scenes ‘Lucky’ tells the story of the protagonist, Sokha’s, epic journey to buy rice and a bottle of cola from a neighborhood store. Sokha is haunted by tragedy, and her memories of the Red Khmer in Cambodia many decades past rise unbidden and unwelcome as she navigates the streets of her American town.” Watts describes “Lucky” as “an intimate, tender story about the loss of community, our mutual fear of our neighbors, and the boundaries of our faith” and says she “will be thinking about this beautiful story for a long time.” 141 stories were submitted to this year’s competition.

Watts also picked “Corin and Dorinda” by Asheville resident David Hopes for second place. In regards to this choice, she said “‘Corin and Dorinda’ is a wise story that is, at its heart, a story of disappointment. Despite being an accomplished scholar and teacher, Dorinda watches while her husband gets the ‘real job’ and becomes more and better ensconced in the English department at his small rural college. ‘Corin and Dorinda’ is an emotionally intelligent story about what we are owed and what duty we have to the people in our lives in happy times and especially when we don’t get what we desperately need.”

David Hopes is a Professor in the Department of English at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. His play Anna Livia, Lucky in Her Bridges opened the 2008-2009 season for Chicago’s Bailiwick Theatre after winning a Desert Star award for the best new script when it premiered at the Thorny Theater in Palm Springs. He is also a prize-winning poet.

Watts also noted “Life List” by Ray Morrison and “For A Blaze of Sight” by Beth Gilstrap for honorable mention and remarked upon the strong narrative voice of finalists Mamie Potter in “Moving” and Chris Verner in “A Plague on the World.” Other finalists for the 2018 Doris Betts Fiction Prize were Colena Corbett’s “Definition of Perspective,” Fielding Clarke’s “Lost in Translation”, Frederica Morgan Davis’s “You & Me & John & Yoko,” Molly Edmonds’s “The Judge,” Ruben Gonzales’s “Her Red Slippers,” Thomas Johnson’s “End of the Line,” Ronald Jackson’s “Sisters of the Snow,” Callie Lewis’s “Tapeta Lucida,” Patricia Poteat’s “Pin Curls,” Lynn Sadler’s “Incarnation(s),” Sherry Shaw’s “Hyacinth Drive,” and Jennifer Vogel’s “The Eagle’s Nest.”

The annual Doris Betts Fiction Prize honors the late novelist and short story writer Doris Betts, the first to call North Carolina “the writingest state.” The competition is sponsored by the nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network, the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages of development. Betts’s support of writers, both her UNC students and countless other protégés, is manifested in the Network’s reminder that, particularly in North Carolina, “Nobody Writes Alone.” For additional information about the North Carolina Writers’ Network, visit

This year’s final judge, Stephanie Powell Watts, received the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her debut story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need (Ecco Press, 2012), which was also named one of 2013’s Best Summer Reads by O: The Oprah Magazine. Her debut novel, No One Is Coming to Save Us (Ecco Press, 2017), the Inaugural Sarah Jessica Parker Pick for Book Club Central, was described as “a backwoods African-American version of The Great Gatsby” by Janet Maslin in the New York Times Book Review. Born in the foothills of North Carolina and receiving her BA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Watts currently lives with her husband and son in Pennsylvania where she is an associate professor at Lehigh University.

A two-year subscription to NCLR will include the 2018 issue, featuring the winner from the 2017 Betts competition, as well as the 2019 issue, featuring Herin’s winning story from this year’s competition and an interview with Stephanie Powell Watts. Subscribe at

Miriam Herin