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Looking for the Next Ehle Prize Winner

Friday from the Archives: “The Snow L. and B.W.C. Roberts Collection of North Carolina Fiction,” by Nancy Shires from NCLR Issue 11 (2002)

One mission of the North Carolina Literary Review is to promote forgotten or neglected writers of the Old North State. To this end, in 2019, we collaborated with Press 53 of Winston-Salem to create the John Ehle Prize: a $250 honorarium for the author of the best work on a neglected or forgotten writer selected for publication in our pages (essays on the work of John Ehle included). Eligible content may be for any section of the issue (feature, Flashbacks, or NC Miscellany) and can be literary criticism or an interview. Congratulations to this year’s winners, Melissa D. Birkhofer and Paul M. Worley, for their piece on Teresa Martín and the Méndez Cancio Account of La Tama (1600). Previous winners include essays on George Moses Horton, John Ehle, and Carolyn Kizer and an interview with Moira Crone.

Don’t know where you might start with finding an author to rediscover? We have two suggestions this week:

  1. The North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame celebrates and promotes the state’s rich literary heritage by commemorating its leading authors and encouraging the continued flourishing of great literature. It is more than a museum housing photographs and archives. Working closely with libraries and schools, the Hall of Fame honors North Carolina writers with ongoing programs, services, and opportunities for children and adults. The North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame was established under the leadership of Poet Laureate and Southern Pines newspaper editor Sam Ragan in 1993.” Go check out the hundreds of writers who have been selected for their literary service. In the 1996 inaugural class, eight of the writers have not yet had anything in-depth written about them in NCLR! And surely there are others throughout the years. Dig around. Find treasures.
  2. Closer to home, the Roberts Collection at Joyner Library at ECU is “A special collection of fiction set wholly or partially in North Carolina [which] will be a valuable resource for literary and historical researchers for many years to come.” So wrote Nancy Shires in our 2002 issue. The Roberts of Durham donated their incredible fiction collection to Joyner in 2001 because “of the university’s commitment to North Carolina studies.” The collection included titles from both issues of North Carolina Fiction (1734-1957 and 1958-1971) plus current work of the time period. “The collection will ultimately hold, in one place, one of the most inclusive collections of North Carolina fiction from earliest times to the present day,” Shires wrote. She calls out over two dozen different authors or book titles in the article, including Drums by James Boyd, one of the first members of the Literary Hall of Fame, and former owner of Weymouth, the place the Hall of Fame resides. And what about researching James Hay, Jr. who was an early writer in the professional detective mystery genre, which just happens to be our 2026 featured theme.

In a letter about their gift, the Roberts explained their choice of ECU: “We were pleased to learn that a course in North Carolina literature — the only such course offered within the University of North Carolina system — is taught as part of the North Carolina Studies Program, and that the North Carolina Literary Review is published at the university.” Our own editor, Margaret Bauer, teaches that course, and would also be an invaluable place, er, person to start your rediscovering research.

The Roberts Collection “is housed in the closed stacks behind the North Carolina Collections service desk. Staff… are eager to assist students and researchers in using the works included here…. Whether for student projects, faculty articles, local book clubs, or other interests, the Snow L. and B.W.C. Roberts Collection is a literary treasure to be visited and investigated.” You can even view online almost fifty of the over 1100 texts in the collection thanks to the digitizing team. What are you waiting for? Happy researching!

To read the whole article, order the 2002 issue for your collection.