Thanks to the Blake & Bailey Family Fund, brought to us by Maggie Blake Bailey, L'17, the John Grammer Fellowship brings a noted writer for an extended stay during the summer session. The John Grammer Fellow conducts a reading of their work and collaborates with students in a workshop setting.

Tracy O'Neill Named 2024 John Grammer Fellow

The Sewanee School of Letters is proud to announce that our 2024 John Grammer Fellow will be Tracy O’Neill! The award, made possible by a gift from the Blake & Bailey Family Fund, brings a noted writer or scholar to Sewanee for an extended visit each summer during the School of Letters' academic term. The John Grammer Fellow is named in honor of founding School of Letters Director John Grammer and their reading is a part of the Summer Reading and Lecture Series.

Tracy O'Neill will read in the Naylor Auditorium of Gailor Hall on Wednesday, June 12, at 4:30 p.m. A reception will follow in the Atrium. All are invited. 

Tracy O’Neill is the author of the novels The Hopeful (Ig Publishing, 2015), and Quotients (Soho Press, 2020), a “stunning, and deeply disquieting, literary techno-thriller” (Lithub) infused with “the obsessive questing of early DeLillo” (Commonweal). “O’Neill’s sentences are expertly crafted marvels of economy. Her prose almost feels redacted, as if someone has cut out just the right bits to keep you guessing and thinking and feeling,” says Charles Yu. Her memoir, Woman of Interest (HarperOne, 2024) is “a compulsively readable, genre-bending story of finding her missing birth mother and, along the way, learning the priceless power of self-knowledge.” O’Neill was a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree and a Center For Fiction Emerging Writers Fellow; she holds an MFA from City College and a PhD in media studies from Columbia University. The former editor-in-chief of Epiphany journal, her writing has appeared in Granta, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Bookforum, and other publications. She is an assistant professor at Vassar College.

SSL Director Justin Taylor adds, “I was impressed by Tracy O’Neill’s writing and editorial eye long before I ever met her, but over the last decade or so I’ve been proud to call her a colleague and a friend. We are extremely lucky that she is making time for us so close to the publication date of her first book of nonfiction. As you can see from her bio, she’s a writer and thinker with wide-ranging interests and multiple areas of expertise–she’s also really fun to hang out with. That isn’t the main reason I invited her, but it certainly didn’t hurt.” 


Read More


Matthew Olzmann, Poet | 2023

Matthew Olzmann is the author of Constellation Route (2022), as well as two previous collections of poetry: Mezzanines (2013), which won a Kundiman Poetry Prize, and Contradictions in the Design (2016), described as “that rare thing that embraces complication while, at every turn, filling us with wonder,” by C. Dale Young. Olzmann is a recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, MacDowell, the Kresge Arts Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poems have appeared in the New York Times, Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Prizes, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. With Ross White, Olzmann edited Another & Another: An Anthology from the Grind Daily Writing Series (2012). He is the poetry editor of the Collagist.

Olzmann earned his BA from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and MFA from Warren Wilson College. He is an assistant professor at Dartmouth College and also teaches in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson.


Shruti Swamy, Novelist | 2022

Shruti Swamy is the author of the award-winning, short story collection A House Is a Body (Algonquin Books, 2020), which was a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, and was longlisted for The Story Prize. Kiese Laymon, himself a past Grammer Fellow, has said that “Shruti Swamy’s A House Is a Body will not simply be talked about as one of the greatest short story collections of the 2020s; it will change the way that all stories—short and long—are told, written and consumed. There is nothing, no emotion, nor tiny morsel of memory, no touch, that this book does not take seriously. Yet, A House Is a Body might be the most fun I’ve ever had in a short story collection.” Shruti’s debut novel, The Archer (Algonquin Books, 2021), has been longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Swamy’s work has appeared in The Paris Review, the Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. In 2012, she was Vassar College’s 50th W.K. Rose Fellow, and has been awarded residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, and Hedgebrook. She has won two O. Henry Awards, was a recipient of a 2018 grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, and was a 2017–2018 Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University. She is a Kundiman fiction fellow and in 2022 was awarded a Creative Writing Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Alexander Chee, Novelist and Essayist | 2021

Alexander Chee is the bestselling author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, and the essay collection How To Write An Autobiographical Novel, all from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. A contributing editor at The New Republic, and an editor at large at VQR, his essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times MagazineT MagazineThe Sewanee Review, and the 2016 and 2019 Best American Essays. He is a 2021 United States Artists Fellow, a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction, and the recipient of a Whiting Award, a NEA Fellowship, an MCCA Fellowship, the Randy Shilts Prize in gay nonfiction, the Paul Engle Prize, the Lambda Editor’s Choice Prize, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Leidig House, Civitella Ranieri and Amtrak. He teaches as an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College.

The Washington Post praised Edinburgh (2001) as “A coming-of-age tale in the grand Romantic tradition, where passions run high, Cupid stalks Psyche, and love shares the dance floor with death.” People magazine described The Queen of the Night (2016) as a “Sweeping, richly detailed” novel. NPR called it “Sprawling, soaring, bawdy, and plotted like a fine embroidery.” It was a New York Times Editor’s Choice selection and was named a best book of the year by EsquireThe Boston GlobeThe San Francisco ChronicleBuzzfeed, and NPR. Of Chee’s career-spanning essay collection, How To Write An Autobiographical Novel (2018), author and critic Garth Greenwell says, “I'm astonished by the wisdom of these essays, and how beautiful they are. A riveting account of activism and artistry, as well as a profound exploration of the intersections of identities and experiences that build up this novelist's composite eye. Alexander Chee is brilliant and brave in equal measure, and has written an essential book about how to survive as an artist in America today.” 

(Photo by Robert Gill.)

Kiese Laymon, Novelist, Essayist, and Memoirist | 2020

Kiese Laymon is a Black southern writer from Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon is the author of the genre-bending novel, Long Division and the essay collection, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. Laymon’s bestselling memoir, Heavy: An American Memoir, won the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the 2018 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose, the Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media, and was named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by The New York Times. The audiobook, read by the author, was named the Audible 2018 Audiobook of the Year. Laymon is the recipient of 2020-2021 Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard. Laymon is at work on several new projects, including the long poem, Good God, the horror comedy, And So On, the children’s book, City Summer, Country Summer and the film Heavy: An American Memoir. He is the founder of “The Catherine Coleman Literary Arts and Justice Initiative,” a program aimed at getting Mississippi kids and their parents, more comfortable reading, writing, revising and sharing.


Jessica Jacobs, Poet | 2019

Jessica is the author of the poetry collections of Take Me With You, Wherever You're Going (2019), a memoir-in-poems focusing on coming of age in Florida and the complexities and joys of early marriage between Jacobs and her wife, fellow poet Nickole Brown, and Pelvis with Distance (2015), a biography-in-poems of Georgia O'Keeffe, which won the New Mexico Book Award and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Her poetry, essays, and fiction have appeared in Orion, New England Review, Crazyhorse, Guernica, and The Missouri Review. An avid long-distance runner, Jessica has worked as a rock climbing instructor, bartender, and professor, and serves as the associate editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal. She lives with her wife, the poet Nickole Brown, in Asheville, North Carolina with her dogs.

Lucy Alibar, Screenwriter and Playwright | 2018

Lucy Alibar has been nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA award, and the Scripter Award for the film Beasts of the Southern Wild. The film was an adaptation written with Benh Zeitlin based on Lucy's play, Juicy and Delicious. Beasts of the Southern Wild also earned the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Cannes Film Festival Camera D’Or. Lucy is also the winner of the Ray Bradbury Nebula Award, the Humanitas Prize, and the Nantucket Film Festival New Voices in Screenwriting Award. Lucy’s writing has been published in Zoetrope, Oxford American, and The Wall Street Journal and her plays have been seen at Sundance Theatre Lab, National Theatre Studio, Joe’s Pub, Ojai, Berkeley Rep, and Williamstown. Lucy is also a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop, a Sundance Screenwriting Fellow, associate editor at Oxford American magazine, and advocate for girls in the arts.

Stephanie Pruitt, Poet | 2017

Stephanie Pruitt is a poet and social practice artist who has taught at Vanderbilt University, the Sewanee Young Writers' Conference, and as a visiting artist in over one hundred K-­12 and community settings. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and Essence Magazine named her one of their “40 Favorite Poets.” Stephanie serves as a Commissioner for Metro Arts and on the board of directors for the Arts & Business Council. She prefers flip flops over stilettos, pancakes over waffles, and the toilet paper is always over, not under. When at her Nashville home, the mother of Nia and wife of Al can often be found with an 70lb dog in her lap. The TEDx speaker is the founder of NoStarvingArtist(dot)me and is committed to helping creators make a LIFE and LIVING with their art.

Meet Maggie, L'17

Maggie Blake Bailey, Poet and High School Teacher | Atlanta, GA

She holds degrees from Stanford, Oxford, and Brown, but it's her MFA from the School of Letters that Maggie holds most dear. Clearly a lover of learning, Maggie applied to Sewanee because she wanted to study and write poetry.

"I think a lot of us are waiting to be knighted, for someone to come along and say, 'You are good enough. Now you should start.' But no one will do that. You do that for yourself." And so she did. The same year she was accepted into the program she also published her first poem.

Just five years later, in 2015, Maggie published her first chapbook, Bury the Lede, and 2019 published her first full-length collection, Visitation. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice and her work can be found in Tar River Poetry, Still: The JournalSWWIM, and others.

"Sewanee is a profoundly beautiful place that rewards your attention. The program allowed me to think of myself as a writer and to prioritize that part of myself."

Read an interview about her philanthropy here:

Read More