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The Michener Center for Writers Launches a New Fellowship

By Shawn Badgley, Fri., Feb. 8, 2008

Jim Magnuson bounces into the room, white-haired and boyish. "I've decided what we should call it," he says, beaming. "We should call them the Jimmies. It works."

It does work. Magnuson, author (The Hounds of Winter) and director of the Michener Center for Writers, is describing the award of which Crace is the first recipient. The plan is to invite one writer – novelist, poet, playwright – each semester to spend a month writing on the school's tab while working with students and doing readings.

"The basic idea was that a lot of writers who would create the most excitement in a place like this are not people who would want to come for a full semester," Magnuson says. "We've run into that problem again and again. So, we thought, we have some flexibility; why should we do that? Why can't we just bring someone for a shorter period? We won't even make it a formal course. The whole idea of the Michener Center, really, is about time for these young writers. But you can also do the same thing, in a sense, for your faculty."

Denis Johnson (Tree of Smoke) will follow Crace in the fall, and Magnuson says that the school is in negotiations with Peter Carey (His Illegal Self). Like Crace, neither is a stranger to Austin. The city is most certainly part of the Michener residency award's appeal.

"For a writer, it's a gift," Crace says. "The financial support is really important, because you're always writing on a shoe shine and a smile, like Henry Miller said. You're only as good as your last work. And it gives you a whole new set of physical and social experiences."

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