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Last modified: Thursday, September 4, 2008

IU distinguished faculty member Scott Russell Sanders to receive 2009 Mark Twain Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 4, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature has selected Bloomington resident Scott Russell Sanders, a distinguished professor of English at Indiana University, to receive the 2009 Mark Twain Award for his "distinguished contributions to Midwestern literature."

Previous winners include Toni Morrison, Ray Bradbury, Jim Harrison, William Maxwell, Wright Morris, Harriet Monroe, Gwendolyn Brooks and Jonis Agee. The award ceremony will take place at the society's annual meeting in East Lansing, Mich., on May 8, 2009, and will feature a panel devoted to Sanders' work.

"Mark Twain was the first writer I read in childhood who woke me up to the possibilities of making literature about the American heartland, using the American vernacular, and he is the only writer from my childhood whom I still read with pleasure and admiration," said Sanders. "Since I chose to make my career and set my writing here in the heartland, rather than in one of the more glamorous locations on either coast, it's gratifying to be recognized for helping to enrich the literature of this region."

Scott Sanders

Scott Russell Sanders

Print-Quality Photo

Sanders' nineteen books include novels (Bad Man Ballad, Terrarium) and collections of short stories (Wilderness Plots, Fetching the Dead). His chief work has been in literary nonfiction (The Paradise of Bombs, Hunting for Hope, Staying Put, Writing from the Center). The most recent of his books, A Private History of Awe, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

"I am never surprised by an award for Scott Russell Sanders; they come in profusion," said George Hutchinson, chair of the IU Department of English. "But this one is truly special, acknowledging that he is one of the great writers of the Midwest in all genres."

Sanders' writing has appeared in Harper's, Audubon, Orion, Georgia Review and other magazines. His work has been reprinted four times in the annual Best American Essays volumes, as well as in numerous anthologies, and he has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lilly Endowment. His work also has received the Associated Writing Programs Award in Creative Nonfiction, the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Excellence, the Great Lakes Book Award, the John Burroughs Essay Award, the Ohioana Book Award and a Lannan Literary Award. He has received three honorary degrees and has been honored with Indiana University's highest teaching award, as well as being named a distinguished professor.

He has been the subject of two videos from the Lannan Foundation and of interviews or profiles in Fourth Genre, The Kenyon Review, The Sun, Iron Horse Literary Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education and elsewhere.

Sanders' new book, A Conservationist Manifesto, will be published by IU Press in 2009.

"This book addresses what I take to be the single greatest challenge facing our society, which is to shift from a culture based on consumption to a culture based on conservation, from recklessness to care-taking," said Sanders. "I want to show that the practice of conservation is our wisest and surest way of caring for our neighbors, for this marvelous planet and for future generations."

Hutchinson said that much like Mark Twain, Sanders never writes a boring sentence. "You can't read a sentence Scott has written without wanting another. He writes from a place that not only is specific but inspiring, often sad but always hopeful. I'm grateful to have Scott as a colleague. He brings honor to IU."

Wilderness Plots, a tale of early pioneer life told through word and song (inspired by Sanders' book of short stories of the same title), will be performed next at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre in Bloomington, Ind., at 8 p.m. on September 13. For ticket and venue information, see http://www.buskirkchumley.org/.