City Tech English Professor Awarded National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship

City Tech congratulates Professor Jennifer Sears, Department of English, on her National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) 2018 Creative Writing (Prose) Fellowship of $25,000. Professor Sears’ project, Other People’s Sons, is a novel set in central Illinois during World War II when a German POW camp was erected outside of Washington, a small town surrounded by long-established Mennonite communities.

The inspiration for Other People’s Sons was prompted by Professor Sears’ father who, as a boy in 1943, remembered seeing a strangely dressed crew harvesting pumpkins next to his one room schoolhouse in central Illinois. Curious, he and his friends snuck into the fields during recess over the course of the harvest and tried to get to know these men, not realizing at first that they were German prisoners-of-war.

“The NEA grant will support my research in Washington, Peoria, Metamora, and Eureka, Illinois; in archives at the Mennonite Historical Society in Germantown, Illinois; and, if possible, area military archives,” said Sears. “I will interview local residents and family members who remember the years the German POWs lived in Camp Washington and the tensions between the Mennonites, who were largely pacifist, and other townspeople. I also hope to travel to Switzerland and Germany to deepen my knowledge of my family’s Anabaptist roots.”

Through its Creative Writing Fellowships, the NEA gives writers the freedom to create, revise, conduct research, and connect with readers. These fellowships are highly competitive, with 1,692 eligible applicants in FY 2018. Applications are reviewed by a panel through an anonymous process and are judged solely on the artistic excellence of the work sample provided. Many American recipients of the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and Fiction were recipients of NEA fellowships early in their careers.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to provide crucial funding to support these individuals in their creative endeavors and to continue expanding the range of ideas and viewpoints available to readers,” said Amy Stolls, NEA director of literature.

Professor Sears writes fiction and creative non-fiction. Her work is published or forthcoming in various literary venues including the New York Public Library’s Subway Library (forthcoming), Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading Series, Witness, Fiction International, Guernica, Ninth Letter, Fence, and Mennonite Life; the anthology Lost and Found: Stories of New York; and The Boston Globe. She has received awards from the Millay Colony for the Arts, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Money For Women Fund, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has an MFA from Columbia University.

Photo Credit: AFQ Photography