Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New Hampshire Writer Appointed Associate Director Of O'Neill Literary House

Chestertown, MD, December 11, 2006 — Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, is pleased to announce that Priscilla Hodgkins, a writer and the former Associate Director of the Bennington Writing Seminars at Bennington College, has been appointed Associate Director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College. Hodgkins succeeds Katherine Wagner, who has served as Associate Director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House since its founding in 1985. A poet and assistant professor, Wagner will continue to teach her popular classes in the English Department.

Hodgkins' appointment marks a milestone for the Rose O'Neill Literary House—an anchor of the venerable literary tradition at Washington College—where she will hold the first full-time administrative position.

"Priscilla is the perfect person for a great opportunity ahead," said Joshua Wolf Shenk, the Director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House. "For two decades, the house has been run, nobly, and indefatigably, by scholars who have been given a break on their teaching for part-time administrative duties. But champions of the Lit House—including Kathy Wagner, and directors emeritus Robert Day and Robert Mooney—have for years seen the need for a full-time Associate Director. I'm grateful for the boost in resources in this time of transition—and to have such a qualified and creative associate."

Shenk also noted the momentousness of Professor Wagner's departure from day-to-day life at the Rose O'Neill Literary House. "It's a sad moment for the Lit House," he said, "Kathy has been here from the very beginning, and knows this place down to the bones. I'm grateful to her for her great work—and for showing me the ropes."

Shenk was appointed the third full-time Director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House on July 1, 2006. An acclaimed essayist, for magazines like Harper's and The Atlantic Monthly, he is the author of the New York Times notable book Lincoln's Melancholy, published in 2005 by Houghton Mifflin.

Hodgkins, a native of New Castle, New Hampshire, received her bachelor's at the University of New Hampshire and her M.F.A at Bennington Writing Seminars, a program she helped build from scratch starting in 1993. In 1996, she became Associate Director of the program. Now considered among the top graduate writing programs in the country, the M.F.A. program is notable for its emphasis on rigorous reading as the foundation for writing. Over four semesters, students are required to read about a book a week and write critical papers in addition to their original creative work. "Our adage," Hodgkins says, "has been 'Read a hundred books. Write one.'"

With a background that includes systems analysis, media production, and hospital administration, Hodgkins says she is eager for a new challenge. "I'm glad to be part of something so special as the Rose O'Neill Literary House," Hodgkins says. "I fell in love with the place when I visited, and with the idea of a center for the literary arts."

She continued, "I began to read literature rather late in life. I found a profound truth in a well known saying, 'We read to know we are not alone.' A few years later, I began to write short stories and found that we also write to know we are not alone. The Rose O'Neill Literary House provides a place for the literary community to share work and to collaborate on events and projects. It's a splendid opportunity."

Hodgkins, who grew up in a small town near the Piscataqua River, says she is also glad to be living near the Chester River—and in a town that reminds her of home.

Hodgkins has published short stories, book reviews, and essays. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Agni, Creative Nonfiction, The Milwaukee Sentinel, and Confrontation. Her essay "Einstein Didn't Dream of My Mother" was recognized in Best American Essays, and her story "Bread and War" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Washington College is a private, independent liberal arts and sciences college located in historic Chestertown on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, it is the first college chartered in the new nation.

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