LAURINBURG — The annual Fortner-Ragan awards banquet this week at St. Andrews honored Dannye Romine Powell with the Ethel Fortner Award for her lifetime of writing.
The Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award was presented to short story writer Randall Kenan.
“How fortunate we are to feast on the power of the written word,” said campus vice president Robert Hopkins. “Reading generates so many pictures, images and videos in the mind.”
Ethel Nestell Fortner believed that a full community embraced and encouraged the craft of writing in every way and form. The Fortner Award was instituted in 1986.
Introducing the Fortner Award recipient, assistant professor of communications, James Henery was reminded of Mark Twain’s advice, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between a lightning bug and lightning.”
“In her 40-plus year career, Powell has chosen many right words,” said Henery.
Powell is a contributing columnist at the Charlotte Observer and a traveling speaker. She enjoys sharing stories from her life as a writer, a woman and as a book editor. She is the first to receive both the Sam Ragan Award and the Ethel Fortner Award.
Her most recent collection of poetry, Nobody Calls Me Darling Anymore, was published in the fall of 2015. In addition to writing poetry and news stories, she covered the murder trials of Josh Griffin of Monroe, Susan Smith of Union, SC, and Michael Peterson of Durham.
Other works by Powell include Parting the Curtains: Interviews with Southern Writers, At Every Wedding Someone Stays Home and A Necklace of Bees.
Talmadge Ragan introduced the Sam Ragan award, established in 1981, remembering her father with stories and poetry; reading various poems from North Carolina’s first Secretary of Cultural Resources.
“My pleasure in reading Randall Kenan is that there is such an abundance of voices,” said assistant professor of English and creative writing, Ted Wojtasik.
“The voice of the novelist in The Visitation of Spirits, the voice of the short story writer or the contemporary term fabulist or what the the old timers would call the teller of tall tales in Let the Dead Bury Their Dead.”
Ragan recipient Randall Kenan, is an American author of fiction and non-fiction. Raised in a rural community, he focused his fiction on what it means to be black and gay in the southern U.S.
“When I first met Sam Ragan,” said Kenan, “I remember him as being tall, gracious, very generous. I always had this feeling when I was with him he was going to tell me something very important and secret. It made you feel special. And that’s the gift of a true poet.”
Attending Governor’s School East at St. Andrews in 1979, Kenan remembers it being a “magical experience” where he learned about science and philosophy.
“I had never been exposed to an institution that took seriously the disabled. This was one of the first campuses that if you were in a wheelchair you could go. It had a huge impact on me.”
Kenan takes the award as a license to “keep doing language, to keep on going, not be pessimistic and to keep hope alive.”