McNeese alumnus wins Pulitzer for fiction - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

McNeese alumnus wins Pulitzer for fiction

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Adam Johnson (Source: McNeese State University) Adam Johnson (Source: McNeese State University)
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

McNeese State University alumnus Adam Johnson has won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his novel, "The Orphan Master's Son," set in North Korea.

The Pulitzer committee cited Johnson's book as an "exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart."

McNeese officials on Tuesday sent out a release about Johnson and his prestigious award.

Johnson is a 1996 graduate of McNeese's Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and is currently an associate professor of English at Stanford University. He also reportedly earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Arizona State University and a doctorate in English from Florida State University.

McNeese officials said Johnson has also been named a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow in Creative Arts for Fiction. Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of impressive achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. He has also been the recipient of a Swarthout Writing Award, a Kingsbury Fellowship, a Stegner Fellowship, a Whiting Writers' Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. His fiction has appeared in Esquire, Harper's, Playboy, Paris Review, The New York Times and Best American Short Stories.

His other books include the "Emporium," a short-story collection, and the novel, "Parasites Like Us." His books have been translated into 16 languages.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former McNeese MFA professor Robert Olen Butler taught Johnson and praised his former student.

"I know of no American writer who is more deserving of the Pulitzer Prize than Adam Johnson. His innate brilliance was clear to me from the moment I read his application to McNeese. But brilliance alone does not make a great writer. He also had a remarkable work ethic, a ravenous engagement with life experience and an ever-deepening wisdom about the human condition," said Butler. "I am proud of Adam. And I am proud of the McNeese creative writing program, which remains one of the finest in the country."

Amy Fleury, McNeese's MFA director and former classmate of Johnson at McNeese, said, "Not only do I admire Adam as a writer and human being, but I've also enjoyed knowing him as a friend for almost 20 years. I wasn't surprised that he won the award. His book is just that good. I am delighted and happy for my friend."

She said Johnson was a visiting writer last year as the MFA program celebrated its 30th anniversary.

"Who better than Adam to help us celebrate this occasion. He embodies the best of what our program is all about," she said. 

Dr. Jacob Blevins, head of the McNeese Department of English and Foreign Languages and another former classmate of Johnson, said he could not be more proud of his dear friend and alumnus.

"Adam's winning the most prestigious literary prize in America speaks of Adam's talent and incomparable work ethic. But it also confirms that McNeese's MFA program has always played an integral role in the development of the raw talent that comes here to study. Adam is now in the company of those other great Pulitzer winners like Steinbeck, Hemingway, Faulkner, Morrison and McNeese's former fiction writer Robert Olen Butler," Blevins said.

Dr. John Wood, founder and former director of the MFA program for 25 years, said Johnson's win was great news.

"We all knew from the start that Adam was one of the finest students that we ever had in the program and that great things were before him. So, he wins the Pulitzer and the Guggenheim. No telling what's next for Adam. Nothing would surprise me," he said.

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