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Department of English
University of Mississippi

Tom Franklin is the University of Mississippi Humanities Teacher of 2024

Pulling Stories Out of the Air






Celebrated Associate Professor of Fiction Writing Tom Franklin will present “Dead Towns of Alabama: Looking for Stories” at his University of Mississippi Humanities Teacher of the Year lecture. Sponsored by the Mississippi Humanities Council and UM’s College of Liberal Arts, the free public event is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 at 5 o’clock p.m. in Barnard Observatory’s Tupelo Room on the Oxford campus.

“I’m so glad to have won this—it’s my first ever teaching award,” Franklin said.

“The truth is, I love this job, a job where I get to talk about stories all the time, and get to see students create them. Just yesterday my Beginning Fiction Writing class and I composed a scene, together, on the white dry-erase board in our classroom. It was amazing to see what they pulled out of a prompt I’d given. The whole class worked as some kind of force, creating something (a story) out of nothing.”

Franklin—who joined the faculty in 2003—is “a mainstay of our creative writing programs,” said Caroline Wigginton, chair of the Department of English.

“An acclaimed fiction writer renowned as an originator of a subgenre called Southern Grit Lit, his reputation helps attracts hundreds of applications for our graduate programs. Graduate students in his workshop and craft classes find him a brilliant yet affable and warm teacher who pushes them to be stylish, interesting, and innovative authors themselves.”

“Our undergraduates, who often take his classes unaware of his standing as an iconic Southern writer, similarly find him an excellent teacher, one who helps them transition from thinly veiled autobiographical musings to well-plotted narratives with insight into place and character.”

The author’s New York Times bestseller Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award for Best Novel and other honors. His work includes Poachers, Hell at the Breech, and Smonk and appears in Best American Mystery Stories of the Century.

Recognized with a Guggenheim fellowship, Philip Roth Residency in Creative Writing, the Berlin Prize, and Willie Morris Prize for Southern Fiction, Franklin received the Harper Lee Award and the Edgar Award from Mystery Writers of America.

The Tilted World, a novel set during the 1927 flood of the Mississippi River that Franklin coauthored with his wife, Beth Ann Fennelly, UM distinguished professor of English and Mississippi poet laureate from 2016 to 2021, collected numerous accolades.

“We are nationally recognized as having top-ranked graduate creative writing programs, receiving hundreds of applications each year for the ten or so admissions spots,” Wigginton said.

“We owe much of this success to Professor Franklin. He is one of our most beloved faculty members. We simply could not be the same Department of English, indeed the same university, without him.”

Born and raised in Dickinson, Alabama, Franklin earned a Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the University of Arkansas and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of South Alabama.

His UM Humanities Teacher of the Year presentation will illuminate his process. “My new collection of stories is called Dead Towns of Alabama, and the talk will be about where I find the stories I tell,” Franklin said. “The air I pull them out of.”