Renowned author and Mobile, Ala. native Michelle Richmond received Troy University’s Hall-Waters Prize during a luncheon on Thursday at the Troy Campus.
Richmond spent the morning speaking with students about the evolution of her career from publishing collections of her short stories to writing best-selling novels. During the morning session, Richmond was interviewed by a panel of students from English Department Chair Dr. Kirk Curnutt’s English Senior Seminar class, many of whom are aspiring authors themselves.
Richmond, who grew up along the Alabama Gulf Coast but has resided in California since 1999, told the crowded ballroom of students that her southern roots still play an important role within her writing.
“I think what the characters experience is what I what I experience, but what any of you who have moved here from far away or those who will move far away from here, I think that there is a push-pull,” Richmond said. “You are always looking back to where you came from and you are always aware of the meaning of that place and the landscape of that place. But, you are also pulled toward your new place. You are making a new life in somewhere very different than your old life. I think there is the longing for the past but there is also the pull toward this new life. Then what happens is your new life becomes your life.”
She told the aspiring authors in the crowd that the publishing industry changes rapidly, noting that her first New York Times best-selling novel, “The Year of Fog,” which was published by Random House in 2007, might not be published by the Random House of today.
“The publishing industry has moved toward promoting certain genres. They have always done this, but now they want the big sales. There is more of a push toward thrillers and Sci-Fi,” Richmond said. “There are also some positive changes. The good thing to know if you are writer going out into the world is that the publishing landscape is going to change rapidly. You are not going to be able to predict what is happening. There are still publishers who will say ‘write what you want’, you just have to figure out how to find your home and where to find it.”
During the presentation of the award, TROY Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. said Richmond joins the long list of southern success stories in the area of arts and literature to be recognized with the award.
“This is a tradition that began in 2002, and through the years, it has recognized some of the giants of southern arts and literature,” Dr. Hawkins said. “Today is certainly another credit to that long list of success stories as we award this honor to Michelle Richmond.”
The Hall-Waters Prize is endowed by TROY alumnus Dr. Wade Hall, an author, former member of the faculty at the University of Florida and professor emeritus of English at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY. Dr. Hall, a native of Bullock County, endowed the prize as a memorial to his parents, Wade Hall Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth Waters Hall. The award is presented regularly to a person who has made significant contributions to Southern heritage and culture in history, literature or the arts.
“Wade was best characterized not only as a Southern gentleman, but also a renaissance man,” Dr. Hawkins said. “He was truly a treat to be around and to know.”
Gregg Swem, representing the late Dr. Hall, said the award was one part of Hall’s legacy left to Troy University, noting also the collection of postcards that was given to the University that has since been developed into traveling exhibits that have gone throughout the state, as well as other parts of the country. Hall’s time at TROY played an important role in his success, Swem said, and it was important that his legacy lived on through these various areas of the University.
Maj. General Walter Givhan, USAF ret., who serves as Senior Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development for TROY, said the University was proud to honor Richmond for her global success.
“We are especially proud to see an Alabama native like Michelle achieve global success as an author,” Givhan said. “Her voice is one that is confident, masterful, sure and eloquent, a distinctive voice that we are indeed proud honor today.”
Richmond said receiving the Hall-Waters Prize was a tremendous honor.
“It means the world to me to come home to Alabama,” she said. “It was at Murphy High School, that huge public high school, that I was told I could be and had a future as a writer. I come from a southern family who sat around telling stories all the time. The story-telling voice of the South is what has informed my writing and gone forward into all areas of my life. This award means the absolute world to me.”