news-category: Campus News

GWU English Department Hosts Award-Winning Author for Foothills Writers Day

a photo of joanna pearson and her book cover

Shelby, N.C., Native Joanna Pearson Presents Free Event for the Public, Speaks to Finalists of Writers Contest

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Award-winning author and Shelby, N.C., native, Joanna Pearson, will be on the Gardner-Webb campus on March 20 for Foothills Writers Day. Her visit includes an evening presentation open to the public as well as a session with the high school students who are finalists of the Foothills Writers Contest (details below). The event is hosted by the University’s Department of English Language and Literature, the Broad River Review, the Darlene J. Gravett Visiting Writer Series and the Life of the Scholar Program.

Pearson’s free presentation for the public is at 7 p.m. in Stewart Hall, Tucker Student Center. She will present a reading and discuss her second collection of short stories, “Now You Know It All.” The book was chosen by Edward P. Jones for the Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was a finalist for the Library of Virginia Awards. Her first collection of stories, “Every Human Love,” was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Awards, the Foreword Indies Awards, and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction.

Professor and Chair Dr. Chris Davis in the Department of English Language and Literature said Pearson’s book is mostly set in small-town North Carolina. “The 11 stories in ‘Now You Know It All’ avoid stereotypical presentations of the South,” he described. “Joanna, a practicing psychiatrist, uses her deep understanding of humanity to create fascinating characters. The Darlene J. Gravett Visiting Writer selection committee was especially interested in bringing Joanna to campus because of her local connections—she is a Shelby High School graduate. We are excited for students to meet Joanna, as well as the opportunity for the public to hear her read and discuss her work.”

Pearson’s fiction has also appeared in “Best American Mystery and Suspense,” “Colorado Review,” “Ecotone,” “Kenyon Review,” “Sewanee Review,” and “Subtropics,” as well as other journals. Her stories have also been noted six times among the year’s most distinguished in Best American Short Stories.

Pearson holds an MFA in poetry from the Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Md.) Writing Seminars and an MD from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She lives with her husband and two daughters near Chapel Hill.

Foothills Writing Contest for High School Students

  • Entry deadline is March 3. Upload entries through the 2023 Foothills Writing Contest link on the Broad River Review’s Submittable page, available here.
  • Entrants must be currently enrolled at a high school (9-12 grades) in Cleveland, Gaston, Rutherford, Lincoln, or Polk counties, or be a certified home school student residing in one of these counties.
  • Submit an original poem, short story or personal essay.
    • Poems limited to 40 lines in length.
    • Short stories and personal essays limited to 8 pages.
  • 2023 Context Theme: Home & Away
    • Writers are encouraged to interpret the theme broadly and creatively—either home, away, or both.
    • Writers are not required to use the words of the theme in their creative works.
  • Contest prizes include first place and honorable mentions.
    • Members of the Department of English Language & Literature at Gardner-Webb University will review all entries and select the winners, honorable mentions, and finalists.
    • All finalists will be invited to read from their works during the Foothills Writing Contest awards celebration.
    • $100 Amazon gift card to the winning entry, and $50 Amazon gift cards to two honorable mention entries.
    • Winning entry considered for publication in Broad River Review.

Auxiliary aids will be made available to persons with disabilities upon request 10 working days prior to the event.  Please call 704-406-4270 or email [email protected] with your request.

The Darlene J. Gravett Visiting Writer Series is named for Gravett, who lives in Boiling Springs. She joined Gardner-Webb in 1989 as a professor of English and served as chair of the Department of English Language and Literature and dean of the Graduate School. In 2004, she was named associate provost for schools and became the University’s first female member of the senior staff. After her retirement in 2007, she was honored with the title of associate provost emerita. The endowed fund for the writer series was initiated by a gift from Gravett and expresses her commitment to the Department of English Language and Literature.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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