Linda Flowers Literary Award 2010

Traci Lazenby Elliott

The North Carolina Humanities Council announces Traci Lazenby Elliott as the recipient of the annual Linda Flowers Literary Award. A story of civil rights travesties and human redemption, “Legacy” was among more than sixty entries of original poetry, prose, and nonfiction submitted by writers across the state to the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Linda Flowers Literary Award celebrates outstanding writing that shows a deep connection to the people of North Carolina and illuminates in a vital way their distinctive stories and voices. “Legacy” will appear in the winter-spring 2011 issue of North Carolina Conversations, the free biannual magazine of the North Carolina Humanities Council. Elliott receives a cash prize and support toward a writer’s residency at Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities.  

Elliott grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and graduated from Washington and Lee University. Her work has appeared in More Lights than One, a volume of scholarly criticism on Fred Chappell’s prose, and her poetry in Lifting Women's Voices, a book of prayers. “Legacy” is her first published work of fiction. Elliott is the Director of Christian Formation at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Asheboro.

Of “Legacy,” Elliott comments,

I began this story three years ago, and returned to it from time to time, to turn it upside down and shake it, but I'd begun to think nothing was ever going to come out of it.  I changed the point of view, shifted the narrative structure, wrote it as a poem, considered that it might be a part of something else and considered that it might not become anything at all.  Finally I set it aside and hoped it would lead me to its own ending, and finally it did. . . . The story began to have a center.  It began to talk about something difficult but true, about how redemption begins with acknowledging our commonality and our pain. 

Part of defining ourselves includes defining our ancestors, I think, perhaps particularly here in the South. . . . The truth of it is that we live with a heritage that includes hate and shame. Paving over that, disguising it with untruths because the truth makes us squirm, leaves us with an inauthentic landscape that can't heal or feed us. 

At the recent Caldwell Award in the Humanities celebration, author Barbara Presnell, who received the Linda Flowers Literary Award in 2004, said this of Elliott’s winning entry:     

“Legacy” is beautifully crafted. It’s a hauntingly painful story of the legacy of land – and the loss of land. It’s the story of family then and family now. It’s a legacy of guilt for

actions taken and decisions made in ignorance that will stay a part of who we are for generations – and perhaps forever. It’s a plea for forgiveness and aching desire for peace. It’s a powerful story of change – and the inability to change. It’s a story of us as North Carolinians and Southerners.

Established in 2001, the Linda Flowers Literary Award is named for the author of Throwed Away: Failures of Progress in Eastern North Carolina. Flowers, a former Humanities Council member, believed that the humanities are “equipment for living.”

This year’s distinguished Linda Flowers Literary Award selection committee included: Michael Chitwood of UNC Chapel Hill’s department of English; Linda Oxendine, professor emeritus at UNC Pembroke and North Carolina Humanities Council trustee; Brian Railsback, Honors College dean and professor of English at Western Carolina University; and Sharon Raynor, the Johnson C. Smith Mott University Professor in the English department of Johnson C. Smith University.