March 7, 2023
Reading time: 2 minutes, 3 seconds

There’s nothing quite like a public reading by a talented author who delivers their writing with intentional enunciation and articulation. Thanks to the creation of the Blackwell Prize, this experience has become a reality for the University of West Georgia community.

Elena Passarello

The winner of this year’s Blackwell Prize in Writing – a $10,000 award supported through the generosity of The Fred R. and Nell W. Blackwell Testamentary Trust of Newnan – is New York Times critically acclaimed author and Whiting Award Winner Elena Passarello. She will read from her essay collections “Animals Strike Curious Poses” and “Let Me Clear My Throat” at 6 p.m. in the UWG Campus Center in Carrollton on Tuesday, March 14, and at UWG Newnan at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21.

The Blackwell Prize is a series that celebrates high achievement in writing and observational painting, each occurring in the spring and fall, respectively. Each year, the Blackwell Prize in Writing recipient is offered a two-week to one-month residency at the Newnan Artist Resident Program and a one-bedroom bungalow where they can stay while they perform readings around the area. 

“[Passarello] has a blend of journalistic research paired with a beautiful lyrical writing style,” said Dr. Chad Davidson, director of UWG’s School of the Arts. “She has a history on stage, so she's very performative with her readings. She memorizes much of the essay. If you watch videos of her reading, she never looks at the page. And these essays are 20 minutes long.” 

The Blackwell Prize hopes to honor talented authors like Passarello and inspire community members to participate in literature and the arts, including Amina Gautier, Allison Joseph, Graham Barnhart and others. 

“To align with that mission, we seek authors who are excellent presenters and readers, and Passarello definitely fits the bill,” explained Davidson. “We want people to walk away from this thinking, ‘Wow, that was incredible.’” 

The Blackwell Prize is made possible by the Fred R. and Nell W. Blackwell Testamentary Charitable Trust, the legacy of Fred ’71 ’81 and Nell Blackwell ’70, both public school teachers and UWG alumni who had a vision to support public education in Newnan and the surrounding communities.

“The Blackwells had a vision for making their community better through the arts, and this trust is the sole reason we're able to do these sorts of things,” concluded Davidson. “That's a huge honorarium to donate because of their generosity and vision. The memory of the Blackwells is what I hope everyone remembers.”