Current Student Nicole Caplain Kelly Awarded Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University

BY Gina Hackett, April 2, 2020

Current student Nicole Caplain Kelly has been awarded a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University.


The prestigious fellowship is awarded to ten fellows each year, five for fiction and five for poetry. Each week, the fellows in each genre gather for a three-hour workshop with the creative writing faculty.


Kelly plans to use the fellowship to continue working on her novel, which she began writing before attending Columbia. The novel is informed by Kelly’s experience working with Jazz at Lincoln Center, particularly by the program’s history as a flash point for African American cultural status in the United States.


“While there [at Lincoln Center], I was fortunate enough to come under the mentorship of a number of prominent African American artists, composers, writers, scholars,” Kelly wrote in an email. “The book I’m writing doesn’t happen in that world at all but is very much informed by these relationships, a particular worldview and set of arguments and values they passed along to me.”


Kelly went on to say that Jazz at Lincoln Center was and is a focal point for a number of arguments about the state of art and of African American cultural status in the United States. “There was a lot of controversy about it being directed by a black artist (Wynton Marsalis) and in fact represented as an expressly black art form featuring mostly black headliners.”


According to the Stanford Creative Writing Program’s website, “Fellows are regarded as working artists, intent upon practicing and perfecting their craft.” Fellows are also awarded a living stipend, as well as free tuition and health insurance, as part of their acceptance. 


Kelly looks forward to having the time and space to continue working on her novel. “It’s a really prestigious group,” Kelly wrote. “There is a person attending right now who is up for a National Book Award...and then Kate Folk, who is right now in The New Yorker.”


Although Kelly said she was unsure of how her fellowship will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, she anticipates attending in the fall as scheduled.