The winners of the Dobie Paisano Writing Fellowships for 2008-2009 are Michael Erard and Vanessa Ramos.
The fellowships, sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Institute of Letters, allow writers to live and work at the Paisano ranch, J. Frank Dobie's 254-acre retreat west of Austin, now owned and maintained by The University of Texas at Austin.
Michael Erard, holder of the Ralph A. Johnston Fellowship, was born in San Antonio, received a BA from Williams College in American Studies, and an MA in linguistics and a PhD in English, both from The University of Texas at Austin. He has taught at UT Austin and Southwestern University. In 2007, Pantheon published his first book, Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, which the New York Times called "an enjoyable tour of linguistic mishaps." "Erard blurs the lines between breezy, anecdotal storytelling and advanced scientific study," said The Onion. He has been a contributing writer for the Texas Observer since 1999. As a freelancer, his reportage, essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Wired, Science, Rolling Stone, Lingua Franca, The New Scientist, Seed, Technology Review, The North American Review, the Austin Chronicle, and many other publications. In November of 2007, he moved from Austin to Portland, Maine.
Vanessa Ramos, holder of the Jesse Jones Fellowship, is a native of El Paso, Texas. She is a poet, playwright, and creative-nonfiction writer. As a McNair Scholar, she completed an ethnographic study (Women Between Earth and Sky) on curanderismo or folk-healing in the Southwest. Her awards include a Many Voices residency at the Playwrights' Center (2006 - 2007) and a Loft Mentor Series Award in Nonfiction (2005 - 2006). Her play, Cuentos, Stories, was showcased at the Waring Jones Theater in 2007. Currently, she is a visiting writer in the Writers and Artists in Schools program through COMPAS, an arts education organization in St. Paul and a creative nonfiction instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Vanessa is working on a collection of memoir-driven lyric essays that explore the relationship between landscape and memory. She is a MFA candidate in Creative Writing and a MA candidate in Education at Hamline University. Her work has appeared in BorderSenses.
The runners-up for the Ralph A. Johnston Fellowship are William Norris and H. L. Hix. Norris is a fiction writer and author of the critically acclaimed Snapshots. Hix is a distinguished poet whose latest book Chromatic was a National Book Award Finalist. The runners-up for the Jesse Jones Fellowship are William Norris (first runner-up for both fellowships) and Owen Egerton. Egerton is a fiction writer and author of the critically acclaimed short-story collection How Best to Avoid Dying.