2011-2012 Fellows

Manuel Martinez
Stefan Merrill Block

Manuel Luis Martinez
Photo by Dennie Eagleson

Stefan Merrill Block
Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Manuel Luis Martinez and Stefan Merrill Block have been awarded the 2011-2012 Dobie Paisano writing fellowships sponsored by the Graduate School at The University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Institute of Letters.

The fellowships allow writers to spend four to six months at the Paisano Ranch, J. Frank Dobie's former retreat west of Austin, now owned and maintained by The University of Texas at Austin. The Dobie Paisano Fellowship Program provides solitude, time and a comfortable place for Texas writers or writers who have written significantly about Texas.

Manuel Luis Martinez is a native Texan currently living in Columbus, Ohio.  He serves as an associate professor of twentieth century American literature, American studies, Chicano/Latino studies, and creative writing at the Ohio State University.  He began his education at St. Mary's University, San Antonio (BA, 1988), completed a Master of Arts in Creative Writing at the Ohio State University in 1989, and earned a doctorate from Stanford University in 1997.  His first novel Crossing was published in October of 1998 by Bilingual Press and has been translated into Spanish for publication in Spain by the University of Salamanca Press.  It was chosen as one of ten outstanding books by a writer of color published in 1998 by PEN American Center in New York.  His second novel, Drift, was published by Picador USA in 2003 and was chosen as one of the best books of 2004 by the American Library Association. It has also been published in Australia and anthologized several times. His third novel, Day of the Dead, was published in the winter of 2010 by Floricanto Press.  His book on postwar American dissent and its literature, Countering the Counterculture:  Rereading American Dissent From Jack Kerouac to Tomas Rivera, was published in 2004 by the University of Wisconsin Press. He has been a regular contributor to the Chicago Tribune for which he writes book reviews and literary essays and has received several fellowships and grants for his artistic work and his scholarship including the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Mellon Foundation, and the MacDowell Artists Colony.

He will be working on the film adaptation for Drift and completing work on a new novel, Fortunate Monsters, which follows the travails of a Mexican American family coping with the death of a father in San Antonio.

Block received the Jesse Jones fellowship, which will allow him to spend six months at the ranch. In 2008, Stefan Merrill Block debuted with the critically acclaimed novel The Story of Forgetting.  Translated into nine languages, The Story of Forgetting offers a moving and inventive account of a family afflicted with a genetic form of Alzheimer’s disease. It won Best First Fiction at the Rome International Festival of Literature, the 2008 Merck Serono Literature Prize and the 2009 Fiction Award from The Writers' League of Texas.  The Story of Forgetting was also named a best book of 2008 by The Austin Chronicle, The Independent (UK), and St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and it was a finalist for the debut fiction awards from IndieBound, Salon du Livre and The Center for Fiction.  The Manhattan Theatre Club has commissioned playwright Rinne Groff to adapt The Story of Forgetting for the stage. 

Stefan Merrill Block’s second novel, The Storm at the Door, will be released in the summer of 2011.  Block’s new novel is a fictional exploration of the months that his grandiose and mysterious grandfather spent in a famous mental hospital. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly describes The Storm at the Door as "masterful … heartbreaking… [an] incredibly moving story of life, love, and mental illness … It’s this generation’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Born in 1982, Stefan Merrill Block grew up in Plano, Texas.  After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis in 2004, Block moved to Manhattan, where he worked as a videographer for documentaries, weddings, and bar mitzvahs while writing his first novel.  Stefan Merrill Block now lives in Brooklyn, where he is at work on a new book, the story of a fictitious writer’s strange journey through Texas in the late 19th-century.

Read the press release announcing the 2011-2012 Paisano Fellows.