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Ruth Knafo Setton awarded creative arts fellowship

Ruth Knafo Setton

Ruth Knafo Setton, writer-in-residence at the Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Jewish Studies and professor of practice in Lehigh's Department of English, has been awarded a fellowship by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCAA).

Setton will join 20 fellows in working on individual creative projects at a forthcoming working retreat for artists, writers and composers.

“I’m delighted,” says Setton of the recent honor. “This fellowship will provide me with much needed time and space to write.”

During the retreat, Setton hopes to work on two projects simultaneously: the final revisions on her second novel, Darktown Blues, as well as the writing of her third novel, The Zig Zag Girl.

She describes Darktown as a tale of an “immigrant family in New Jersey navigating their way through love, money, ethnic food, jazz, and the American dream—with an accent.”

The Zig Zag Girl is a thriller about magic and magicians, inspired by recent scholarly investigation.

“All year, I’ve been researching magic, taking classes, reading ancient secret texts, hanging out with magicians—and all I can say in that I've fallen in love with this world,” Setton says.

Prior to her writing retreat this summer, Setton will be traveling to Israel to conduct research on a fourth novel, which is set in Jerusalem, and organizing a poetry collection. She will also be polishing an essay for a forthcoming anthology of women writers on the topic of desire and preparing for a creative writing course at Lehigh this fall.

“It will be called ‘Midrash and Mystery,’ and it will explore two forms of writing, both with secrets at their core,” she says. “Midrash is an ancient form of Jewish writing that creatively interprets Old Testament stories. In the course, we’ll bring Biblical tales into the modern world by writing our own contemporary versions. We'll also write mystery stories and see what secrets about writing we uncover.

“As far as I'm concerned,” she adds, “if you can write a mystery, you can write anything.”

Setton is the author of the novel, The Road to Fez, which debuted to critical acclaim in 2001.

She also joined a number of internationally known authors and artists such as Maya Angelou, Joyce Carol Oates, Meryl Streep, Beverly Sills, Kate Winslet and Janis Ian in a recently published anthology of inspiring original essays titled Becoming Myself: Reflections on Growing Up Female.

Born in Safi, Morocco, Setton is the recipient of literary fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, PEN, Sewanee Writers' Conference, Yaddo, MacDowell and VCCA Writers’ Colonies, among others. Her fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in many journals and anthologies.

The VCCA, located near Sweet Briar College in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in rural Virginia, serves more than 300 artists a year and is one of the nation's largest, year-round artist communities. By providing space and time to work, the Center strives to support the creative phase of the projects completed by writers, composers, artists and filmmakers.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Tuesday, May 08, 2007

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