Deesha Philyaw, winner of 2021 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction

  • September 02, 2021

University of Maine at Farmington Media Release 
April Mulherin 
UMF Associate Director for Media Relations 
office: 207-778-7081 
cell: 207-491-0064 
UMF proudly presents Deesha Philyaw, winner of 2021 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction, as first author in Visiting Writer Series, Sept. 16
FARMINGTON, ME  (September 1, 2021)—The University of Maine at Farmington’s celebrated Visiting Writers Series proudly presents award-winning writer Deesha Philyaw as the popular program’s first reader of the season.

Philyaw’s short story collection “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” (West Virginia University Press, 2020), was awarded the 2021 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2021 Story Prize, was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction, and is currently being adapted for television by HBO Max..

It features four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church’s double standards and their own needs and passions.

Philyaw will read from her work at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in The Landing in the UMF Olsen Student Center. The reading is free and open to the public and will be followed by a book signing with the author.

Reservations are required and guests must adhere to the University’s Covid safe practices, including wearing a mask at all times while inside campus buildings and social distancing when possible. Reservations can be made at:

Philyaw is a regular contributor to “The Rumpus.” She is a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and will be John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi in 2022.  She holds a BA from Yale and an MA in education from Manhattanville College.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is available for pre-purchase at Devany, Doak, and Garret Booksellers and the UMF University Bookstore.

The Visiting Writer Series is sponsored by the UMF Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program.

More Information on the UMF Creative Writing Program

As the only Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program in the state of Maine and one of only three in all of New England, the UMF program invites students to work with faculty, who are practicing writers, in workshop-style classes to discover and develop their writing strengths in the genres of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Small classes, an emphasis on individual conferencing, and the development of a writing portfolio allow students to see themselves as artists and refine their writing under the guidance of accomplished and published faculty mentors.

Students can pursue internships to gain real-world writing and publishing experience by working on campus with The Sandy River Review, a student-run literary magazine; Ripple Zine, a feminist magazine; The Farmington Flyer, a university newspaper; or Alice James Books, an award-winning poetry publishing house.

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Media Contact: Amy Neswald, UMF professor of creative writing, at 207-778-8024, or



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April Mulherin

UMF Associate Director for Media Relations
Farmington  ME  04000