Oscar Cásares has known about his Guggenheim Fellowship for about a month; he just couldn’t tell anyone.
“You get an email that tells you not to say anything because it’s not quite final,” the Austin author and University of Texas professor said Thursday. “Then they ask you a bunch of questions that makes you think it’s final. They then announce it.”
Cásares is one of five Austin-based recipients of the annual grant. On Tuesday, trustees of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation approved Guggenheim Fellowships for 175 writers, scholars, artists and scientists. The other Austin winners are:
• Journalist Jeff Goodell, a Rolling Stone contributing editor who has written largely about climate change
• Poet and UT professor Lisa Olstein
• Photographer Bryan Schutmaat
• Composer and UT professor Yevgeniy Sharlat
Cásares, author of the story collection “Brownsville” and the novels “Amigoland” and “Where We Come From,” will use the money to work on his new novel, which he says “deals with the way language is used and structured at the border region.” Still in the research stage, he is delaying the fellowship until 2022.
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Olstein is the author of four books of poetry. Her most recent work, a book of narrative nonfiction called “Pain Studies,” was published in March.
“This feels like uncommonly good luck,” Olstein said Thursday of the grant coming on the heels of her new book. The money will go to helping fund the completion of her next book of poetry. She is also in the very early stages of “a comparative cultural look at dreaming,” how dreams are regarded in different cultures.
Both Olstein and Cásares have returned to teaching UT classes in a virtual format this month, as social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic continues. Both expressed mild surprise at how it was going.
“It went surprisingly well,” Olstein says. She is in the Michener Center’s poetry division. "It’s a workshop format. We had our Zoom meeting this week and it meant a lot to me to actually see my students.“
“In workshops, you can’t really record lectures and send handouts,” Cásares says. He is on the Michener Center faculty for fiction writing. “You have to discuss things.”
Goodell is the author of six books, the most recent of which is the 2017 volume “The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World.”
The globetrotting journalist was brought to Austin by his relationship with Blanton Museum of Art director Simone Wicha. He’s only been here a few months, but his timing seems sadly fortuitous.
"Well, my next book (for which the grant will be used) is about extreme heat,“ he says, dryly. ”How we will deal with it socially and physically. How it will alter our bodies and how it will change things like disease vectors, which seems relevant.“
Sharlat and Schutmaat could not be reached for comment at press time.