Judson Mitcham was awarded the 2006 Townsend Prize for his novel SABBATH CREEK in a ceremony held in Atlanta on Wednesday, May 24. Mitcham is the first to receive the Townsend Prize twice; previously he won it for THE SWEET EVERLASTING (1998). Both his novels were published by the University of Georgia Press, and this is the fifth UGA Press title to be honored with the Townsend Prize.
"We are delighted that Judson has received this prestigious award for his second novel," said Press Director Nicole Mitchell. "This is a great honor for a very fine writer."
The Townsend Prize is awarded every other year to an outstanding novel or short-story collection published by a Georgia writer during the previous two years. The prize is named for Jim Townsend, a former editor at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the founding editor of Atlanta magazine, and an early mentor to many Georgia writers.
SABBATH CREEK tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a 93-year-old black man, Stroud, and a 14-year-old white boy, Lewis, that develops after Lewis's mother uproots him to journey through South Georgia.
SABBATH CREEK was lauded widely by critics for its simple but elegant language and the elegiac tone.
"Mitcham's fiction has a dark, brooding quality," commented a reviewer in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "a sort of sweet-natured melancholy that makes it impossible to predict redemption or eternal damnation for his wonderfully flawed characters."
"This spare, lovely novel, while generous in humor, is anchored by sorrow and interspersed with portents of tragedy," wrote one critic in the New York Times Book Review.
In addition to the critical praise, the book sold well for UGA Press. Harvest Books, a division of Harcourt, a major trade publishing house, bought paperback rights and published an edition in 2005.
"Both of Judson's novels were embraced by that small but devoted group of readers who follow serious literary fiction," according to John McLeod, Sales and Marketing Manager at UGA Press. "But his books are also loved by a more mainstream audience - fans of contemporary Southern fiction. His work is like Pat Conroy's or Lee Smith's in that it has wide appeal but is still excellent writing."
Mitcham received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Georgia and went on to teach psychology for 30 years at Fort Valley State University. He has served as adjunct professor of creative writing at the University of Georgia, Emory University, and Mercer University. He has also written a book of poetry called Somewhere in Ecclesiastes, which earned him both the Devins Award and recognition as Georgia Author of the Year. He is retired from teaching and lives in Macon.
More about Judson Mitcham's second Townsend Prize
The Townsend Prize is awarded by the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College
Listen to an interview with Judson Mitcham on Georgia Public Broadcasting's Cover to Cover