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Author J.D. Dolan garners $20,000 NEA grant

Jan. 3, 2006

KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University professor and award-winning author will have more time to practice his craft, thanks to a $20,000 award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

J.D. Dolan, associate professor of English and author of the critically acclaimed memoir "Phoenix: A Brother's Life," is one of 50 recipients of the NEA's 2006 Literature Fellowships in Prose. The fellowships are the endowment's "most direct investment in American creativity, encouraging the production of new work and allowing writers the time and means to write."

The agency received more than 900 applicants for the fellowships. Each of the 50 recipients is awarded the same amount, which comes essentially without strings attached.

"I'm very excited," Dolan says. "And I'm particularly happy to be one of this year's recipients of an NEA grant in creative nonfiction, since these grants are solid evidence that there is at least one arm of our government that continues to value the truth."

Dolan plans to continue working on a screenplay based on the life of extraordinary pocket billiards champion Ralph Greenleaf. Greenleaf was world pocket billiard champion for most of the period from 1919 to 1937 and is regarded by many as the greatest pool player of all time, with his disciples including pool champion and "how-to" author Willie Mosconi. But Greenleaf was also a raging alcoholic. During his reign as champion, he disappeared for years at a time and was living on the streets, continually drunk and presumed dead.

"There's hardly anything written about him," Dolan says. "There are some very old newspaper articles, a few magazine articles, but not much else."

Dolan is collaborating on the project with an old friend and fellow writer, Mark Kamine, who is currently the assistant unit production manager on the hit HBO series "The Sopranos."

The NEA award is the most recent honor bestowed on Dolan and his writing. In 2004, he was named one of approximately 20 fellows awarded support by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts to travel to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to take part in a working retreat for visual artists, writers and composers. "Phoenix: A Brother's Life," Dolan's first book, was named 2000's best adult book by the Friends of American Writers Association, one of the best nonfiction works of 2000 by the Los Angeles Times and one of the year's 10 best memoirs by the Detroit Free Press.

A panel of well-recognized writers chose this year's NEA grant recipients.

"The panel is composed of a bunch of writers I really admire," Dolan says, making his selection that much more fulfilling. Panelists included writers Jonathan Franzen, Kaye Gibbons and Marilynne Robinson.

The deadline for submitting applications for the award was last February, and Dolan was taken off-guard when he recently received word that he had won.

"I wasn't expecting this," Dolan says. "I'd pretty much forgotten about it."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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