The South Carolina Arts Commission, Hub City Press, the College of Charleston, the South Carolina State Library, and South Carolina Humanities are pleased to announce that the winner of the 2020 South Carolina Novel Prize is Maris Lawyer for her manuscript “The Blue Line Down.” Lawyer’s winning manuscript will be published in 2021 by Hub City Press of Spartanburg.
Maris Lawyer is a born and bred native of the South Carolina Upstate. She graduated with a degree in creative writing from Anderson University and has since gone to work as an HR generalist for an environmental consulting firm in Greenville, SC. Maris lives in Easley, SC with her husband Benjamin and two cats, Merlin and Luna. Alongside reading and writing, Maris spends much of her time fussing over the vegetable garden in her back yard.
In “The Blue Line Down,” protagonist Jude Washer leaves his tormented childhood in the Virginian coal mines to join the Baldwin-Felts agents—the very agents who hunted down and disbanded the unionizers at his own mine camp. Instead of living a life of power and control, Jude finds himself disturbed by the brutal brand of justice dealt out by the Baldwin-Felts, and seeks to free himself and his young trainee, Harvey. An unplanned escape turns into a harrowing manhunt as Jude and Harvey flee the Baldwin-Felts, traveling down the Blue Ridge Mountains only to fall into the hands of bootleggers—who may present a greater threat than the Baldwin-Felts.
Stephanie Powell Watts was the judge of the biennial prize this year. She has been awarded the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and Hurston/Wright Award for Debut Fiction, and is the author of “We Are Taking Only What We Need” and “No One is Coming to Save Us.” Of the winning manuscript, Watts wrote, “Readers are always looking for the topic that both feels familiar until we scratch the surface a little and realize we know almost nothing about it. In the clear light of the present, movements, protests and even revolutions of the past can seem obvious and inevitable. History loves to condense the story, connecting dots to make the narrative cohere. However, there is turmoil, angst, and great human suffering in between those dots. This story shows us how a decent enough person might be compelled to aid and abet bullies and killers. The story also shows us the main character's remarkable path to possible redemption.”
The finalists for this prize this year were Rebecca Helms of Murrell’s Inlet, for her manuscript “Singing in the Corn” and Susanne Parker of Spartanburg, for her novel “What Happens to the Children.”
The South Carolina Novel Prize is funded by the following partner organizations:
The South Carolina Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances.
Hub City Press was founded in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1995 and since then has emerged as the South's leading independent press.
The South Carolina State Library develops, supports, and sustains a thriving statewide community of learners committed to making South Carolina stronger. The Library serves the people of South Carolina by supporting state government and libraries to provide opportunities for learning in a changing environment.
South Carolina Humanities is the state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. SC Humanities presents and supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.
The College of Charleston is home not only to a cadre of nationally and internationally recognized writing faculty, but also houses one of the country’s premiere literary journals, Crazyhorse, published since 1960 and consistently ranked as among the top publishing venues in the nation. The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program provides students an immersion in a world of prose and poetry and the practical aspects of establishing a career in the arts.