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Bill Hamlett

Bill Hamlett

Bill Hamlett, a sophomore from McKinney, Texas, is the 2011 recipient of the Excellence in Literary Fiction (ELF) Scholarship. Bill is pursuing a double major in writing and French at TCU. He has also received the Siddie Joe Johnson Poetry Award.

Bill's Story

To quantify the significance of the Sandra Brown Excellence in Literary Fiction Scholarship in my personal and academic life would not only be an impossibility, but an injustice to what it is. For its recipients, the Sandra Brown ELF scholarship does not just consist of full financial support at Texas Christian University, nor personal recognition by one of the greatest living American fiction writers, nor only steeled confidence in his or her pursuit of the art of fiction. Although the award comprehends all these things, for me, it has also come with something less tangible.

I will never forget the night of the ELF award dinner when, after sitting down at the table, amid a lull in the conversation, Dr. Sandra Brown caught my glance for a moment and said, “Bill, it never gets easier.” My mind was not rehearsed for that moment, the sincerity in her voice. I felt the whole charge of my being brought before me. After years of labor to achieve a dream, I thought I had arrived; what I saw in Dr. Brown’s countenance then, however, told me that I had already lived that dream — from that first quiet moment I picked up a pen to tell a story —what I had achieved now was but the means to continue weaving it.

Discovering a Community of Writers

As I reflect back on these two years that have followed my receiving this gift, I have the privilege of seeing how much I have grown out of this moment, both in my discipline and as human being. One notable discovery has been the value of the community of writers that forms yearly around the pursuit of this award — the dream that everyone thinks lies ahead of them, but in fact rests already in their hands, among them in their workshops, and between their words and readers’ minds. As the editor-in-chief of TCU’s arts journal, eleven40seven, I had the privilege of publishing selections of several ELF portfolios; there I witnessed what is possibly the most beautiful consequence of the Browns’ generosity: the birth of story upon story.

What Dr. Brown said to me that night was true: the blank page looms over all writers like a monolith — for many of us, compiling our ELF portfolios was our first experience of this — and if a writerly life has taught me anything, it is that the composition of fiction is among the weightiest tasks one can undertake. For Dr. Brown, the ELF stands as not only a monument of her literary accomplishment, but supremely as an embodiment of her commitment to stories — both those who write them and those who read them. In the briefest possible terms, while the Sandra Brown ELF Scholarship is of massive significance in the material, the psychological and the symbolic life of the recipient, its effect goes beyond this; or rather, comes before — it is a part of the great chain of stories that Dr. Brown has woven around the world. For this, we can be nothing but thankful.