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Thursday, September 21, 2023


Creative writing professor wins award for literature

Associate creative writing professor Mat Johnson has been named the 2011 recipient of the Dos Passos Prize for his work in literature.

Johnson started his career with his book “Drop,” which was followed by “Hunting in Harlem,” and graphic novels such as “Dark Rain” for Vertigo Comics, an imprint of DC Comics.

“The mediums are different enough that they don’t cause me confusion,” Johnson said. “When I write comics, what I do is create a script much like a movie. The artists take the script and create the final work. It’s very barebones, and I am just part of a team. With a novel, the entire creation comes from me, and the scope of the story is far more involved and reaching.”

The Dos Passos Prize is named for writer and artist John Dos Passos, a pioneer in nonlinear literature, which means the story isn’t in chronological order. Awarded by the Department of English and Modern Languages at Longwood University, the prize recognizes distinguished writers that explore American themes with the same intense originality with which its namesake crafted his novels.

“It’s a great honor,” he said. “The award itself and the list of past recipients represent some of the greatest voices in American literature. I’m thankful for being added to that list.”

In addition to his work as a novelist and writer, Johnson hones his skills by teaching creative writing at UH. He said it keeps him very close to his love for the art.

“I spend my working day helping other writers make their dreams come true,” Johnson said.

“I offer them knowledge about the craft, and they give back energy and excitement about the art. Writing is a solitary craft. Teaching allows me to stay connected to humanity in a very isolating art form.”

He also said everything he does helps round out his understanding of the world, adding even more depth to his writing and helping to flesh out his narratives.

“Everything I experience adds to the canvas that I use to create my work,” he said. “The themes, the questions, I take from my own life, and the colors I use to paint from my own experiences.”

Johnson said the creative writing process is ongoing, and he’s already hard at work on his next projects.

“I’m writing another novel at the moment,” Johnson said. “I also have a completed graphic novel that will be available in the fall of 2012.”

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