Critically acclaimed, national bestselling author Julianna Baggott has been named the new William H.P. Jenks Chair in Contemporary American Letters at the College of the Holy Cross. In addition to teaching duties in the English department, she will work to bring other authors to campus for readings and lectures. Baggott succeeds Leah Hager Cohen, acclaimed nonfiction writer and novelist, who has been appointed Distinguished Writer in Residence at Holy Cross.
“We are thrilled such a talented, well-respected and world-renowned author and scholar will be joining us at Holy Cross,” says Margaret Freije, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College. “Julianna’s breadth of interests, her wide ranging storytelling ability and her commitment to the ideals of Jesuit education will be valuable to all in our community—faculty and students, English, mathematics and music majors alike.”
Baggott, who received her B.A. at a sister Jesuit school, Loyola University Maryland, says in many ways she feels like she is returning to her roots. “My Catholic education began in sixth grade and continued on through college. Holy Cross feels, on many levels, like coming home,” she says. “My work stretches across genres, and I’m very interested in what makes an idea elegant, in the mathematical sense, and/or beautiful and compelling, artistically, as well as how to generate and cultivate ideas. I’m looking forward to creating an atmosphere in the classroom where students feel emboldened to take creative risks in their storytelling.”
Baggott also writes under the pen names Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode. She has published 19 books over the last 12 years. Film rights for her novel “PURE,” a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and ALA Alex Award-winner, is in development with Karen Rosenfelt, the lead producer of The Twilight Saga. The second book in the trilogy “FUSE,” has received rave reviews, and the third book “BURN” has just been released. There are more than 100 foreign editions of her novels published or forthcoming overseas.
Baggott began publishing short stories when she was 22 and sold her first novel while still in her twenties. After receiving her M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she published her first novel, “Girl Talk,” which was a national bestseller and was quickly followed by The Boston Globe bestseller “The Miss America Family,” and then The Boston Herald Book Club selection, “The Madam,” an historical novel based on the life of her grandmother. She co-wrote “Which Brings Me to You” with Steve Almond, A Best Book of 2006 (Kirkus Reveiws).
Her Bridget Asher novels include “The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted,” “The Pretend Wife,” and “My Husband’s Sweethearts.”
She has also published award-winning novels for younger readers under the pen name N.E. Bode as well as under Julianna Baggott. Her seven novels for younger readers include, most notably, “The Anybodies” trilogy which was a People Magazine summer reading pick alongside David Sedaris and Bill Clinton, a Washington Post Book of the Week, a “Girl’s Life Top Ten,” a Booksense selection, and was in development at Nickelodeon/Paramount; “The Slippery Map,” “The Ever Breath,” and the prequel to Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, a movie starring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, and Jason Bateman. For two years, Bode was a recurring personality on XM Sirius Radio. Julianna’s Boston Red Sox novel “The Prince of Fenway Park” was published in spring 2009. It is on the Sunshine State Young Readers Awards List and The Massachusetts Children’s Book Award for 2011-2012.
Also an essayist and poet, Baggott’s essays have appeared The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Modern Love Column, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The International Herald Tribune, Glamour, Real Simple, Best Creative Nonfiction, and read on NPR’s Here and Now and All Things Considered. Her essays, stories, and poems are highly anthologized.
Baggott lives in Amherst, Mass., with her husband David Scott. They have four children. She is currently working on “Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders,” which will be published by Little Brown in 2015.
Established in 1988, the Jenks Chair is named in honor of William H.P. Jenks ’54 who had to leave the College in 1951, during his sophomore year, when a bout with polio left him a quadriplegic. Jenks remained devoted both to Holy Cross and his class, serving as class secretary for more than 25 years. In 1979, the College granted him an honorary degree. In 1988, an anonymous donor made a gift in his name, contributing $1 million to endow a professorship in the English department. Jenks died the following year on Christmas Day.
The first Jenks Chair was held jointly by husband and wife writers, Justin Kaplan and Anne Bernays, from 1993-95. Christopher Merrill held the position from 1995-99; Danzy Senna from 2000-04; and Bill Roorbach held the position from 2004 –08.
The position is an initial appointment of two years, and may be extended up to five years.
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