Chris Drangle is a writer from Arkansas. His fiction has appeared in Granta, the Adroit Journal, the Kenyon Review, Split Lip Magazine,the Oxford American, and elsewhere. He has taught creative writing at Cornell University, where he earned his MFA, and at Stanford University, where he served as a Jones Lecturer. His work has been supported or recognized by the Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the Jentel Artist Residency Program, the Pushcart Prize, and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. He lives in Athens, Georgia.
Do I deserve this? I’ve been asking myself that question since I got the call from the National Endowment for the Arts—the most unexpected and second funniest government communication I received last year. (More expected, but slightly funnier, was the early morning message from the county clerk in our town, politely informing me that our marriage ceremony had been removed from the judge’s docket due to the ongoing pandemic. It’s not every day that the government leaves a voicemail canceling your wedding.) The answer, I think, is “probably not”—how could one artist feel comfortable receiving such a gift, with the sure knowledge of how many other applicants deserve it at least as much? Luck and guilt have always come bolted together for me. But it is also true that my career so far would not have been possible without dramatic financial intervention. Every day for 15 years I have worried about paying rent, and I drive the same car I drove in high school, and if you have any advice about affording healthcare, I’m listening. And so I struggle to express the depth of my appreciation to the staff, readers, and panelists of the NEA. Their support will do what it is intended to do: allow me to keep writing. I am deeply humbled, moderately embarrassed, lastingly stunned, and enormously grateful.