Christopher Castellani

Christopher Castellani

Photo by Michael Borum


Christopher Castellani is the author of five books, most recently the novel Leading Men (Viking, 2019), for which he received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and The Art of Perspective (Graywolf, 2016), a collection of essays on narration in fiction. He is currently the writer-in-residence at Brandeis University, the chair of the Writing Panel at YoungArts, and on the faculty and academic board of the Warren Wilson MFA Program. He lives in Boston and Provincetown.

“Always have a story on submission,” the wonderful writer Pamela Painter once told me, “because then you’ll wake up every day with hope.” Though I preach this excellent advice passionately to my students, I rarely follow it myself—except when it comes to the National Endowment for the Arts. Since becoming eligible for a Literature Fellowship more than 20 years ago, I’ve dutifully sent the NEA a sample of my fiction-in-progress every other March, and for the next eight months I’d keep that hopeful vigil. When the rejection came, I’d sulk about it through the holidays, struggling to convince myself of another bit of wisdom I often preached: every acceptance is a sign you’re doing something right, but no rejection is a sign you’re doing everything wrong. By the new year, I’d be back at work, determined to change my fortune.

I’m honestly not sure what I did right this time, but I accept the sign with immense gratitude and joy and surprise along with a recognition of the luck involved.

This fellowship comes at a crucial and tender pivot point in my life. My primary source of income will dry up in a few short months, and, since the pandemic, I’ve been unable to finish the two very different novel projects I’ve been toggling between, both of which take my fiction in risky new directions. I can now proceed with a bit more confidence, which I hope will produce a better book.

Thank you to everyone at the National Endowment for the Arts for seeing something worthy of support in my pages and those of every artist granted an award this year.