With the belief that “stories matter” and writing builds empathy – Dr. Kerry Neville applied for and was recently awarded a J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship. She will teach creative writing this fall in Ireland.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Neville said, “because the Fulbright in Ireland is one of the most competitive awards. For writers, Ireland has a sort of mythology surrounding it. So many wonderful writers have come from Ireland. I feel very, very lucky.”
An assistant professor of English at Georgia College, Neville has published two award-winning books of short fiction. She’s also the author of numerous essays that appear in literary journals and online publications like the Washington Post and Huffington Post. Her latest book, “Remember to Forget Me,” is a collection of stories that examine the effects of exile and the universal struggle to lead a life of purpose and dignity.
Neville draws from her own understanding of exile. She has bipolar disorder and knows firsthand the effects of isolation and stigma. For several years, her illness was destabilized and made her feel alienated from society.
“I was feeling like an outsider,” she said, “separated from love, from happiness, from joy. I felt invisible, and I think that’s the common experience of people who suffer from any kind of illness. You feel like you’re not connected.”
“Who gets overlooked in our culture? Who don’t we see? Whose stories don’t get told?” asked Neville. She hopes to answer these questions and expand upon her experiences – moving from illness to wellness – in a memoir she’s currently writing.
Storytelling can help people be more empathetic, Neville believes. Listening to each other’s stories “expands our understanding of what it means to be human,” she said.
Neville will bring these lessons to the University of Limerick in Ireland. A year ago, she gave a writer’s talk at Trinity College in Dublin. She also did a reading for the “Narrative 4” organization in Limerick – which led to a teaching opportunity last summer at the University of Limerick’s creative writing program in New York City. Colleagues there asked if she could return and teach for a semester. So, Neville applied for a Fulbright and leave from Georgia College.
Dr. Allen Gee, director of the Georgia College Creative Writing Program, said Neville’s Fulbright award is exciting.
“It shows we offer graduate and undergraduate students the opportunity to work with a first-class teacher and writer – one with an international reputation,” Gee said. “We are very fortunate that Dr. Neville is part of our faculty, and we’re extremely proud of all her endeavors.”
In addition to teaching, Neville will give lectures around the country and offer workshops at writer’s festivals. She’ll also provide community-based workshops with a focus on “transformative writing” – using writing as a means for therapeutic healing.
Neville will research her family history in Ireland, as well. Her great-grandmother, Annie O’Connor, was from Limerick. So, Neville wonders if she might establish a link between her family and Flannery O’Connor’s, also from Limerick.
Returning to Georgia College in January 2019, Neville plans to add an international perspective to her teaching.
“I’m someone who values travel and getting out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I’m always trying to find ways to see experiences and the world through an unfamiliar lens. If I’m only writing about what I know, I’m going to bore myself and readers. It’s tedious and very self-involved.”
“As a writer, you want to discover something new,” she said, “so dislocation – being in another landscape and another culture – asks you to see things from a different perspective. It’s a happy kind of exile.”