Rowan writing faculty receive prestigious New Jersey State Council on the Arts funding

Rowan writing faculty receive prestigious New Jersey State Council on the Arts funding


Two Rowan University faculty members – and a professor emeritus – last month received prestigious state grants for their contribution to the arts.

Associate Professors of Writing Arts Heather Lanier and Ron Block in the Ric Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts were among 161 New Jersey artists who received funding through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship program, which awarded more than $1.7 million for 2024.

Named a prose fellow, Lanier received a grant of $23,925, while Block, a finalist, received $4,235. Also named a prose finalist, Professor Emerita Julia MacDonnell received $3,850.

A celebrated author whose 2020 memoir, “Raising a Rare Girl,” was hailed by The New York Times as an Editor’s Choice, Lanier in September published her first full volume of poetry, “Psalms of the Unknowing,” through Monkfish Book Publishing Company.

She was named a state prose fellow for her 2023 essay, “The Heart Wing,” a deep dive into the workings of the human heart published in the long-form online journal Longreads.

Inspired by a trip through The Giant Heart exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, which visitors can climb up into and through, Lanier’s nearly 7,000-word piece, like much of her writing, is intensely personal.

“I hadn’t been there since I was a kid,” Lanier said. “To learn about cardiology in mid-life, my mortality became more apparent than it was when I was 10.”

Lanier said though she’s been writing and publishing throughout her career, the Council on the Arts grant felt affirming. She expects to use at least part of the funding for travel to inspire future work.

“I always find the writing very meaningful and rewarding, but that doesn’t mean that doubts don’t creep up,” she said. “An award like this validates my work as a writer.”

Block, whose previous books include “The Dirty Shame Hotel and Other Stories” and “Dismal River,” also said recognition by the state Council on the Arts was affirming of his work.

“In my application for a N.J. Council on the Arts fellowship, I submitted the opening pages of a gigantic 200,000-word novel,” he said. “While the monetary award of being a finalist is unexpected and welcomed, more important is the validation of my creative work as I confront a difficult set of revisions.”