By Matt Sinclair ’90
“I love reading. I love books. All types of books. I love talking about books with people who see things differently than I see them. I love a beautiful sentence. I love a shocking ending,” says Amy Stolls ’87. Recently named director of literature at the National Endowment for the Arts, Stolls is on the right page. A former journalist and author of two novels, Stolls has worked at NEA for 16 years. She oversees the selection of 35 to 40 individuals annually who are awarded NEA fellowships of $25,000 each.
An English graduate with an MFA from American University, Stolls was inspired at Lafayette by English professor Deborah Byrd’s science fi ction course and a course with Suzanne Westfall, English and theater professor, where she was introduced to Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author.
“My view of literature—of the world and what art can do—exploded in all different directions and set me on a lifelong course of intellectual exploration.” NEA’s literature department awards between $3 million and $3.5 million in grants each year to literary organizations and individuals. It is also involved in public projects such as the National Book Festival.
Interacting with personal literary heroes is a perk. “Translator Michael Henry Heim told me what it was like to work with Günter Grass and Milan Kundera. And I got to tell Ed Doctorow that The Book of Daniel rocked my world,” says Stolls. “But what I also love about my job is that it introduces me to new, contemporary writers—Matthea Harvey, Tayari Jones, Eula Biss, Luís Alberto Urrea, and Kelly Link.”