Appalachian English lecturer receives $10,000 fellowship

Stephanie Sansoucy

Appalachian State University English lecturer Leigh Ann Henion has traveled the world and will now share those experiences in her first book.

After witnessing solar eclipses in Australia, aurora borealis in Sweden, wildebeest migration in Tanzania and Catatumbo lightning in Venezuela, Henion said she plans to write about moments such as those.

“I started out with the premise that experiencing some of Earth’s most dazzling natural phenomena could make the world similarly new again, re-awaking that sort of wonder within me,” Henion said. “I hope readers will feel as though they’re traveling right beside me, page after page.”

Henion compared her experiences to how children marvel over simple things in nature such as leaves, twigs and pebbles.

Henion, a member of Appalachian’s English department since 2006, received a $10,000 North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship in August to support the work on her first book, to be published by Penguin Press. The book is tentatively titled “Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World.”

The fellowship is awarded on a two-year cycle by the North Carolina Arts Council in support of creative development and new work from North Carolina artists, according to

Henion has applied and been rejected for an N.C. Artist Fellowship for more than a decade. The requirements for applying include submitting work samples and completion of the required paperwork, all of which is peer reviewed by a panel, Henion said.

“I often tell students who are considering work in a creative profession: You have to do more than accept rejection; you have to embrace it,” Henion said. “Rejection is proof that you’re taking chances on your work and yourself. It’s nice to have this as an example of that philosophy paying off.”

Henion said the money she has been awarded will allow her to spend more time writing and working on her book.

More than 100 people applied for the prose-writing fellowship this year, with only five receiving a grant, including Henion.

“Less than 4 percent of people who applied for this fellowship received one,” Henion said. “For me, being honored after so many years of persevering makes it especially meaningful.”

While Henion does not have an exact date, she expects the book to be released in the early part of 2015.

Story: GERRIT VAN GENDEREN, News Reporter