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Ohio Wesleyan University Professor Earns Heartland Prize for Fiction
Robert Olmstead Recognized for Civil War-Era Novel ‘Coal Black Horse’

August 29, 2007

Robert Olmstead
DELAWARE, OHIO – Robert Olmstead, an associate professor of English at Ohio Wesleyan University, has been awarded the 2007 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction for his novel “Coal Black Horse.”

The newspaper established the Heartland Prizes in 1988 to recognize both fiction and nonfiction books that “reinforce and perpetuate the values of heartland America.”

Chicago Tribune book reviewer Beth Kephart praised Olmstead’s novel as “magisterial” and “as sensate as poetry and forbidding as any squall, steeped in detail but bound by few storytelling conventions.”

The book, which Olmstead worked on for about 10 years, tells the story of a 14-year-old boy, Robey Childs, who leaves his home in search of his father, a soldier in the Civil War. During his journey, Robey encounters horrific events that challenge him and change his life forever.

“Getting this news was a remarkable surprise,” Olmstead said of the literature prize. “I’m overwhelmed and very humbled and amazed by it. I’ve been fortunate during my career, being awarded a Guggenheim and an NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) grant, but this is different. I didn’t win this. ‘Coal Black Horse’ did. That’s pretty thrilling.”

Olmstead is the author of five previous books: “River Dogs,” “Soft Water,” “A Trail of Heart’s Blood Wherever We Go,” “America by Land,” and “Stay Here with Me.”

Olmstead will receive his Heartland Prize on Nov. 4 during the Chicago Humanities Festival. Previous fiction prize winners have included Ward Just, Alice Sebold, and Annie Proulx.

Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 40 states and 45 countries. Visit www.owu.edu for more information.