TROY - Cassandra King, author of five novels including the critically acclaimed "Moonrise," has received Troy University's Hall-Waters Prize.
Presented during a luncheon on Friday at the International Arts Center on the Troy Campus, the Hall-Waters Prize recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to Southern heritage and culture in history, literature or the arts. The award was endowed by the late Dr. Wade Hall, a TROY alumnus, an author, former member of the faculty at the University of Florida and professor emeritus of English at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. The Bullock County native endowed the prize as a memorial to his parents, Wade Hall Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth Waters Hall. Past winners include Rep. John Lewis, Rick Bragg, Bobbie Ann Mason, Natasha Trethewey and King's late husband, Pat Conroy.
"I am deeply honored in ways I can't even begin to express," King said. "When you receive an honor from your home folks it means so much more than anything else. I'm sorry that I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Hall, but what a wonderful way for him to honor his parents."
King, who grew up near Pinckard, Ala., said she loves southern quirkiness, which isn't always the case with many southern writers.
"When I was growing up on the farm, I always wanted to be a writer," she said. "I couldn't wait to get away from the farm. I didn't appreciate the heritage I had as I was growing up. It would take many years before I truly grew to appreciate it. I came to realize that the most authentic writing comes from your own backyard. Writers are interpreters of a culture."
Since the death of her husband, Pat Conroy, in March of 2016, King said she had discovered the transformative power that writing truly has in her life.
"It has been a difficult year," she said. "I feel that the literary world lost a great writer, but I lost the love of my life. One thing that I have learned from this is that writing has helped me through my grief. I have discovered the transformative and healing power of writing."
King's first novel, "Making Waves in Zion," was published in 1995 by River City Press and reissued in 2004 by Hyperion. Her second novel, "The Sunday Wife" (2002), was a Booksense Pick, a People magazine Page-Turner of the Week, a Literary Guild Book-of-the-Month selection, a Books-A-Million President's Pick, a South Carolina State Readers' Circle selection and a Salt Lake Library Readers' Choice Award nominee.
King's third novel, "The Same Sweet Girls" (2005), was a #1 Booksense Selection and a Booksense best-seller, a Southeastern Bookseller Association best-seller, a New York Post Required Reading selection and a Literary Guild Book-of-the-Month Club selection. "Queen of Broken Hearts," published in 2008, was lauded by fellow Southern writers as an "uplifting" work "filled with irresistible characters.
Her latest work, "Moonrise," described as her finest book to date, was a 2013 Okra Pick and a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliances best-seller.
"Troy University is delighted to honor Cassandra King with the Hall-Waters Prize," said Dr. Kirk Curnutt, professor and chair of the Department of English. "Her work celebrates friendship and the need for us to invest our empathy in each other's lives so we can understand our own. Her fiction also embodies the best of Southern values: hospitality, generosity, concern, and, most important, love and commitment."