AJ Mayhew


November 18, 20011
Presentation of the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction


Winner Badge

Greetings....I am Nan Kester, President of the Historical Book Club of North Carolina. It is an honor to be here to present the 2011 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction. Thank you Joe Mobley and Micheal Hill for this opportunity. The HBC of NC was founded in 1947 by women from across the state who wanted to enrich their lives through history and literature. Today, we have a membership of over 250.

We hold two events a year: The Town Meeting of Books where we have hosted some of the most brilliant literary minds in the country, including Doris Kearns Goodwin, Tom Wolfe, Harry Reasoner, Pat Conroy and just this last month, Jennet Conant, author of four best selling books. The Book and Author Event honors the winner of the Sir Walter Raleigh Award. The winner speaks at this meeting.

This prestigious award was established in 1952 by the Historical Book Club of North Carolina and is given each year to the North Carolina writer who published the work of fiction judged the best. Janet Stenersen is one of the three judges and represents the Historical Book Club. Janet, thank you for your hard work and expertise!


Janet Stenersen, Anna Jean Mayhew, and Nan Kester

The Sir Walter Raleigh Cup, symbolizing the AWARD and inscribed with the names of the winners, in on permanent exhibition in the Division of Archives and History, Dept. of Cultural Resources in Raleigh. A replica of the statuette of Sir Walter Raleigh, which surmounts the cover of the Cup, is given to the winner which I will present tonight. Past winners include Lee Smith, Clyde Edgerton, Ron Rash, Susan Kelly, Fred Chappel, Reynolds Price, and Michael Parker.

It is a pleasure and honor to present the 2011 Sir Walter Raleigh Award to Anna Jean ― AJ — Mayhew for her book The Dry Grass of August. This is AJ's first novel – 18 years in the making – I do have AJ's permission – she is 71 years old! A native of Charlotte, now living in Hillsborough, AJ writes from her vivid memories of growing up in the segregated South. Not only is she the Sir Walter Raleigh Award winner, her book is an Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. Blackstone Audio is producing an audio book and the novel is being translated into French.

AJ's past career experiences equipped her with skills that prepared her for writing, her fourth career. She was a court reporter which gave her invaluable insights into speech patterns and dialect, bringing truth to the dialogue in her fiction, opera management which taught her the importance of plot and flair for the dramatic production, editor of a major medical journal gave her the research skills necessary to validate the historical facts in her fiction set in the 1950's and 60's. She has been in the same writing group for 24 years. She is a writer-in-residence at The Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities and a former member of the Board of Trustees of the NC Writers Network. AJ is a mother and a grandmother and is married to her Swiss French husband, Jean-Michel Margot.

I have read The Dry Grass of August and AJ wanted me to tell her what I thought of it – well, – I could not put it down. I felt as if I was there, I loved it and soaked up every word. It is a very deserving winner. Karen White, New York Times Bestseller says this about The Dry Grass of August: “This book has all the elements the judges look for: creativity and imaginative qualities, universality of appeal, sense of place, sense of history, variety of emotions, realistic, a true depiction of the times, a lot of research was done, excellence of style, nice passages, a well written good story relevant to NC and the South and its people.”

You just can't beat good Southern Literature and AJ is now one of the South's most outstanding writers! AJ, you followed your passion and your dream. You are truly an inspiration to writers of all ages! Congratulations, we are so proud of you!
I could smell the cashmere bouquet!