Madison Smartt Bell, Founding Director

Photo: Madison Smartt Bell

Winner of the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Madison Smartt Bell previously held the Chair for Distinguished Achievement (with his wife, the poet Elizabeth Spires) at Goucher College where he is a Professor Emeritus.

Madison Smartt Bell is the author of an epic novelized trilogy of the Haitian slave uprising (1791-1804), which includes the novels All Soul’s Rising (1995), Master of the Crossroads (2000), and The Stone That the Builder Refused (2004). Professor Bell is also the author of the novels The Washington Square Ensemble (1983), Waiting for the End of the World (1985), Straight Cut (1986), The Year of Silence (1987), Doctor Sleep (1991), Save Me, Joe Louis (1993), Ten Indians (1997), Soldier’s Joy, which received the Lillian Smith Award in 1989, Anything Goes (2002), Devil’s Dream (a 2009 novel about Nathan Bedford Forrest and the American Civil War) and The Color of Night (2011).

Professor Bell has also published two collections of short stories: Zero db (1987) and Barking Man (1990).  In 2002, the novel Doctor Sleep was adapted as a film, Close Your Eyes, starring Goran Visnjic, Paddy Considine, and Shirley Henderson.

Forty Words For Fear, an album of songs co-written by Bell and  Wyn Cooper and inspired by his novel Anything Goes, was released by Gaff Music in 2003; other performers include Don Dixon, Jim Brock, Mitch Easter and Chris Frank.

Professor Bell’s eighth novel, All Soul’s Rising, was a finalist for the 1995 National Book Award and the 1996 PEN/Faulkner Award and winner of the 1996 Anisfield-Wolf award for the best book of the year dealing with matters of race. All Souls Rising, along with the second and third novels of his Haitian Revolutionary trilogy, Master of the Crossroads and The Stone That The Builder Refused, are available in a uniform edition from Vintage Contemporaries.

His works of literary nonfiction include Toussaint Louverture: A Biography (2007), Lavoisier in the Year One: The Birth of a New Science in an Age of Revolution (2005), and Freedom’s Gate: A Brief Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture (2007). An outstanding creative writing educator, he is also the author of Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form.

Born and raised in Tennessee, Professor Bell has lived in New York and in London and now lives in Baltimore, Maryland.  A graduate of Princeton University (A.B 1979) and Hollins College (M.A. 1981), he has taught in various creative writing programs, including the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. Since 1984 he has taught at Goucher College, along with his wife, the poet Elizabeth Spires.  He has been a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers since 2003.

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