Creative writing alumnus wins Pulitzer Prize in fiction

Florida State alumnus Adam Johnson (AP Photo/
Pulitzer Prize Board).

Florida State University alumnus Adam Johnson has won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his book “The Orphan Master’s Son.”

Johnson, who earned a doctorate in creative writing from Florida State in 2001, is an associate professor of English with emphasis in creative writing at Stanford University. In the book, published in 2012 by Random House, Johnson provides a “riveting portrait of a world rife with hunger, corruption and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love,” according to the publisher.

“We are all incredibly proud of Adam for both the artistic achievement of “The Orphan Master’s Son” and for the recognition that this novel has earned,” said Florida State English Professor James Kimbrell, director of the university’s creative writing program. “That it has now garnered a Pulitzer Prize brings us great satisfaction and, no doubt, will inspire FSU creative writing students for generations to come.”

Florida State English Professor Emeritus Janet Burroway, who served as Johnson’s dissertation director, praised him as “truly talented.”

“He arrived at FSU with everything he needed: voice, style, command and a prodigious imagination — the Miracle-Gro of imaginations,” said Burroway, who was nominated in 1970 for a Pulitzer Prize for her novel “The Buzzards.” “‘Teaching’ him was a matter of asking a few questions and identifying favorite phrases. The only advice I ever gave him, really, was at his dissertation orals when I said, ‘There is no way you can fall short. The only danger is over the top.’”

Robert Olen Butler, Florida State’s Francis Eppes Professor of English, taught Johnson before joining the faculty at Florida State.

“In the three years I taught Adam in Louisiana, I was particularly struck by his ravenous engagement with life experience,” said Butler, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1993 for a collection of short stories, “A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.” “As impressed as I was by his emerging talent in the workshop, it was his avid exploration of everything from cockfighting to zydeco music that spoke to me of his nascent genius.”

To view the list of 2013 Pulitzer Prize winners, visit