Madison Smartt Bell, a novelist and an English professor at Goucher College, has received a $250,000 literary award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the association announced yesterday.
The 2008 Strauss Living Award -- which is distributed in $50,000 installments over five years -- was also awarded to California novelist and journalist William T. Vollmann.
The prize comes with strings attached: Recipients must agree to forgo "positions of paid employment" during the award's five-year term.
That's a condition the prolific Bell, 50, can live with.
"It's a gift from the sky," said the novelist, who lives in Cedarcroft and has been at Goucher since 1984. "I'm going to try and double my production."
The author of All Souls' Rising, a 1995 National Book Award finalist, said he usually works on one or two novels at once. "Now I think I can do two or three," he said. "I can do a bit more journalism. And there are some nonfiction projects I'd like to pursue."
Bell said he will not be resigning from Goucher's faculty. "Goucher College has been very generous in making it possible for me to accept this offer."
Previous Strauss Living winners include Raymond Carver, Cynthia Ozick and Robert Stone.