“Reader’s Choice” Latest in a Long List of Accolades
Following success on the New York Times bestseller list, alumna takes home an Oregon Book Award.
For the past two years, novelist Amanda Coplin (’03, English) has been living the life many writers only dream of.
Coplin is the author of The Orchardist, a debut novel that was greeted with effusive praise following its publication in 2012 and landed on The New York Times bestseller lists for both hardcover and paperback fiction. And just recently Coplin received the Reader’s Choice Award in the annual Oregon Book Awards competition.
The book also earned Coplin the 2012 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for fiction and the 2013 Washington State Book Award. She received a Whiting Writers’ Award in 2013, and the same year the National Book Foundation named her one of its Five Authors Under 35.
Now living in Portland, Coplin went on to a master of fine arts degree at the University of Minnesota after getting her undergraduate degree at the UO. She has had residencies at the Fine Arts Work Center in Massachusetts and the Omni International Arts Center in New York.
At the UO, Coplin studied in the Kidd Tutorial Program, a creative writing section that enrolls students interested in the literary arts and matches them with a graduate tutor. The small-group classes allow students to expand their intellectual interests and develop their literary skills over the course of a year-long program.
One feature of the program is bringing in published writers to review and comment on student work. The writer Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love and other books, came while Coplin was in the Kidd program, and she has said she was so impressed by him she decided to pursue her graduate studies at the University Minnesota, where Baxter was teaching.
It was at that time that Coplin began working on The Orchardist. She later told an interviewer that the book consumed her life for the next eight years.
The Orchardist is set at the turn of the 20th century in eastern Washington, a setting familiar to the Wenatchee native. Coplin grew up among the region’s orchards and modeled the lead character in her book, Talmadge, on her grandfather, who worked his own orchards in a small town near Wenatchee.
In the book, the reclusive Talmadge takes in and shelters two runaway, pregnant teenage girls he catches stealing fruit. The girls begin to trust him, but just then armed men show up at the orchard looking for them, setting up a tragedy that forms the turning point in the story.
The Orchardist debuted to favorable reviews by The New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio, The Seattle Times and many other reviewers. It is published by HarperCollins.
―Greg Bolt, CAS communications