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Photo of Bland Simpson, taken by Sarah Boyd

Kenan Distinguished Professor

B.A., Political Science, UNC Chapel Hill (1973)


Bland Simpson is Kenan Distinguished Professor of English & Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and he has also been The Red Clay Ramblers’ piano player since 1986.  His books include The Great Dismal, The Mystery of Beautiful Nell Cropsey, Into the Sound Country, Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals, The Coasts of Carolina, Two Captains from Carolina, Little Rivers & Waterway Tales, and North Carolina:  Land of Water, Land of Sky, and his theatrical collaborations include Diamond StudsHot Grog, Life on the Mississippi, King Mackerel & The Blues Are Running, Cool Spring, Tar Heel Voices, Kudzu and Fool Moon. Simpson’s awards include the North Carolina Award for Fine Arts (2005), the N.C. Humanities Council’s John Tyler Caldwell Award in the Humanities (2017), the UNC Chapel Hill Edward Kidder Graham Faculty Service Award (2018), and induction into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame (2020).

Find Bland Simpson’s interview with the Thomas Kenan Institute for the Arts here and his feature from the Carolina Alumni Review here, and his citation for his induction into the NC Literary Hall of Fame is here.


  • Diamond Studs, The Life of Jesse James (co-author, with Jim Wann) (Musical, Samuel French, NY, 1975)

  • The Great Dismal, A Carolinian’s Swamp Memoir (UNC Press, 1990)

    The Mystery of Beautiful Nell Cropsey (UNC Press, 1993)

  • Into the Sound Country, A Carolinian’s Coastal Plain (UNC Press, 1997)

  • King Mackerel & The Blues Are Running, Songs & Stories of the Carolina Coast (co-author, with Jim Wann, Don Dixon, & J.L. Mills)(Musical, Samuel French, NY, 1998)

  • Kudzu, A Southern Musical (co-author, with Jack Herrick & Doug Marlette)(Samuel French, NY, 1999)


  • Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals (UNC Press, 2002)

  • The Inner Islands (UNC Press, 2006)

  • The Coasts of Carolina (UNC Press, 2010)

  • Two Captains from Carolina (UNC Press, 2012)

  • Little Rivers & Waterway Tales, A Carolinian’s Eastern Streams (UNC Press, 2015)

  • North Carolina:  Land of Water, Land of Sky (UNC Press, 2021).

Teaching Awards

  • Chapman Fellowship, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, UNC-CH, Chapel Hill, NC, Fall 1998
  • Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2004
  • Bowman & Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professorship, 2006-2011


  • Tony Award, to the production of Fool Moon, co-created by Bill Irwin, David Shiner, and the The Red Clay Ramblers, and produced on Broadway, New York, in 1993, 1995, and 1998; presented at the Tony Awards Ceremony, Gershwin Theatre, New York, June 6th, 1999; Fool Moon also won a Drama Desk Award for “Unique Theatrical Experience,” and an Outer Critics Circle “Special Achievement” Award;
  • Frank C. Brown-Arthur Palmer Hudson Award, NC Folklore Society, presented in Columbia, NC, April 24th, 1999;
  • Tar Heel of the Week, The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC, March 7th, 1999;
  • Conservation Communicator of the Year, 1998, Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards, presented by NC Wildlife Federation in Research Triangle Park, NC, February 13th, 1999;
  • North Carolina Award for Fine Arts, November 2005 

  • R. Hunt Parker Award for Contributions to North Carolina Literature, NC Lit & Hist, November 2009 

  • Hardee-Rives Award for the Dramatic Arts, NC Lit & Hist, November 2010 

  • North Caroliniana Society Award, May 2010 

  • North Carolina Writers Conference Honoree, July 2010
  • Roberts Literary Inspiration Award, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, September 23rd, 2011;
  • Distinguished Achievement Award given to The Red Clay Ramblers by PlayMakers Repertory Company, Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, NC, February 11th, 2012;
  • UNC Chapel Hill General Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Service Award, Hill Center, UNC Campus, January 16th, 2015;
  • John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, 2017 
  • the UNC Chapel Hill Edward Kidder Graham Faculty Service Award (2018)

  • Induction into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame (2020)

  • the North Caroliniana Society 2021 Book Award for North Carolina, Land of Water, Land of Sky

Courses Taught:

  • ENGL 130 and 132H: Introduction to Fiction Writing 

  • ENGL 206: Intermediate Fiction Writing 

  • ENGL 208: Creative Non-fiction – Writing on the Natural World 

  • ENGL 306: Playwriting 

  • ENGL 408: Collaboration – Composers & Lyricists (Songwriting) 

  • ENGL 409: Lyrics & Lyricists (Lyric Writing)

  • ENGL 490: Musical Writing I and II
  • ENGL/MASC 473: Creative Non-fiction – The Changing Coasts of Carolina (Featured Course)

Curriculum Vitae / Resume