Grantee:  Kelli Jo Ford
Native Ancestry:  Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
Location: Richmond, Va.
Award:  2016 National Artist Fellowship
Discipline:  Literature
Web Site:

Kelli Jo Ford is the first in her family to graduate from college with an M.F.A. from George Mason University. She is the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation grant for her fiction, and was awarded a 2012-2013 Dobie Paisano Fellowship through the University of Texas and the Texas Institute of Letters. In 2016, she attended  the School for Advance Research as Indigenous-Writer-in-Residence. Her stories have appeared in publications such as Virginia Quarterly Review, Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, and New Delta Review.

As a girl in a family of matriarchs, Ford spent hours sitting at the feet of strong women, listening to their stories and conversations well into the night. She simply could not get enough of their oral tales spun about life, community and family history. Through listening, Kelli learned how to tell a great story with intrigue and excitement.

Ford has published several short stories, taught writing, tutored writers, written reviews, and served as fiction editor for journals. Ford also works as a freelance writer. In her writings, she captures the assertive, wise and courageous traits of the Cherokee and Choctaw women from Eastern Oklahoma—how they made their way from their traditional homelands to struggle, prosper, fight, love, lose and discover the best of themselves through it all.

During her fellowship, she plans to write a collection of stories that stem from a mixed-blood Cherokee mother and daughter who move from Eastern Oklahoma to North Texas to start anew amidst the oil bust of the 1980s. Christian faith both saves and breaks the characters, even as it isolates them from their tribal culture.

Our world is not homogenous, and I want to help make sure that our fiction isn’t either.
– Kelli Jo Ford