Irvine Writer Awarded National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship

Times Staff Writer

Helena Viramontes, an Irvine free-lance editor and fiction writer, has been awarded a 1989 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.

Viramontes, former coordinator of UC Irvine’s annual Chicano Literary Contest, received a $20,000 creative writing grant in the fiction category. She is one of 96 writers across the country to receive an NEA fellowship. There were almost 1,900 applications in three categories: fiction, poetry and belles-lettres.

The East Los Angeles native, a former graduate student in UCI’s Program in Writing, serves as editor for UCI’s International Chicano Studies Program and is the author of “The Moths and Other Stories” (Arte Publico Press, 1985). She will use the grant to complete her short story collection, “Paris Rats in L.A.,” and her novel, tentatively titled “Woman Succumbing to the Pull of Gravity.”

BIG ADVANCE: Marti Leimbach, who attended the UC Irvine Program in Writing last year, has signed a “six-figure” deal with Doubleday for her first novel, “Dying Young.” The novel is about a love triangle involving a young woman, a terminally ill young man and another man she falls in love with.


Leimbach, who now lives in Hull, Mass., is represented by the Virginia Barber Literary Agency, which also represents Writing Program alum Michael Chabon of Laguna Beach (“The Mysteries of Pittsburgh”). Like Chabon, Leimbach was referred to Barber by Donald Heiney, one of the founders of the UCI writing program.

“ ‘Dying Young’ is an important book and she is going to be an important writer,” said Heiney, who writes under the pen name MacDonald Harris. “The book is impressive not only for its style and its narrative skill, but for the kind of wisdom it shows which, I think, is impressive for so young a writer.”