Nelson Smith, 2004 Award Winner
Nelson Smith's main interest is in the essay form, although he as also written satire, poetry, articles and war correspondence. His keenly observed and often wryly amusing essays have appeared in Harpers, The New York Times Magazine, The Baffler and The Sun and other publications.
"I favor topics involving architecture, urban history, and arcane branches of technology," Smith says. "I like scholarship and rummaging around in archives. People and crimes get into the mix too, as they will."
These interests have literally drawn Smith home. When he received the Margolis Award, he was enmeshed in a nonfiction narrative on the social and architectural history of a small tenement building in Manhattan's East Twenties, where he has lived for the past 20 years.
"In writing about my building's history, my neighbors, and my own life here," notes Smith, "I am always led back to a question that continues to intrigue me. Why do people come to cities?" A section of this project previously earned him a fellowship grant in creative nonfiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts.