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Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians

Dedicated to preserving the legacy of Carson McCullers; nurturing writers and musicians, educating young people; and fostering literary, musical, artistic, and intellectual culture in the United States and abroad.

A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.

a film by Karen Allen that debuted Feb. 19, 2017 at CSU

Based on the short story by groundbreaking Southern American writer Carson McCullers at age 19, the film “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” is set at a roadside café in the morning of spring 1947. A boy and man meet by chance. The man relates a luminous tale of personal heartbreak and loss, and of his hard-won understanding of the nature of love. The film also is the directorial debut of award-winning, New York-based actor/director Karen Allen.

Executive produced by Columbus State University's Carson McCullers Center.

Note from the Director

"I came across this story when I was in my early 20’s. As a young actor I was drawn to Carson McCullers as a playwright and novelist at first, and then began to read everything she’d written that I could get my hands on. “A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud” always loomed large for me among her many short stories, It is a quiet, subtle, mysterious story. It sneaks up on you and has stayed indelibly etched in my imagination all these years. It is a delicate, Zen like passing of wisdom from a older man to a young boy on a rainy day in a roadside café when their two lives unexpectedly intersect. The story, as I see it, is flooded with the raw, tangible beauty of the natural world, set in contrast to the complex, intangible yearning for love in their interior worlds. I intend to stay very close to the story Carson McCullers wrote and to illuminate the characters she has so beautifully drawn in the pages of this story."

Karen Allen
Director and Screenwriter

Karen Allen

Karen Allen (Director & Screenwriter)

Known for her work as an award-winning actor in more than 40 feature films ("Animal House," "A Small Circle of Friends," "The Wanderers," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Starman," "Scrooged," "The Glass Menagerie," "Malcolm X," "The Perfect Storm," "The Sandlot," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," "White Irish Drinkers," "Bad Hurt," and the soon to release "Year By the Sea"). She has worked for 30 years on and off Broadway ("A Summer Day," "Speaking in Tongues," "The Glass Menagerie," "The Monday After the Miracle," "Extremities," "As You Like It," "The Country Girl"). Karen began directing theatre at Bard College at Simon’s Rock 10 years ago and continued her work as a director at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Massachusetts ("Moonchildren," "Extremities," "Frankie and Johnny in the Clair du Lune") and in New York City with the Obie winning production of Lucy Thurber’s Ashville at the Cherry Lane Theatre. She is a longtime member of the Actor's Studio, on the faculty of the Theatre Dept. at Bard College at Simon's Rock, and on the Board of the Berkshire International Film Festival and the Board of the Amazon Conversation Team. Based on the short story by Carson McCullers, "A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud." is the first film she has written and directed.

Carson McCullers (Author)

Born in Columbus, Georgia, Carson McCullers was a prolific American writer of novels, short stories, essays, plays, and poetry. McCullers examined the psychology of lonely, isolated people, which she depicted through her eccentric characters and interpreted with deep empathy. She is best known for her novels, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940), which she wrote at the age of twenty-two, Reflections in a Golden Eye (1942), and for her play, A Member of the Wedding (1952). Her novel, The Ballad of a Sad Café (1951), was adapted for the stage by playwright Edward Albee. Four of her novels and plays have been made into feature films. She died in Nyack, New York, in 1967, at the age of 50.

Jeffrey DeMunn (Actor)

Jeffrey DeMunn is a film, television and stage actor. His film credits include: The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist, The Majestic, The Blob, The X-Files: Fight the Future, Hollywoodland, Burn after Reading, Citizen X, Barbarians at the Gate, and Empire Falls. TV: Billions, The Walking Dead, Divorce, The Affair, Mob City, The Good Wife, Storm of the Century, Kojak: The Price of Justice, Moonlighting, LA Law, The West Wing, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, E.R., The Practice, Trial by Jury, and Hill Street Blues. Theater: Death of a Salesman, Our Town, The Price, Hedda Gabler, Spoils of War, Sleight of Hand, K2, Bent, Comedians, Modigliani, King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

James McMenamin (Actor)

James McMenamin is best known for his portrayal of Charlie "Donuts" Coates on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Other recurring television credits include TNT's Public Morals, Showtimes' Nurse Jackie, and HBO's Olive Kitteridge. He's appeared as a guest star on Person of Interest, Inside Amy Schumer, The Good Wife, and many others. He recently appeared in the feature films In Dubious Battle, The Long Home, and Blood Heist. He has worked extensively in theatre and made his Broadway debut in the 2014 production of Of Mice and Men. He has previously worked on stage with director Karen Allen in Extremities at the Berkshire Theatre Festival, and in Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre's production Ashville.

Jackson Smith (Actor)

Jackson Smith (the Boy) resides in Western Massachusetts, not far from where A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud. was filmed. The is his first experience acting in a film. Jackson loves music. He plays the piano and trombone, and spends his time creating short pieces on Garage Band. He is an avid baseball player and fan of the sport. He does parkour, and he is presently performing card tricks for anyone who will be his audience. He studies film with Douglas Trumbull; writing, directing and editing his own home movies.


Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers was born Lula Carson Smith in Columbus, Georgia, on Feb. 19, 1917. Most famous for her novels "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter," "Reflections in a Golden Eye," "The Member of the Wedding," "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe," and "Clock Without Hands." McCullers was also a playwright and a short story writer.

Her small but significant body of work includes five novels, two plays, 20 short stories, more than two dozen nonfiction pieces, a book of children's verse, a number of poems, and an unfinished autobiography.

McCullers' life was blighted by a series of cerebral strokes caused by a misdiagnosed and untreated childhood case of rheumatic fever. The first stroke occurred when she was only 24 years old, and within several years, she was completely paralyzed on her left side. McCullers suffered a final stroke in August 1967 and died at age 50 on Sept. 29, 1967.

Celebrity Connections

Marilyn Monroe

Actress Marilyn Monroe came to lunch at Carson's house in Nyack, along with her husband Arthur Miller and novelist Isak Dinesen

Carson McCullers

Known as one of the most significant American writers of the 20th century, Carson McCullers was a novelist, a short-story writer, playwright, essayist and poet who grew up in Columbus, Georgia.


When Oprah Winfrey selected Carson's book The Heart is a Lonely Hunter for her book club in 2004, the 76-year-old book became a No. 1 bestseller that May.

Truman Capote

Truman Capote, trailblazing writer from the South, author of Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood, was a close friend of McCullers.

Tennessee Williams

Pulitzer Price-winning playwright Tennessee Williams first connected with Carson by sending her a fan letter after reading The Member of the Wedding.

Karen Allen

Karen Allen, costar in Raiders of the Lost Ark, debuted her short film adaptation of McCullers's short story "A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud." at Carson's 100th Birthday Celebration.

The Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Carson McCullers; to nurturing writers and musicians and educating young people; and to fostering literary, musical, artistic, and intellectual culture in the United States and abroad.

To that end, the Center operates a museum-artist residency space in McCullers's childhood home in Columbus, Georgia, and an events space in her adult home in Nyack, New York; offers fellowships for writers, artists, musicians, and scholars; presents educational and cultural programs in both Columbus and Nyack; and maintains an ever-growing archive of materials related to the life and work of Carson McCullers.

Learn More About Carson And Her Work:

Interactive Map of Columbus

View Interactive Map

nyack house exterior

In 1944 when Carson's father died, her mother left Columbus and moved to Nyack, New York, where she bought this house. Carson lived with her mother and sister off and on in this house for years. Carson eventually bought the house from her mother and is where she died in 1967. In December 2006, the McCullers house in Nyack was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Carson's physician and long time friend, Dr. Mary E. Mercer, bequeathed the home in Nyack to Columbus State University's Carson McCullers Center. After Mercer's passing in late April 2013, the Center inherited not only the house but also many Carson-related artifacts and documents that shed light on the last 10 years of Carson's life.

Due to the generosity of Mercer, CSU is one of the only universities to own two homes by a single author and now houses the world's most extensive research collection on Carson. An endowment in Mercer's name also has been created to continue these efforts in the curation and preservation of Carson's legacy.


David Diamond
Reading and Recital

Carson at 100:
The McCullers Centennial

Academic Opportunities


The Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship for Writers


Named in honor of Carson's parents, The Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship for Writers was inspired by McCullers's experience at the Breadloaf Writer's Conference in Vermont, especially the Yaddo Arts Colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. To honor the contribution of these writers' residences to McCullers's work, the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians awards fellowships for writers to study in her childhood home in Columbus, Georgia. The fellowships are intended to afford the writers in residence uninterrupted time to focus on their work, free from the distractions of daily life and other professional responsibilities.

Description and details

The Marguerite and Lamar Fellowship for Writers is offered during fall semester. The fellowship begins the first of September and ends the first of December. During this time, the writing fellow will reside in a spacious private apartment inside Carson McCullers's childhood home, the Smith-McCullers House. The fellow is provided with a stipend of $5,000 to cover costs of transportation, food and other incidentals. Fellowship recipients are encouraged to take an active role in the community and to meet informally with students and local residents interested in writing. The fellow will work with the McCullers Center director to plan a presentation near the end of the residency.

The Smith-McCullers House is located on a quiet residential street in Columbus' historic area. The fellow will occupy one-half of the Smith-McCullers House. The remainder of the house serves as the Smith-McCullers house museum. Because the house operates as a museum and outreach center, events and tours frequently occur in the upper part of the home during the fellow's time here. However, the apartment is comprised of a large living/writing/sleeping space, a private bathroom, and a private entrance, allowing fellows to work without interruption or disturbance by the Center and Museum. The kitchen is shared by the fellow and the Center. The Center uses the kitchen for special events throughout the fall, in which the fellow is always invited to participate.

The apartment is adequately furnished. Fellows need bring only their personal belongings. The Carson McCullers Center provides utilities, general property maintenance, a computer and online service. Fellows are encouraged to bring a laptop. Since public transportation is limited, an automobile is recommended; however, there are grocery stores, post offices, and other services within walking distance. A spouse or companion is welcome, but children and pets are not allowed.

2020 Fellow -- Christine Vines

Christine Vines

15th annual Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship for Writers Press Release

Past fellows:

  • 2006 -- Melanie Fallon
  • 2007 -- Mylene Dressler
  • 2008 -- Kelly Hayes-Raitt
  • 2009 -- Selena Anderson
  • 2010 -- Jessica Garratt
  • 2011 -- David Samuel Levinson
  • 2012 -- Evan James
  • 2013 -- Anzhelina Polonskaya
  • 2014 -- Caitlin Hayes
  • 2015 -- Rebecca Gayle Howell
  • 2016 -- Melissa Pritchard
  • 2017 -- Jennifer Choi
  • 2018 -- Aimee Bobruk
  • 2019 -- Samuel Kọ́láwọlé

Application Materials

I. Compile the following information for submission: Send via email to:

  • a cover letter which explains why you would make a suitable fellow, as well as the nature and extent of the work you intend to complete during the 3-month residency
  • your latest curriculum vitae, making sure to include fellowships, scholarships, prizes, or other honors you have received;
  • a writing sample of no more than 20 pages;

II. Also, we require at least two letters of recommendation.

  • All applications must be completed on or before April 1.
  • All applications will be acknowledged, and finalists will be chosen and scheduled for telephone interviews with the selection committee by May 15.
  • After each finalist completes a telephone interview, a Fellow will be chosen by the selection committee, to be announced June 1.

The Carson McCullers Center Fellowship Program
English Department
Columbus State University
4225 University Avenue
Columbus, GA 31907

Direct questions to:
The Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians

Announcement of Winner: June 1. All applicants will receive notification of the winner.

Cover of Carson McCullers biography by Virginia Spencer Carr

Virginia Spencer Carr Scholarship

Founded in April 2012, this scholarship honors the memory of former CSU English Department faculty member, Virginia Spencer Carr, and her valuable contributions to studies of Columbus author Carson McCuller in the biography "The Lonely Hunter."

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William Faulkner

Faulkner Studies Scholarship

Created in honor of Columbus resident Susan M. Cochran and her dedication to study of the great American author William Faulkner, the Scholarship for Faulkner Studies provides funding for gifted students majoring in English at Columbus State University to pursue their education in literary studies.

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Carson Mccullers

The Carson McCullers Literary Awards

Columbus State University's Department of English and Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians proudly present The Carson McCullers Literary Awards.

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Carson McCullers

The Carson McCullers Literary Awards

The Carson McCullers Literary Awards offer prizes for Georgia and Alabama high school students in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, expository essay, playwriting and screenwriting, with $300 for first place in each of those categories, $200 for second place, $100 for third place. A separate contest will award prizes exclusively for CSU students, with the same prizes being offered in each category.

Submission Deadline: Friday, March 5, 2021

Please visit the following site to learn more about the writing awards and to submit entries for the competition: CSU Department of English


Please consider a contribution to the Carson McCullers Center. Your gift will help to ensure future programming and to maintain this important historical site. All contributions to the Carson McCullers Center are tax deductible to the full extent of the law. For more information on making gifts, contact:

Nick Norwood, Director
The Carson McCullers Center
1519 Stark Avenue
Columbus, GA 31906

Or mail contributions to:

The Carson McCullers Center
1519 Stark Avenue
Columbus, GA 31906

To Schedule Carson McCullers House Tours:

Please call 706-565-1200, Monday to Friday. If your call goes into voicemail, please leave your name and contact information, the date and time you would like to tour the house, and please give at least 24-48 hours advance notice. Your call will be returned, as soon as possible, during regular business hours Monday to Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM (excluding holidays).