Sophomore receives surprise scholarship from novelist Sandra Brown

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    Sophomore Bill Hamlett received a big surprise — one in the form of a full two-year tuition scholarship and a chance to meet best-selling novelist Sandra Brown.

    Hamlett, a writing major, won the 2011 Sandra Brown Excellence in Literary Fiction Scholarship, an award given to an English or writing major who demonstrates academic excellence and significant potential as a fiction writer, according to the award’s website.

    Hamlett said he found out about the scholarship when he first came to TCU and prepared to apply in the middle of his sophomore year. He said he started working on his 50-70 page portfolio of fiction, an essay about himself and two letters of recommendation.

    According to the website, the portfolio must contain samples of fiction short stories or a piece of a longer work and a piece that discusses the student’s writing, goals and interests. In addition, recipients must maintain a 3.0 GPA or better and remain active in TCU’s literary culture.

    Phone calls and emails to the English Department were not returned by time of publication.

    Hamlett said he did not take a creative writing class before applying for the award. Instead of writing fiction in his free time, he read books.

    Kelli Trapnell, a senior writing major and the 2009 scholarship winner, said the scholarship began two years ago when Sandra Brown’s husband, Michael Brown, wanted to do something special for her birthday. Michael Brown decided to create a two year full-tuition scholarship for one student in his wife’s name, she said.

    According to the award’s website, she has authored over 70 fiction novels, 58 of which have appeared on the New York Times best-sellers list. She attended TCU as an English major and later received an honorary doctorate from the university.

    Trapnell said she had the opportunity to study abroad without the financial burden of having to pay about $60,000 for her junior and senior year.

    Travis Freeman, a junior English major, said he was in the process of transferring from Austin Community College when he first found out about the scholarship. By applying for the scholarship and winning in 2010, he said he met and expanded his network with TCU professors and faculty.

    “The English Department faculty has been enormous in encouraging and assisting in the continuation of my writing ambitions,” he said.

    Hamlett said talking to English professors helped him in the scholarship process as well. He discussed ideas and topics with English professors and his friends to help guide him when writing, he said.

    Trapnell’s networking with Sandra Brown helped reassure her that writing was the correct career path to pursue, she said. Sandra Brown gave Trapnell confidence and insight into the publishing world, Trapnell said.

    “I was worried about the future,” she said. “And then I thought I could actually do this.”

    Hamlett believed the scholarship also helped boost a student’s confidence, he said. “[For writers] it’s very difficult to be recognized,” Hamlett said.

    Trapnell recalled a few words of advice Sandra Brown gave her: Keep writing no matter what.