Amy Stolls, Director of Literature at the NEA. (Photo credit: Carrie Holbo) Amy Stolls, director of literature at the NEA. (Carrie Holbo)

Amy Stolls has been named the director of Literature at the National Endowment for the Arts. A long-time employee of the NEA, Stolls has been acting director for more than a year. Today’s announcement formalizes her position.

As director, she oversees the NEA’s grants to publishing organizations, book festivals, readings, workshops, podcasts and individual grants to writers. The department’s annual grant budget is approximately $2.5 million to organizations and $1 million to individuals.

“I advise on several partnership programs in Literature’s portfolio – Poetry Out Loud, the Big Read and the National Book Festival,” she says via email from her office in Washington. “And I’m tasked with keeping an ear to the ground when it comes to issues and trends affecting literature so I can provide guidance and support in that regard to folks within and outside the agency.”

Stolls, who is also a novelist and has taught literature at American University, says that her small department has several positions open. “We hope to get back to being fully staffed this year.”

As she considers her mandate to encourage artistic excellence, she’s thinking about “how small presses can survive and thrive in this digital age, how we can bring in more translations of literature from Africa and the Arab world, how we may boost the number of bilingual (English/Spanish mostly) children’s books published and distributed across the country, and even the less sexy stuff like how to strengthen the infrastructure of the field.”

But one issue, she says,  is always foremost in her mind: “How to get more people reading literature.”