A teacher since 1982 in UNC-Chapel Hill's Creative Writing Program, and the program's director from 2002 to mid-2008, Bland Simpson is Kenan Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing, and is author of the books Heart of the Country, A Novel of Southern Music; The Great Dismal, A Carolinian's Swamp Memoir; The Mystery of Beautiful Nell Cropsey, A Nonfiction Novel; Into the Sound Country: A Carolinian's Coastal Plain, with photography by his wife Ann Cary Simpson; Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals, The Mystery of the Carroll A. Deering, A Nonfiction Novel; and The Inner Islands: A Carolinian's Sound Country Chronicle (with photography by Ann Cary Simpson). Simpson's latest, The Coasts of Carolina: Seaside to Sound Country, with photography by Scott Taylor, was published in November, 2010, by UNC Press.
Since 1986 a member of the Tony Award-winning, internationally acclaimed stringband The Red Clay Ramblers, Simpson has toured extensively in North America, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and has also collaborated on, or contributed to, the following musicals: King Mackerel & The Blues Are Running: Songs & Stories of the Carolina Coast; Diamond Studs; Hot Grog; Life on the Mississippi; Lone Star Love, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas; Tony-nominee Pump Boys & Dinettes; Cool Spring; Tar Heel Voices; Kudzu, A Southern Musical; and three-time Broadway hit and Special Tony Award-winning Fool Moon. In September, 2002, Simpson worked with the Ramblers on a Waynesville, N.C., preview of the Diane Coburn Bruning-choreographed ballet of their music, Ramblin' Suite. The ballet officially premiered at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Oct. 31st-Nov. 3rd, 2002. A second Ramblers ballet, Carolina Jamboree, developed and performed with the Carolina Ballet, premiered at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in February 2005 and was broadcast by UNC TV statewide in early 2006. Carolina Ballet and the Red Clay Ramblers restaged this work in June 2008. The Ramblers released the celebratory recording about North Carolina, Old North State, in the fall of 2009.
Simpson's CD Follow You All Over the World was released by Gaff Music in 2003. Kudzu, A Southern Musical, Simpson's collaboration with fellow Rambler Jack Herrick and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Doug Marlette, was released on CD by Bypass Productions, December, 2003. * For comment on Ghost Ship/Follow You &c., please see also: www.redclayramblers.com
In November, 2005, Simpson was given the North Carolina Award for Fine Arts, the state's highest civilian honor. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill gave him a Tanner Faculty Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2004. In 1999, he won the Governor's Award "Conservation Communicator of the Year," presented by the N.C. Wildlife Federation, as well as the N.C. Folklore Society's Brown-Hudson Award for writing and music concerning state and regional heritage. He was Chair of the North Carolina Writers Conference for 2001-2002, which met in Elizabeth City, N.C., the last weekend of July '02. His other awards include: the Hardee-Rives Award for Significant Contributions to the Dramatic Arts, N.C. Literary & Historical Association, Raleigh, N.C., November 2010; Honoree, N.C. Writers Conference, Chapel Hill, N.C., July 2010; the North Carolina Award for Extraordinary Contributions to the Literature, Music and Culture of North Carolina, North Caroliniana Society, Chapel Hill, N.C., May 2010; and the R. Hunt Parker Award for Significant Contributions to the Literature of North Carolina, N.C. Literary & Historical Association, New Bern, N.C., November 2009.
* North Carolina Award for Fine Arts 2005 Citation