Friends of Paisano, Logo

Passionate Supporters of the Dobie Paisano Fellowship and the Dobie Paisano Ranch

Origin of the Fellowship Program

By the time of his death in 1964, Austin writer and folklorist J. Frank Dobie had become nationally and internationally known. He had taught at The University of Texas at Austin for many years before his success as a writer and before his disgruntlement with university policies prompted him to leave the faculty. But the course he taught at the university, "Life and Literature of the Southwest," had encouraged generations of students to recognize the virtues of regional and, particularly, of Texas writing. His own writing was its best exemplar.

In 1959, he and Mrs. Dobie had bought a small acreage fourteen miles southwest of Austin. He named it Paisano, a word of Spanish origin used in the Southwest to denote the roadrunner. Dobie also knew that the word has other regional meanings such as "compatriot," "native," and "rustic." More a retreat than a working site, Paisano was a delightful gathering place for friends and colleagues. A few months after Dobie's death, a group of friends got together to discuss how best to remember him and concluded that preserving Paisano and using it for a writers' retreat would be not only a fitting memorial but also a way of extending his legendary generosity with time, advice, energy, and loan of material to other writers. Thus the Dobie Paisano fellowships came to be established. A gala gathering in Houston raised money to purchase the ranch and with the help of generous friends, the property was given to The University of Texas at Austin. The Texas Institute of Letters (TIL) undertook responsibility for support of the fellowships with continuing and substantial help from the Ralph Johnston Memorial Foundation and the Houston Endowment.

Fellowship Program

Sponsored by the Graduate School at The University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Institute of Letters, the Dobie Paisano Fellowship Program provides solitude, time, and a comfortable place for Texas writers or writers who have written significantly about Texas. The retreat is on a 250 acre ranch about twenty minutes west of Austin. Here J. Frank Dobie's ranch house sits below a wall of cliffs and near a clear, beautiful creek. The house is furnished simply and comfortably, with modern conveniences. Utilities, internet, and phone service are provided, though the fellow must pay for long distance telephone service.

At the time of application, the applicant must meet one of the following requirements: (1) be a native Texan, (2) have resided in Texas at least three years at some time, or (3) have published significant work with a Texas subject. Those who meet requirement 1 or 2 do not have to meet the Texas subject matter restriction.

There are two distinct fellowships - one for September 1 - December 31 with a stipend of $6250 a month (the Ralph A. Johnston Memorial Fellowship); one for February 1 - July 31 with a stipend of $3000 a month (the Jesse H. Jones Writing Fellowship). Length of residency may change for maintenance or program needs. The fellowships are available to both creative writers and writers of non-fiction. Non-fiction should be written for the general audience.

The Jesse H. Jones Writing Fellowship will be aimed at, though certainly not limited to, writers who are early in their careers and who would benefit from an extended period at the ranch.  Demonstration of prior publishing and critical success is not expected, though, as in the past, many applicants will indeed have such a record.  Any writer at any level of success (including those with strong publishing records) is eligible for the Jesse Jones Fellowship.

The Ralph A. Johnston Memorial Fellowship is aimed at writers who have already demonstrated some publishing and critical success.  This may or may not be writers a little later along in their literary careers.  The definition of "publishing and critical success" will be determined by the judges each year, but, in general, we would expect at least one critically well-received book, or an impressive list of published essays, articles, poems, stories, etc.  The decision of the judges will be based on the quality of the writer's past work and the potential for future excellence.  Of course, the writer's suitability for ranch life is always taken into account.  We will be asking this writer to give a reading or talk at the university during the residency.

Applicants may apply for both fellowships. The application fee is $20 for one fellowship or $30 for both fellowships. If applying for both, include the $30 application fee with the Ralph A. Johnston Memorial Fellowship application and check the appropriate box at the top of the Johnston application form. Application fees are nonrefundable. Each application and its accompanying materials must be mailed in separate packets.  There will be separate judging panels for each fellowship.