Each fall, I eagerly await the appearance of two short story collections published by the University of Iowa Press. I have been reviewing the winning books for several years now, and I am seldom disappointed. Even so, is a strong year for the ongoing series, offering two excellent collections that are worthy recipients of the awards.
Kathryn Ma is well aware that our personal past can derail our present. When I got news of the prize I had been recently married, getting through the first year of motherhood—and surviving a family financial tsunami after Lori Ostlund : The truth is that I knew nothing about publishing when I entered this contest. So, in , I decided to go to Bread Loaf as a contributor in order to learn a bit more, and I think that it was there that I learned about submitting to prizes.
I was just following the annual chronology of contests, but I was particularly happy that it was the FOC that took it because the contest is so well regarded. Funny enough, the Iowa Award was the very first place I sent the manuscript. Kirstin Scott : I entered the AWP contest not so much because of the cash award, though I did appreciate it, but because I thought the judges would be open to literary fiction. I also liked that it was a publication prize with blind submissions, so new and established writers have the same chance.
Holly Payne : It was the only contest I found that was open to books that had already been self-published. I had been reading Writers Digest Magazine since I was a kid. It felt like a natural choice. How did winning the prize change your life? Did it open any doors? Did it help you find an agent? Lori Ostlun d: Everything shifted when the book came out.
Work still gets rejected, of course, but now editors write to me requesting to see work, so the slush piles no longer factor in the same way. They contacted her about selling the paperback rights, something she had done for an earlier recipient, and though the press decided to bring out the paperback itself, Terra remained my agent, and we are now working toward a deadline of July 31st for my first novel.
In fact, that happened because the Norton editor read and enjoyed Power Ballads and got interested in what I was working on next. So, yes, it opened some doors. Kirstin Scott : Winning the prize has been so important for me. First, it got my book published, which was terrifically validating.
And with that, the prize gave me readers. I think the prize also helped Motherlunge get some prepublication attention — starred reviews from Booklist and was even a Pick of the Week in Publishers Weekly. Holly Payne : I had already self-published Kingdom of Simplicity under my own company Skywriter Books, so I would not say it helped to sell more books or changed my life my dramatically. But, I loved going to New York for the prize trip. Spending a full day in the Metropolitan Museum of Art without changing any diapers or feeding any mouths other than my own with a red devil cupcake felt life changing.
Lori Ostlund : It was actually published by the University of Georgia Press in hardcover in and in paperback in UGA has been great. The press itself put together a great-looking book—they let me have a lot of input into the design and made some pretty inspired choices themselves. Kirstin Scott : Yes, really pleased. Using my team at Skywriter Books, the manuscript went through six sets of editorial notes, 37 test readers and then into the hands of cover designers.
The book also found a foreign rights agent and was sold and published in The Netherlands, Taiwan and soon China we just got the check today! Lori Ostlund : A lot of very good things have happened. Yet despite their trials, the characters in these stories come away with a sense of hope for what remains.
All of the characters in Within the Lighted City are Detroiters or former Detroiters, including a near-albino teenager, an angel, and the Zito family—Ralph and Rosie and their children, who first appear in the collection during the '67 riots. The award-winning stories in David Borofka's Hints of His Mortality focus on the male of the species, on bewildered, guilt-ridden, hypersensitive characters adrift in a sea of changing roles and expectations.
Although they yearn for the ideal—whether physical or spiritual—and for that sense of divine connection suggested by Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality , they usually end up settling for what seems the next best thing: sex or religion.
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The amorous scrimmage between male and female in these taut, intense stories is a contest that leaves no one unmarked. The hapless ministers in Borofka's memorable collection find that their daily grind of professional piety leaves them with more questions than answers. The men and boys in Hints of His Mortality are always aware of their flaws, for Borofka's vital characters have the capacity to register the shadows of their every blemish. All eight of Don Zancanella's wry, pristinely written stories have memorable settings in the historical or contemporary American West, ranging from love among abandoned missile silos to a tale of Laotian refugees in Wyoming to an account of a traveling chimpanzee show.
Collectively they form a kind of alternative history of this too-often-stereotyped region. Some of the stories take as their theme the coming of technology to the western wilderness—television, telephones, telescopes, missiles, even an imaginative account of a visit by inventor Thomas Edison to the Rocky Mountains.
Others focus on small-town intolerance, calling into question the myth of individualism and heroic self-reliance set forth in Hollywood. There is a vivid strain of the fantastic in these stories, a beguiling, offbeat quality that links them.
However, despite some extraordinary events and quirky exteriors, most of the characters are typical of the kind of people one might meet in small towns anywhere—schoolteachers, career soldiers, Native American teenagers, telephone line workers, ranchers, cooks, wagon masters. Almost all of them have very mixed feelings about the time and place in which they find themselves. For them the West is not a promised land but a place they have to make the best of.
It is these human copings that unite Zancanella's prize-winning collection. When a man's wife dies suddenly, he feels liberated, and learning this stuns him. Taking a leap into personhood, a child watching her mother in the garden experiences empathy. A woman addicted to a lover realizes how she has squandered herself. A kiss in a taxicab sets two people on the road to inevitability. Scars, even small ones, reflect the power and mystery of the roads people take from one life into another. In the intense title story, suicide, long-distance love, and a cat's nine lives overshadow a woman's subterranean life.
At the intersection where these insightful stories take place, what is in one's heart and what one reveals to the world converge. Each story is a resonant act of self-discovery for both writer and reader.enter site
Iowa Short Fiction & John Simmons Short Fiction Awards: Books
With all the drama and complexity of a symphony, Listening to Mozart traces forty years in the life of flutist James Baxter. Many of the stories in this collection—actually a novel in stories—center on or revolve around James' relationship with Anna, a potter and artist. Each story is a separate movement, yet they combine to create a deeply textured whole work. The stories chronicle James' inward journey, as well as his life and loves, with a voice repeatedly transformed through the years. The story imitates the musical form it describes and tunes the reader's ear to the innermost thoughts of a musician.
Award Year 1988
Marine Band during the Vietnam War when he meets Anna, his adventures with his friend Franklin, his experiences with the mysterious Dalawa, a trip with Anna to Toronto to immerse themselves in the culture and music of South India. James' friendships, affairs, experiences, and occasional angst resound in each story. In all the stories, in all his relationships, James finds himself experiencing his life in much the way he experiences music.
There is a moment for which he is waiting, yet for which he is never fully prepared, a moment which passes inexorably. Sometimes, in the rare musical experience, he is able to penetrate that moment and allow time to fall away. These moments are the signposts of his life, like the movements of the Bach suite, but unbidden, and they give him his only perspective and vision.
In Ann Harleman's remarkable debut collection, men and women of extraordinary passions look for and sometimes find the hidden heart of ordinary life. Testing themselves and each other, they search for ways to connect. Reckless explorers of inner space, they try the limits of their lives. A gravely ill woman seeks forgiveness from her grown-up daughters for an adulterous past which she does not really regret.
A boy watches anxiously—and enviously—while his brother flaunts an interracial love affair in front of their dangerous father. In strike-torn Warsaw during the rise of Solidarity, an American professor and his Polish housekeeper reach toward each other from their respective cages of loneliness. A girl's determined pursuit of her first sexual experience brings her more, and less, than she bargained for. Harleman combines a clear eye with a generous heart, revealing her characters-misguided, selfish, loving, brave—through a compassionate, often humorous probing of their inner and outer worlds.
In "It Was Humdrum" a system analyst hires a detective to find the mother who left him as an infant, while his young wife leaves him daily for afternoon trysts with her Puerto Rican lover. A woman assaulted by a teenage gang escapes physically unharmed but forever changed.
The past overtakes a woman who has married for love, not of her husband, but of his small daughter. A greeting card poet pursued by stereotyped images of happiness flees from the woman he loves and the brother he never knew he had. The supple language of these twelve stories—wise, funny, delighting in the sensuous—makes us feel the beauty and terror of a fully lived life. Harleman's characters, whether they succeed or fail, show us the way to a deeper exploration of our own lives.
These nine superbly crafted stories, set primarily in Pittsburgh's Italian American neighborhoods, concentrate on families, on the poignant nature of father-daughter relationships, and on the fate of those who are refugees from their physical or spiritual communities. Her vigorous families are both the wrecking crews and the architects of the human foundation. Distraught in spite of her second-place win, he begins to relive his grief over the death of his beautiful wife.
A Fiction Reading by Author Lee Montgomery - English - College of Arts and Sciences - Lewis & Clark
Many of Manfredi's vital, luminous characters are outsiders, dispossessed by their inability to bridge the gap between the self and others, forced to deal with loss through death and lapse of faith, yet always managing to survive despite their place on the bewildering margins. Manfredi reveals an affirmation, finally, that hope is a permanent possession of every human spirit.
Many of Mates' characters have experienced some sort of cultural dislocation. In "Theng," refugees from Cambodia living in Providence, Rhode Island, struggle to maintain their dignity in the face of despair and the bittersweet memories of their former home. In "Shambalileh," a Persian woman, unable to have children with her American husband, is forced to reexamine her status both as wife and foreigner. Unifying these incredibly diverse stories is the brave honesty with which the characters confront the tenuousness of their situations.