An outstanding year for Iowa literature
By: Cristóbal McKinney
The University of Iowa is an internationally recognized leader in creative writing and related specialties. Faculty and students in Iowa’s graduate and undergraduate programs produce plays, novels, poems, essays, and translations. Some study the art of book and papermaking; others are aspiring journalists cutting their teeth in an award-winning student-run newspaper. And UI publishers print the latest works of new and emerging talent.
Each year dozens of Iowa faculty, staff, students, and alumni get their work published, win prizes, draw accolades, and earn awards. Below are highlights from the many writing and writing-related programs around campus to recognize the tremendous contribution of our community and its alumni to the writing world during the 2017–18 academic year.
Center for the Book
Karen Carcia, adjunct assistant professor of book arts, this year won first place in the Michigan Poet’s Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters benefit contest for her poem “Slant.”
Printer and artist Sara Langworthy won the 2018 Carl Hertzog Award for Excellence in Book Design for her design of Naturans Naturata.
Center for the Book alumna Lisa Miles, who earned her MFA in 2017, was awarded the 2018 Holle Award for Excellence in Book Arts for Codex Chup Cabal. The book was her MFA thesis project.
Department of English
Bennett Sims, assistant professor of English and 2012 graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, received the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize for Literature, a gift of the Drue Heinz Trust, as part of the 2018–19 Rome Prize and Italian Fellowships.
Louisa Hall, assistant professor of English, was named the Western Writer in Residence at Montana State University for 2018–19.
Professor Phil Round and Associate Professor Jacki Rand were members of a team selected by the Andrew W. Mellon–funded Humanities Without Walls Research Grants for 2018 for their project titled “Indigenous Art and Activism in Changing Climates: The Mississippi River Valley, Colonialism, and Environmental Change.”
International Writing Program
Lorna Goodison, a writer from Jamaica who attended the IWP in 1983 and was a distinguished IWP 50th anniversary guest in 2017, was awarded the 2018 Windham-Campbell Prize. This marked the second consecutive year an IWP Fall Residency alumni won the award; Ali Cobby Eckermann, IWP ’14, won in 2017.
Journalist and writer Milagros Socorro, a 2012 IWP fall resident from Venezuela, won the Oxfam Novib PEN Award in 2018. The award “honours writers who currently risk their freedom and even their lives to seek out and publish the truth,” and is a collaboration between Oxfam Novib and PEN International. Oxfam Novib CEO Farah Karibi says Socorro “dares to hold the rulers to account in spite of threats.”
Christopher Merrill, director of the IWP, received numerous awards this year for his book Self-Portrait with Dogwood, including the 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Award in Memoirs, the silver medal for the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award in Autobiography, and a bronze medal for the Foreword INDIES Book of the year Award for Autobiography and Memoir. Merrill’s book was also listed as a finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Award Grand Prize.
Iowa Summer Writing Festival
Former Wisconsin Poet Laureate and longtime Iowa Summer Writing Festival faculty member Max Garland was awarded the 2017–18 Brittingham Prize in Poetry for his new collection, The Word We Used for It, published by the University of Wisconsin Press. This spring, he was inducted as a Fellow into the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts and Letters.
Longtime festival student and supporter of higher education Joe Crowley passed away in November 2017 at age 84. His latest collection of poetry, Sleuth on the Goose, was posthumously published this spring by Baobab Press. Crowley attended the festival for 10 years as a student of poetry. He served a record 23 years as the president of the University of Nevada, Reno, was a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and was president of the NCAA for two years. His publications include books and essays on the college presidency and related topics, the NCAA’s centennial history, and two books of poetry: Hats Off to the Cap (2016) and the recent Sleuth on the Goose. Last July, Crowley took his eleventh and final workshop in the festival: Revisionist Singing—Walking Your Poems through the Ages.
Sandra Scofield, festival faculty member of more than 20 years and National Book Award finalist for her novel, Beyond Deserving, recently published a collection of stories, Swim: Stories of the Sixties, with Wellstone Press. She also has recently published her second craft book for fiction writers, The Last Draft: The Novelist’s Guide to Revision, with Penguin Books, based on her experience teaching for the festival.
Iowa Writers’ Workshop
Sour Heart, a story collection written by 2009 workshop graduate Jenny Zhang and published by Penguin Random House, won the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction in the 38th annual Los Angeles Times Book Awards.
The O. Henry Prize Stories for 2018 will include work from second-year workshop student Jamil Kochai and from workshop alumni Marjorie Celona (’09), Jenny Zhang (’09), and Mark Jude Poirier (’97).
Carmen Maria Machado, a 2012 workshop graduate, received the 2018 Bard Fiction Prize for her debut story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, published by Graywolf Press. In addition, Her Body and Other Parties received the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction and was named a finalist for the National Book Award, the LA Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction.
Iowa Young Writers Studio
Instructor Rebekah Frumkin, who attended the Iowa Young Writers Studio in 2006 and graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2014, published her first novel, THE COMEDOWN, with Henry Holt and Co.
Jamel Brinkley, a summer instructor at the IYWS since 2014 and 2015 Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate, published his collection of stories, A Lucky Man, with Graywolf Press.
Alexia Arthurs, a summer instructor since 2015 and a 2014 Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate, sold her collection of stories, How to Love a Jamaican, to Pan Macmillan and will be published in late July 2018.
Nonfiction Writing Program
Inara Verzemnieks, assistant professor of English and 2013 NWP graduate, won the prestigious Anšlavs Eglitis and Veronika Janelsina Literary Prize for her memoir, Among the Living and the Dead. The award is one of the largest in Latvian literature and comes with a $20,000 prize. Verzemnieks also was recognized this year as the Early Career Scholar of the Year by the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Micah Fields, who graduated this spring, was named this year’s recipient of the Oxford American Jeff Baskin Writers Fellowship, which will provide him a $10,000 living stipend, housing, and an editorial apprenticeship with the Oxford American.
Incoming NWP student EmmaJean Holley was awarded the prestigious Beinecke Scholarship, which grants the recipient a total of $4,000 before entering graduate school and $30,000 while attending.
In 2018, Samuel D. Hunter, who graduated from the Playwrights Workshop in 2007, began his fifth and final year as a MacArthur Fellow. His play Lewiston and Clarkson opened the 2018–19 season of Off-Broadway’s Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre.
Wolf at the Door, by Marisela Orta, who graduated from the Playwrights Workshop in spring 2018, will receive the third and final production of a rolling world premiere sponsored by the National New Play Network. The play, which had its first two productions at Milagro (Portland, Oregon) and Halcyon Theatre (Chicago, Illinois), will open at the New Jersey Repertory Company in October.
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Professor Stephen Bloom published The Audacity of Inez Burns: Dreams, Desire, Treachery & Ruin in the City of Gold with Regan Arts in February 2018.
Thomas Oates, associate professor of American Studies, recently published Football and Manliness: An Unauthorized Feminist Account of the NFL with the University of Illinois Press.
Director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication David Ryfe recently published Journalism and the Public with Polity Press. Ryfe also won the Citizen Diplomat Award, given by the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities.
Spanish Creative Writing MFA
Pablo Ottonello, who received his MFA from the Spanish Creative Writing program in 2017, published a novel this spring, Veteranos de la guerra del día, with Entropía.
Associate professor Horacio Castellanos Moya published the novel Moronga this spring with Random House.
Ana Merino, professor and director of the Spanish Creative Writing MFA, published a book of essays, Diez ensayos para pensar el Cómic, with Eolas Ediciones this year. In addition, her article in El País, the most read newspaper in Spain, titled Mujer con abanico, received second place for the 2018 Award for Feminist Divulgation “Carmen de Burgos,” given by the University of Málaga, Spain. Two of her columns in El País also were included in the annual Spanish University Access exam for the regions of Madrid and Galicia in Spain.
The Daily Iowan
The Daily Iowan placed in 21 categories at the 2018 Iowa Newspaper Association awards, including eight first-place winners in editorial. DI staff received first-place for Best Coverage of Agriculture, Best Newspaper Website, Best Slide Show for the work on UI Dance Marathon, and Best Feature Page for “Coming through Autism.”
Individual first-place winners include Joseph Cress, who won Best Sports Photo for “Iowa Softball vs. UNI,” James Year who won Best News Feature Photo for “2017 Arab Formal,” and Maria Curi’s “El Voto,” which won the Best News Story/Best Use of Graphics.
The DI also won several second- and third-place awards, including second place for Best Video for the DI’s current editor-in-chief Gage Miskimen’s “The Millennial Project,” second-place Best Sports Section, second-place for Best Sports Columnist, Jordan Hansen, third-place for Coverage of Court; and third-place for Best News Feature, “The Elephant in the Room,” by Tessa Solomon.
The Iowa Review
Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing
Daniel Khalastchi, director of the Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing, was awarded a prestigious residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat. Artists and writers come to the Hermitage by invitation only and are nominated by members of the endeavor’s renowned National Curatorial Council.
Elizabeth Weiss, lecturer and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, sold her debut novel, The Sisters Sweet, to the Dial Press, a Penguin Random House imprint.
Amy Charles, adjunct assistant professor and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, wrote a chapter to be published in Transforming Libraries to Serve Graduate Students, forthcoming from the Association of College & Research Libraries Publications. The chapter is titled “Reading-Writing Groups for Chemistry Graduate Students: A Three-Year Experiment in Finding the Interesting Thing,” and was co-authored by Sara Scheib, sciences reference and instruction librarian at the UI Sciences Library.
Jennifer Croft, who graduated from the Translation Workshop in 2003, won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for fiction translation, which annually selects the best translated work from around the world. She received the award for her work translating Flights from Polish with its author Olga Tokarczuk.
Two Translation Workshop graduates, Derick Mattern, who graduated in 2018, and Anna Rosenwong, who graduated in 2007, received a 2018 NEA Translation Fellowship. Mattern will use the funds for his project to translate from the Turkish the poetry of Haydar Ergulen, and Rosenwong will translate The Navel of the Sky, by Uruguayan author Rafael Courtoisie.
Allana C. Noyes, who graduated from the Translation Workshop this spring, won the inaugural World Literature Today Translation Prize for her translation from Spanish of three poems by Argentine author Fabián Casas in Horla City y Otros.
University of Iowa Press
Matthew Lansburgh’s book, Outside Is the Ocean, winner of the 2017 Iowa Short Fiction Award, was chosen as a finalist for both the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction and as a finalist for the 2018 Ferro-Grumley Literary Award for LGBTQ Fiction.
Playful Letters: A Study in Early Modern Alphabetics, by Erika Mary Boeckeler, was chosen to be included in the Book, Jacket, and Journal Show by the Association of University Presses. The book was selected for its interior design created by UI Center for the Book’s Sara Sauers, adjunct assistant professor. The book also is a part of the UI Press’ series titled Impressions: Studies in the Art, Culture, and Future of Books, edited by Matt Brown, UI associate professor in the Department of English and the Center for the Book.
The UI Press will publish its first novel this October. The book, Buddhism for Western Children, by Kirstin Allio, is the inaugural book of The Iowa Review Series in Fiction with series editor, Harilaos Stecopoulos, associate professor of English and editor of The Iowa Review.