New & Noteworthy

  • 2013 Iowa Short Fiction Award Winners Announced

    The University of Iowa Press is pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 Iowa Short Fiction Awards. Tessa Mellas is the winner of the 2013 Iowa Short Fiction Award for her collection Lungs Full of Noise. Kate Milliken's If I'd Known You Were Coming is the winner of the 2013 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. The recipients were selected by Julie Orringer, author of The Invisible Bride and How to Breathe Underwater.

    Tessa Mellas's stories have appeared in 52 Stories, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and StoryQuarterly. Born in northern New York, she lived her childhood in ice rinks and competed in synchronized skating. A devoted vegetarian and environmentalist, she lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two cats and teaches writing at Ohio State University. Kate Milliken’s stories have appeared in Fiction, New Orleans Review, Five Chapters, and Santa Monica Review, among others. A graduate of the Bennington College Writing Seminars, the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Tin House summer writing workshops, Kate has also written for television and commercial advertising. She currently teaches for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and lives in Mill Valley, California, with her family.

    In the thirteen stories of Lungs Full of Noise, Mellas explores a femininity that is magical, raw, and grotesque. Aghast at the failings of their bodies, this cast of misfit women and girls set out to remedy the misdirections of their lives in bold and reckless ways. Figure skaters screw skate blades into the bones of their feet to master elusive jumps. A divorcée steals the severed arm of her ex to reclaim the fragments of a dissolved marriage. But it is not only the characters who are in crisis; personal disasters mirror the dissolution of the natural world. The sky erupts with feathers as all the birds in a city crash into glass towers. In another story, all the color has drained from the sky and grandmothers believe the whiteness will blind everyone. Orringer says, “Mellas is a visionary, possessed of the ability to take us to worlds we’ve never imagined but that reveal our all-too-familiar hopes, fears, and vulnerabilities. Her stories are lyrical, laced with exquisite detail and image. They show their intelligence not only through their originality but also, and perhaps more importantly, through their sense of humor. Our children may baffle us, bodies may deceive us, our friends may confound us, but at least, these stories suggest, we are not alone. Tessa Mellas has made our human community richer with this deeply original and unforgettable book.”

    In If I'd Known You Were Coming, Milliken shows us what can happen when the uninvited guest of our darkest desires comes to call. Whether surrounded by the white noise of a Hollywood celebration or enduring a stark winter in Maine, these characters yearn to heal old wounds with new hurts. In “A Matter of Time,” a mother driven by greed unwittingly finds out how far her needs will allow her to go. A hand model surprises himself and everyone else at the birthday party of an old friend’s daughter. In “Names for a Girl,” a woman evaluates the meaning of the familial stories that we carry with us from birth. These stories about family, desire, betrayal, love, and regret possess that uncanny ability to reveal us to ourselves. Orringer says, “Milliken's stories burn straight to the darkest places in our hearts, speaking aloud the thoughts we hardly dare to call our own. In twelve flawless pieces, Milliken expertly illuminates the aftermath of abandonment; her characters, cast adrift, find themselves painfully alone, futilely seeking what was torn away long ago. Milliken writes with merciless precision about women and men, about the old and the young, about the betrayers and betrayed. You will stay up all night to learn the fates of these people, who will become as real to you as anyone you know.”

    The short fiction awards are given to a first collection of fiction in English and are administered through the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The honors are national in scope and have been given since 1969. The John Simmons Short Fiction Award (named for the first director of the University of Iowa Press) was created in 1988 to complement the existing Iowa Short Fiction Award.

  • Wheeler's 'Meme' up for National Book Award

    Susan Wheeler’s Meme, the latest offering from the University of Iowa Press's Kuhl House Poets series, has been selected as a finalist for this year's National Book Award.

    Wheeler, who formerly taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, said of the selection, “As Ma would have said, 'Well, I'm flabbergasted.' (As she would have been!) I'm also tremendously honored for the company and the consideration.”

    The awards will be presented Nov. 14 at a ceremony in New York City.

    A meme is a unit of thought replicated by imitation. Occupy Wall Street is a meme, as are Internet ideas and images that go viral.

    But what could be more potent memes than those passed down by parents to their children? Wheeler reconstructs her mother’s voice—down to its cynicism and its mid-20th-century midwestern vernacular—in “The Maud Poems.” That voice takes a more aggressive, vituperative turn in “The Devil—or —The Introjects.” In the book’s third long sequence, a generational inheritance feeds cultural transmission in “The Split.” A set of variations on losses and break-ups—wildly, darkly funny throughout and, in places, devastatingly sad—“The Split” brings Wheeler’s lauded inventiveness, wit, and insight to the profound loss of love.

    "This is a well-deserved honor for Susan. The National Book Award stands as the pinnacle of recognition for individual literary works, the nominees represent the best of the best in a given year,” says Jim McCoy, UI Press director. “Wheeler's talent and hard work shines on every page. This is such a personal work it can't help but touch anyone who reads it. She's an absolute delight to work with. Congratulations also to Mark Levine, who edits our Kuhl House Poets series. It is his vision that makes this possible. The Press is so honored to be publishing Meme.”

    Poet Mary Jo Bang, author of The Bride of E, says, "In Meme, the traditional elegy dissolves into excited bursts of imitated idiomatic speech interwoven with writing from a different register—the coolly removed, self-insightful lyric. That the elaborately constructed edifice that is personality can be reconstructed with such fascinating economy and delightful indirection is amazing. These poems are pure poetic genius."

    And poet Rae Armantrout, author of Money Shot, says, "Meme is a haunted work. We are ushered in by the disembodied voice of a mother figure, scolding and teasing in the time-stamped slang of past decades. The anachronism is both funny and terribly sad. 'Don't come in here all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,' the voice says. And it turns out that's fair warning. This cracked Virgil leads us into a consciously Dantean underworld ('Had you entered the thicket in darkness / . . . Had you been mid-life, not in haze but in crisis?'). Wheeler has created a total (and to me terrifying) linguistic environment in which hell is the introjected voices of other people, the hungry ghosts of our recent past."

    Wheeler is the author of the poetry collections Bag ‘o’ Diamonds, which received the Norma Farber First Book Award of the Poetry Society of America and was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award;Smokes, which won the Four Way Books Award in 1998; and Source Codes;Ledger, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize; and Assorted Poems. Her novel,Record Palace, was published in 2005. On the creative writing faculties at Princeton University and The New School's graduate program, she lives in Rocky Hill, N.J.

    Like the historic stone building, home of the UI Press, from which this series draws its name, the Kuhl House Poets combine the best of dedicated craft and contemporary vision. This provocative series reawakens readers to a fresh consideration of the possibilities of language and feeling by publishing work that is formally and verbally inventive, adventurous work that takes its own path outside established routes of either traditions or experimental poetry.

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    Wheeler's 'Meme' up for National Book Award
  • Paul Lindholdt Wins 2012 Washington State Book Award

    Paul Lindholdt's In Earshot of Water illuminates the Pacific Northwest in vivid detail. Whether the subject is the plants that grow there, the animals that live there, the rivers that run there, or the people he has known there, Lindholdt writes with the precision of a naturalist, the critical eye of an ecologist, the affection of an apologist, and the self-revelation and self-awareness of a personal essayist. Exploring both the literal and literary sense of place, with particular emphasis on environmental issues and politics in the far Northwest, Lindholdt weds passages from the journals of Lewis and Clark, the log of Captain James Cook, the novelized memoir of Theodore Winthrop, and Bureau of Reclamation records growing from the paintings that the agency commissioned to publicize its dams in the 1960s and 1970s, to tell ecological and personal histories of the region he knows and loves.

    The Washington State Book Awards are presented annually in recognition of notable books written by Washington authors in the previous year. This literary awards program was established in 1967 as the Governor's Writers Awards. The program was based at the Washington State Library in Olympia. Each year up to ten outstanding books of any kind written by Washington authors in the previous year were recognized with awards based on literary merit, lasting importance, and overall quality of the publication. In 2001 the Washington Center for the Book, based at the Seattle Public Library, took over the administration of the program and it was renamed the Washington State Book Awards.

    Additional praise for In Earshot of Water:

    “To read In Earshot of Water is to enter the mind of a first-rate naturalist, a devoted father, and a keen observer of all the confounding ways people find to live in place. To read this book is to learn again how to listen, how to forgive, and ultimately, how to love life that is sometimes as cruel as it is beautiful.”—Kathleen Dean Moore, author, Wild Comfort

     “As it moves from the personal to the social, historical, and environmental aspects of the northwestern landscape, Paul Lindholdt’s In Earshot of Water beguiles and teaches. Lindholdt’s prose is a pleasure to read, and his personal presence is palpable but never intrusive. It is a tough trick, what he’s done, and I admire it. The book ought to be of interest to readers of environmentally conscious literature, residents and lovers of the Northwest, and students of good, clear, concise writing everywhere.”—Philip Connors, author, Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout

    Paul Lindholdt is a professor of English at Eastern Washington University. He has collaborated on the books Cascadia Wild: Protecting an International EcosystemThe Canoe and the Saddle: A Critical Edition; John Josselyn, Colonial Traveler: A Critical Edition of “Two Voyages to New-England”; and Holding Common Ground: The Individual and Public Lands in the American West

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    Paul Lindholdt Wins 2012 Washington State Book Award