2011 Iowa Short Fiction Award Winners Announced

The University of Iowa Press is pleased to announce the winners of the 2011 Iowa Short Fiction Awards. Will Boast is the winner of the 2011 Iowa Short Fiction Award for his collection Power Ballads. Josh Rolnick's Pulp and Paper is the winner of the 2011 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. The recipients were selected by Yiyun Li, author of Vagrants.

Will Boast was born in England and grew up in Ireland and Wisconsin. His fiction has appeared in Best New American Voices 2009, Narrative, Glimmer Train, the Southern Review, Mississippi Review, and other publications and is forthcoming in the American Scholar. He holds an MFA from the University of Virginia and is a former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Currently, he lives and writes in San Francisco, and also moonlights as a performing musician around the Bay Area. He's working on both a novel and a memoir.    

Power Ballads is collection of ten stories devoted to those working musicians who have spent their young lives in practice rooms and recital halls, devoting themselves utterly to their instruments, only to toil in the obscurity of coffee shops, casinos, and small-town music festivals. The loosely connected stories feature several recurrent characters born out of the sometimes glamorous, sometimes dreary nocturnal world of musicians. For all of them, music is most often simply work, but in rare moments it becomes a source of grace and transcendence, speaking about the things we can never seem say to each other. The characters in Power Ballads—techno DJs, aging head-bangers, jobbers, songwriters, groupies, critics, and the occasional rock star (and the people who have to live with them)—need music to survive, yet they are often lost when the last note is played, the last set ends, the lights go up, and they have to return to regular life.

Josh Rolnick’s short stories have won the Arts & Letters Fiction Prize and the Florida Review Editor’s Choice Prize. His stories have also been published in Harvard Review, Western Humanities Review, Bellingham Review, and Gulf Coast, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best New American Voices. He grew up in Central Jersey, and divided his summers and winters between the Jersey Shore and Upstate New York. A reporter, editor, and journal publisher, he has lived in Jerusalem, London, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Menlo Park, CA, and Iowa City. He currently lives in Akron, Ohio, with his wife, Marcella, and three sons, Meyer, Heshel, and Lev.

The eight stories in Pulp and Paper trace the effects of life-changing events on everyday people. In “Funnyboy,” grief stricken Levi Stern attempts to come to terms with the banality of his son’s accidental death at the hands of high school cheerleader Missy Jones. In “Pulp and Paper” two neighbors, Gail Denny and Avery Mayberry, are attempting to escape a toxic spill as a result of a train derailment when a moment of compassion alters both their futures forever. “Innkeeping” is the story of a teenager’s simmering resentment toward the burgeoning relationship between his widowed mother and a long-term guest. And in “The Herald,” a devoted reporter on a small-town newspaper attempts to break a big story to salvage his career (and his ego), only to find his over-eagerness sabotages it instead.

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.