University of Iowa Press Announces Two Winners for the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award

Now in its 40th year, the New Writers Award seeks to recognize promising young writers and provide undergraduate students an opportunity to meet with writers in early stages of their careers. Judges are professors of literature and writers in residence at the Great Lakes Colleges. The winners of the 2009 Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award for both fiction and creative nonfiction were published by the University of Iowa Press.

The creative nonfiction winner is Family Bible by Melissa Delbridge. The following excerpt is from the judges’ comments: “Some of the best memoirs do more than describe an individual life; they capture a time and place along with the particular psychological and cultural texture of a self. Family Bible shows that the real work of honesty lies in discovering a language capable of shaping the truth into reality on the page. There is dry wit and southern sass, yet Delbridge offers substance as well as style, asking hard questions about the ways in which we internalize trauma. Delbridge resists the self-pity we might otherwise expect from a childhood like hers. In a sense, the narrative perspective can be understood in the context of the ironic title. What the reader gets is not an un-self-examined application of simple scriptural lessons but a hard-edged reminder never to cast the first stone.”

The winner in the fiction category is Desert Gothic by Don Waters. The following excerpt is from the judges’ comments: “These are the stories of unrepentant outsiders . . . told on behalf of those who cannot tell. The textures are rich, the lexicon hard and fast and eidetic. The dramas are found in the seams of life and they are real and fleet. The consequences are unanticipated and just right. Many of these characters want to believe in something, but they can’t stop being imperfect. Although you wouldn’t expect figures such as Mormons on motorcycles, egotistical long distance runners, and writers obsessed with Mark Twain in one volume, Waters weaves these lives together through their connection with the Southwestern landscape, and ultimately through their fear of death. The language is economical and precise, gritty and engaging.”

Melissa Delbridge has published essays and short stories in the Antioch Review, Southern Humanities Review, Third Coast, and other journals. She is an archivist in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University. Delbridge lives with her family in Orange County, North Carolina, where she spends her leisure time letting the dogs in and out, making pickles, plotting vengeance, substantiating rumors, and working on a novel.

Don Waters was born and raised in Reno, Nevada, and now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He’s received numerous honors for his writing, including fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Jentel Foundation, as well as the McGinnis-Ritchie Award from the Southwest Review. His stories have been published in such venues as Epoch, StoryQuarterly, the Kenyon Review, the Southwest Review, the Santa Monica Review, ZYZZYVA, the Cimarron Review, and Grain.