June 03, 2005

Graduate students win writing awards

by Paula Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A trio of graduate students in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's creative writing program penned their way to individual successes this school year.

All three are master's students in the University's nationally renowned writing program, offered by the English department in the College of Liberal Arts.

A closer look at each award-winning writer:

•Ethan D. Castelo snared one of three third-place prizes in the highly competitive college fiction contest held annually by Playboy magazine. He'll receive $250.

His short story "Nothing is Impossible" follows a couple trying unsuccessfully to conceive.

"At the same time they are struggling, an image of the Virgin Mary appears on an office building near where they live," says Castelo.

"The story is really about how and where you seek and place faith in your life," adds Castelo, who just completed his second year of the writing program.

He grew up in Hartford City, Ind., and is the son of Joseph and Sinuard Castelo.

• Michael R. Meyerhofer, a second-year graduate student in poetry, won the Copperdome Poetry Chapbook Prize sponsored by the Southeast Missouri University Press.

He earned honors for his 24-page collection of poems titled "Cardboard Urn."

The title comes from a humorous misunderstanding over a container chosen for his recently deceased mother Madelyn's ashes.

"While death and loss are prominent subjects in the book, my approach is a bit more positive than one might expect," says Meyerhofer, of Osage, Iowa. "I prefer writing accessible poems that entertain the reader, as they examine the human condition. I'm also very interested in history and science, and describing what I think are beautiful but common-place mysteries and events in our daily lives."

As part of his prize, the press will publish his collection and sell it for $6, which includes shipping, at its Web site at www6.semo.edu/universitypress/

His father and stepmother are Donald and Bernadette Meyerhofer.

• In a separate poetry competition, Chad A. Parmenter of St. Louis snagged the Hotel Amerika Poetry Prize for a group of his poems.

The collection "Batman in Honey" alludes to the anticipation of pain at the end of romance, he says. He will receive a $750 prize.

"Hotel Amerika" will publish the pieces in its fall issue.

He is the son of Mark T. and Diana S. Parmenter, both of St. Louis.

Offering a progressive graduate education is one of the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th birthday in 2019.