April 12, 2006

Creative writing students capture honors

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Four students or recent graduates of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale's master of fine arts program in creative writing are receiving critical acclaim and honors for their work in poetry and short stories.

Michael Meyerhofer, a third-year MFA candidate, won the Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry sponsored by Briery Creek Press for his book, "Leaving Iowa." It was the first time that press offered the award. Meyerhofer will receive $1,000 and 50 copies of the book, which will be published in fall 2006.

Meyerhofer's work also has appeared in the North American Review and Southern Poetry Review, among others. A judge for the Rector award said Meyerhofer's writing demonstrated a strong voice and used "fresh, volatile language."

A native of Osage, Iowa, Meyerhofer said his goal in writing "Leaving Iowa" was "to produce a book of lyrical but comprehensible poetry that would hopefully offer readers some fresh perspectives, and of course be entertaining, too.

"So in one sense, I suppose this award is a form of validation for all the time I spent at my desk. But mainly, I think it's just a great opportunity to share my work with the public, which is the ultimate goal of any serious writer."

Meyerhofer credited SIUC's creative writing program with respecting the individual styles of student writers.

"The faculty poets here are committed to helping students develop their own unique voices," he said. "The greatest benefits I've received from this program have been the unflagging encouragement of the faculty, as well as the time and resources to finish this book in the first place."

His father and stepmother are Donald and Bernadette Meyerhofer.

Other authors recently receiving honors include:

• Ingrid Moody, a second-year MFA candidate at SIUC, won $1,000 from the national Dorothy Sargeant Rosenberg Prize for poetry. The award fund seeks to assist young poets "of unusual promise." Moody received the award for her poems titled, "Beets," "Breakfast Psalm" and "Newfound Lake, Bristol, N.H."

Moody is from Woodbridge in northern Virginia. Her parents are Eric Moody and Grace Higginbottom.

• Ben Percy, a 2004 graduate of the MFA program, will publish his story "Refresh, Refresh" in "Best American Short Stories, 2006 Anthology," which showcases the finest short fiction in the country. Percy, who currently is teaching at Marquette University, lives in Wauwatosa, Wis., with his wife, Lisa, and newborn son, Connor. He is originally from Tigard in central Oregon.

• Chad Simpson, 2005 MFA program graduate, won a $7,000 fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council for two short fiction stories. Simpson, from Monmouth, is a lecturer in English at Knox College in Galesburg. His parents are Dennis and Marilyn Simpson.

Allison E. Joseph, associate professor of English and director of the creative writing program, said the string of honors shows SIUC is turning out talented writers.

"These really help put us on the map," Joseph said. "The very famous MFA programs can always brag about the awards and publication their students have amassed. We're still a rather young program, starting in 1996. We were the first MFA program like this at a state university in Illinois.

"We're very proud of them," Joseph said. "As a program, it's really gratifying to help young writers like them and give them a place to land and learn for a few years."

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