February 28, 2008

Two graduates, current student win writing awards

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Two recent graduates of Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a current graduate student recently earned major awards in literary contests.

James Scoles, a first-year graduate student from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, won the fiction section of the Prairie Fire Fiction Contest for 2007. He receives a $1,250 cash prize, publication of the story, and payment for the publication. Prairie Fire is an award-winning Canadian literary journal emphasizing new writing. Scoles won with his story, "El Juego."

Scoles describes "El Juego" as a "story about storytelling." It is a tale of two young Mexican boys who find solace from tragedy on the soccer field, he said. The story came out of a graduate workshop led by Professor Beth Lordan.

"I've published non-fiction, short fiction and poetry in the past, but this is by far the biggest thing to happen for my fiction," Scoles said. "The Prairie Fire writing contests are among the top three in Canada."

Michael Meyerhofer, a 2006 master of fine arts graduate from the English department's creative writing program, won the 2007 Codhill Press Chapbook Award for his manuscript, "The Clay-Shaper's Husband." The award, judged by poet and State University of New York English faculty member Pauline Uchmanowicz, carries a $500 cash prize and includes 50 copies of the published volume. A chapbook is a small, economically priced volume, usually of poetry, often on a single theme or with some other unifying feature, generally by a single author.

Meyerhofer, a native of Osage, Iowa, has three other chapbooks to his credit, and also a prize-winning full-length collection of poems called, "Leaving Iowa." He is part of the writing program faculty at Ball State University.

"Being at SIUC helped me because the program there is deliberately and specifically designed to give aspiring writers as much time as possible to do what they aspire to do best," Meyerhofer said. "It's important for writers to get in the habit of working hard."

Meyerhofer noted that many of his poems address his "experiences growing up in the rural Midwest." This most recent collection, however, "takes everything up a notch" to "strike a chord with any reader."

Chad Parmenter, a 2005 master of fine arts graduate from the creative writing program, said he found inspiration in the "sense of freedom and experimentation" at SIUC and in the success of the graduates who preceded him. Parmenter, who was a Jacob K. Javitz Fellow at SIUC, recently won the poetry part of the 2007 Black Warrior Review Poetry and Fiction Contest with his poem, "Batellite, Batellite of Love." The award includes a $1,000 cash prize and inclusion of the winning poem in the spring 2008 issue of Black Warrior Review, a University of Alabama publication. Poet, Guggenheim Foundation Fellow and Iowa Writer's Workshop faculty member Dean Young was the poetry contest judge.

Parmenter said the "Batellite" poem is part of his series on Batman – a series that began at SIUC, where he learned he could take a pop culture icon and use it in poems that are serious and genuine. "It's great enough to study with poets you admire, but even more so when these same poets encourage you. My experience at SIUC helped me both as a poet and as a person," he said.

His poetry appears in such publications as the "Harvard Review," "Pleiades," and the anthology, "Best American Poetry 2007." Among other prizes and awards, Parmenter won the Hotel Amerika Poetry Prize and he earned a scholarship to the Ropewalk Writer's Retreat. At present, Parmenter is a doctoral student at the University of Missouri at Columbia, where he is also assistant director of the university's Center for the Literary Arts. He is from St. Louis.

Allison E. Joseph, associate professor of English and director of the creative writing program, said, "I'm very proud of the individual successes of these students and I'm happy they had their beginnings here at SIUC. The sense of community begins here, and it is our hope that it stays with our students wherever they go from here."