Andrew Watt, a junior at St. Olaf College, has been named the winner of the 38th annual Nick Adams Short Story Contest for his story “Hangmen.” Watt will receive the contest’s first prize of $1,000, made possible through a generous gift from an anonymous donor.
The final judge for this year’s contest, who selected the winning story from among six finalists, was award-winning author and journalist Alex Kotlowitz, whose books include Never a City So Real and There Are No Children Here.
In praising Watt’s story, Kotlowitz commented:
“Hangmen” is a story that feels both of the past and of the future. The prose is spare and vivid, giving the tale a sense of immediacy, urgency, really. It’s a gripping tale. And the writing quiet yet powerful, so much so that it’s as if I had been on that bus as it wound its way up the mountain.
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|Honorable Mention:“Breaks” by
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Watt is pursuing a self-designed a major called “Writing for Performance.” Although he has enjoyed reading and writing since childhood, he didn’t develop a serious interest in writing until he arrived at St. Olaf. Since then, Watt said, he has been “seduced by the creative possibilities of telling stories…. I enjoy writing immensely and I believe that there is truth in fiction.”
Currently, Watt is collaborating with a friend on a musical and will also begin work on a screenplay in the fall. Both works will be part of his “Writing for Performance” portfolio. Although he has no definite plans after graduation in 2011, Watt said he hopes to have a career that involves writing.
In thanking Jenny Dunning, who taught his writing workshop this past fall, Watt noted that “she is a terrific teacher and to her I owe much of my growth as a writer.” Watt also thanked the ACM faculty committee that chose the finalist stories, Alex Kotlowitz, and the anonymous donor who made the Nick Adams Contest possible.
Honorable Mention awarded to Jennifer Easler
Kotlowitz awarded an Honorable Mention to Jennifer Easler, also a student at St. Olaf College, for her story “Breaks.”
The story, said Kotlowitz, is “a compelling tale, and one that inventively plays with time, moving back and forth from the present to the past.”
He noted his admiration for what Easler achieved in “depicting a single moment which provides an aperture onto the main character’s past. ‘Breaks’ feels both intimate and true.”
Alex Kotlowitz serves as final judge
The final judge for the 2010 Nick Adams Contest, Alex Kotlowitz, has written three books, as well as numerous articles, audio essays, and a play. He covered social issues and urban affairs for The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and regularly contributes to The New York Times Magazine and public radio’s This American Life.
Kotlowitz’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Rolling Stone, and The New Republic, as well as on PBS (Frontline) and NPR (All Things Considered and Morning Edition).
Final judges for the contest in past years have included Jane Smiley, Saul Bellow, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Anne Tyler, Maya Angelou, Audrey Niffenegger, Jane Hamilton, and Stuart Dybek.
Faculty select contest finalists
Professors Ryan Fowler and Amy Singer of Knox College and George Barlow of Grinnell College served as initial faculty readers for the 2010 contest, selecting six finalists from among 43 stories submitted this year.
The other finalists were:
- “A Desperate Situation” by Alissa Fleck, Grinnell College
- “The Death of a Turtle” by Mona Porter, Grinnell College
- “Finding Cinnamon” by Aaron Schmaltz, Luther College
- “where the road does not lead you” by Rae Wood, Carleton College
The Nick Adams Short Story Contest has been held annually since 1973 by the Associated Colleges of the Midwest. Any student at an ACM college is eligible for the contest. Students submit stories to their English department, and each department selects the four best to send to ACM. A small committee of faculty drawn from ACM colleges selects the finalists, and the winner is chosen by the contest’s final judge.