Above: Award-winning author and director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop Lan Samantha Chang will select the winner of ACM’s Nick Adams Short Story Contest. (Image: Ife Oluwa Nihinlola)
Award-winning author and creative writing educator Lan Samantha Chang will select the winner of ACM’s Nick Adams Short Story Contest.
The writing competition, held annually since 1973, awards a prize of $1,000 for the winning story. Students at the 14 member institutions of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) are eligible to participate in the contest by submitting their short stories to their college’s English department. Two faculty from within the consortium will select up to six finalists; Chang will select the winning story in March.
Chang, who directs the venerated Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is the author of three novels, most recently The Family Chao (2022), which takes inspiration from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and paints a portrait of a Chinese American family who owns a restaurant in a small town in Wisconsin. Publishers Weekly characterized the novel as a “timely, trenchant, and thoroughly entertaining book” in which “an immigrant family’s dreams are paid for in blood.”
Chang’s second novel, All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost (2010), was described by NPR as “a full and resonant story of the pains and perils, falsehoods and truths of trying to be an American artist.” Her debut novel, Inheritance (2004), which takes place in both China and the United States across seven decades, tells the story of a family fractured by a global war and multiple generations of trauma. Chang has also published Hunger (1998), a novella and collection of short stories which illustrate the experiences of immigrant families devastated by loss. Her short stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, and The Best American Short Stories.
“I’ve realized that for every book I write, I’ve had to put a chunk of myself into it, a real chunk. Otherwise the book isn’t alive,” Chang told The Boston Globe when discussing The Family Chao. “I think part of the chunk of myself I put into this novel is in the question of what happens when you’ve made your ghosts in a country and it becomes yours, your country.” Library Journal noted, “Chang writes from personal history. Her characters are three-dimensional and not predictable, and with her simple, elegant style she achieves a clarity that few writers accomplish.”
Chang’s career demonstrates the pathways that are possible through education and the arts, and we are delighted to offer ACM students the opportunity to have their fiction reviewed by such an accomplished storyteller, educator, and academic leader.”
—Sonya Malunda, President of ACM
“We are honored to have Lan Samantha Chang, a Midwesterner whose work explores the immigrant experience and American dream, serve as the final judge of ACM’s Nick Adams Short Story Contest this year,” said Sonya Malunda, President of the ACM. “Chang’s career demonstrates the pathways that are possible through education and the arts, and we are delighted to offer ACM students the opportunity to have their fiction reviewed by such an accomplished storyteller, educator, and academic leader.”
Born in Appleton, Wisconsin, to Chinese immigrants, Chang’s experience growing up in the first Chinese family in the town inspired her to write about themes such as family, wealth, hardship, and the merging of Chinese and American cultures. As a middle school student, Chang was mentored by Monroe Lerner, a poet and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. Chang earned a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies at Yale University followed by a Master in Public Administration degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. After realizing that the only career path she wanted to pursue was one in creative writing, she enrolled in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and completed a Master of Fine Arts. She taught creative writing at Stanford University, Warren Wilson College, and Harvard University before returning to the University of Iowa in 2006. Since then, Chang has served as director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop; she is also the Elizabeth M. Stanley Professor in the Arts. The first woman and first Asian American to oversee the creative writing program, Chang has been credited with enhancing diversity within the program and mentoring emerging writers.
Chang was awarded the Southern Review Fiction Prize for Hunger. In 1998, she received the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. The following year, she was presented the California Book Award Silver Medal for Fiction and was named a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Award. Chang won the 2005 PEN Open Book Award for Inheritance. In 2019, she was recipient of the Michael J. Brody Award and the Regents’ Award for Excellence from the University of Iowa. In 2022, Oprah Daily highlighted Chang as one of eight women writers changing the world.
Additionally, Chang has been awarded fellowships by Stanford University (1993), the National Endowment for the Arts (1998), Princeton University (1999), Harvard University (2000), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2008), the American Library in Paris (2015), and the American Academy in Berlin (2021). In 2016, Chang delivered the principal commencement address and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at Lawrence University, an ACM member institution located in the town where she was born and raised.
The Nick Adams Short Story Contest, named after the young protagonist of many stories by Ernest Hemingway, was established with funds from an anonymous donor to support fiction writing at ACM colleges. Past final judges have included such acclaimed writers as Maya Angelou, John Updike, Audrey Niffenegger, Larry Heinemann, Bharati Mukherjee, Joyce Carol Oates, Anne Tyler, Stuart Dybek, Scott Turow, and Sandra Cisneros.