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Cornell College senior wins annual ACM short story contest, $1,000 prize

Cornell College senior wins annual ACM short story contest, $1,000 prize April 17, 2024

Above: Cornell College senior Indy Smith won the 2024 Nick Adams Short Story Contest for “Possession.”

Continuing a tradition now more than 50 years old, the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) announced the 2024 winner of the Nick Adams Short Story Contest. The competition recognizes excellence in student writing at the 14 private liberal arts colleges that form the ACM.

Indy Smith, a senior at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, earned a $1,000 prize and high praise from the final judge for her short story, “Possession.” After learning of her win, she expressed gratitude to the Cornell College Department of English & Creative Writing.

“Cornell College’s English faculty has been life-changing in more ways than one,” Smith said. “Especially Rebecca Entel, Katy Stavreva, Katie Sagal, and Glenn Freeman, who breathe new life into the centuries-old practice of writing and reading and connecting with one another. My writing has developed as I have, and I feel the professors and their classes have made me a better person.”

Smith, who is from Treasure Island, Florida, is majoring in creative writing. She will graduate from Cornell College this spring and will attend the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University in the fall.

Two faculty judges, Rebecca Entel of Cornell College and Chris Jones of Grinnell College, narrowed down a field of 36 entries to six finalists. New York Times bestselling author Sue Miller then read the finalists’ stories and selected Smith as the winner. Miller, whose acclaimed novels include Monogamy (2020), The Senator’s Wife (2008), and The Good Mother (1986),  praised the attention Smith paid to developing relationships between characters in “Possession.”

Sue Miller (Photo Credit: Adrienne Mathiowetz)

“The assured first-person narrator of ‘Possession’ offers us the clear sense of a beloved place – its geography, its beauty, the community that lives there, and the role of the narrator and her family in that community – a world, in other words,” Miller said. “Only slowly do we apprehend the tension for the narrator between the opposing pulls of her strong respect for the island’s traditions and her protective love for her daughter, whose very life is threatened by those traditions.”

English departments on ACM campuses could each enter up to four stories in the Nick Adams Short Story Contest, which has been held annually since 1973. Established with funds from an anonymous donor and named for the young protagonist in many of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories, the competition encourages fiction writing by students at ACM colleges.

In addition to selecting the winner, Miller also recognized two finalists with honorable mentions. Those students were Emilie Anding of St. Olaf College and Luke Bryson of Grinnell College.

Emilie Anding (left), a student at St. Olaf College, received an honorable mention for “Angel of Death,” and Luke Bryson (right), a student at Grinnell College, received an honorable mention for “The Last 2,500 Miles of Cataract Jack.” 

Learn more about the finalists and read some of the entries.

Lisa Jasinski, the president of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, extended her enthusiastic congratulations to Smith, Anding, and Bryson.

“Once again, the entries to the Nick Adams Short Story Contest revealed the exceptional level of creativity of our students,” Jasinski said, noting that she hopes all entrants to this year’s contest continue to pursue their passion for writing. “These talented authors exemplify the enduring power of a liberal arts education to help us better understand ourselves and our world.”

Read “Possession,” Indy Smith’s original short story, HERE.

The Associated Colleges of the Midwest works to advance the academic and professional success of faculty, students, and staff at its 14 member institutions, multiplying their power as a force for good in the world.

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