Sunday, April 10, 2011


So, today I'm reading the finalists for our Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing fiction fellowships. The manuscripts are uniformly impressive and choosing the fellows is going to be a daunting task. We will be making that very challenging decision in the next few weeks.

My practice when reading the manuscripts is to get up between each one. I walk around or do some housework or go to Facebook or find some other 10 minute task to clear my mind before reading on. And a few minutes ago, while scanning the posts on Facebook, I came across this wonderful news:

Judges AS Byatt and Will Self have awarded our former Halls Fiction Fellow, ANTHONY DOERR, The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award with its cash prize of £30,000--the largest cash prize there is for a short story competition. His winning piece, "The Deep," is currently available only in The Sunday Times magazine or online if you're a London Times subscriber, but it will soon be available via Kindle and iBooks.

I was immediately brought back to spring of 1999. I was a fiction fellow myself then and my fellow fellow STEPHEN SCHOTTENFELD had asked me to look over a story he'd just read. "I'm not sure," he said, "but I think this writer may be brilliant."

And the writer was/is Tony Doerr and he was/is brilliant and he was/is also the nicest guy ever. (Stephen Schottenfeld is no slouch either when it comes to brilliant short stories and nicest guy ever, by the way.) Anyway, this memory of When Stephen Met Tony will guarantee that I return to this years' reading with renewed energy and with great pride in this program and the fellows who have come--and will come--through it.

So, congratulations to Tony and to us for recognizing his talents years before AS Byatt and Will Self had a chance to. Now back to the pile of manuscripts from which the 2011-12 fiction fellows will emerge.

Judy Mitchell
Director, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing

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