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As SOA's Writing Division Celebrates 35th Anniversary, Alumni Work Receives Accolades

Sunset Terrace is Rebecca Donner's debut novel.

When Rebecca Donner, SOA'01, entered the School of the Arts' (SOA) Writing Division, she had already begun writing a novel about a recently widowed woman and her two young daughters who moved into Sunset Terrace, an apartment building in Los Angeles that houses single mothers and their children. This concept became her thesis project, and in May "Sunset Terrace," Donner's first novel, was published by MacAdam/Cage.

Earlier this year, Wells Tower, SOA'02, and Tim Donnelly, SOA'98, were recognized by The Paris Review for their work. Tower received the 2002 Discovery Prize for "The Brown Coast." The award is offered for the best work of fiction or poetry published in The Paris Review by an emerging or previously unpublished writer. Tower also won a Pushcart Prize. Donnelly received the 2002 Bernard F. Conners Prize for Poetry for "His Long Imprison'd Thought." The $1,000 prize is awarded for the finest poem over 200 lines that was published in The Paris Review in a given year.

Donner, Tower and Donnelly are three of many successful SOA Writing alumni. Twelve SOA Writing alumni and faculty members are included in the New York Times' Notable Book List for 2002. As the Writing Division approaches its 35th anniversary, alumni spanning the division's history are receiving critical acclaim and winning awards. Among these are:

  • Joel Whitney, SOA'02, received the Discovery/The Nation Joan Leiman Jacobson Poetry Prize, which is awarded to talented, emerging poets who have not yet published a book of poetry. Along with the $300 prize, winners are awarded a reading at the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center as well as publication in The Nation.
  • Anika Weiss, SOA'98, won the first prize in the fiction category of the international John T. Lupton "New Voices in Literature" Award, which is presented by the Books for Life Foundation, for "Moonshine Baby." The $10,000 prize is awarded for the best written fiction, query letters and book proposals submitted by authors who have not previously been published by traditional publishers. "Moonshine Baby" is the story of a plantation owner's daughter who discovers her older brother is black and on death row.
  • Victor LaValle, SOA'98, and adjunct assistant professor at SOA, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, America's largest peer-juried prize for fiction, for his debut novel "The Ecstatic." He previously won the PEN Open Book Award for his collection of short stories "Slapboxing with Jesus."
  • Gabriel Brownstein, SOA'92, won the PEN/Hemingway Award, America's best-known prize for a distinguished first book of fiction for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Apt. 3W." This collection of short stories consists of re-imaginings of classic works transpiring in the same apartment complex, capturing the eccentricities and hidden frailties of extraordinary people.
  • Madeline Tiger, SOA'86, recently had her eighth collection of poetry published -- "Birds of Sorrow and Joy: New and Selected Poems, 1970 - 2000." Her previous collections include "My Father's Harmonica" and "Toward Spring Bank." Her poems have appeared in many journals including Bridges, Harrisburg Review, One Trick Pony, and Poetry New York.
  • Sarah Arvio, SOA'83, won the Rome Prize in Literature of the American Academy in Rome, the leading American overseas center for independent study and advanced research in the arts and humanities. Arvio will take up residence at the American Academy in September. Her collection of poems, "Visits from the Seventh," was published last year. The first 11 poems in that collection won The Paris Review's Bernard F. Conners Prize for Poetry and were reprinted in Best American Poetry 1998. Other poems from the sequence won Poetry's Frederick Bock Prize.
  • Richard Price, SOA'76, is the author of "Clockers," "Freedomland" and most recently, "Samaritan." He has also written the screenplays for "The Color of Money," "Sea of Love" and "Ransom."
  • Gregory Orr, SOA'72, has written eight collections of poetry, including "The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems," "Orpheus and Eurydice" and "City of Salt," as well as four books of criticism. He was a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow and a Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellow.

In addition, several recent alumni have had books published within the past few months, such as Paul Elie, SOA'01, "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" and Jessica Shattuck, SOA'01, "The Hazards of Good Breeding." Joanna Hershon and Mat Johnson, both SOA'99, have recently published their second novels -- "Outside of August" and "Hunting in Harlem," respectively.

Click for additional information about School of the Arts Writing alumni.

Published: Jul 31, 2003
Last modified: Jul 30, 2003


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