First Fairfield MFA Book Prize awarded to Nick Knittel, MFA '11



Image: MFA prizeThe first Fairfield University MFA Book Prize has been awarded to Nick Knittel of Madison, Wis., for "Good Things," a collection of short stories that delve into the lives of people struggling to survive. "These are tough, realistic and well-told stories," said Charles Simic, former Poet Laureate of the United States who selected the winning entry.

In addition to $1,000 in prize money, Knittel will receive a standard royalty book contract with New Rivers Press. Founded in 1968, New Rivers Press has a mission to publish the best new writing it can find by new and emerging authors.

Simic, who described Knittel's writing as "tightly constructed and meticulously crafted," said, "These stories tell of lives of lower-middle-class Americans, the isolated and marginalized people many of our contemporary writers somehow manage not to notice."

He said that Knittel has "a deep understanding of his characters and their complicated and often hopeless circumstances, but he doesn't judge them. He writes of them with compassion, and, as he does, the reader cannot help but be moved too."

In the Fairfield MFA program, Knittel said "Community is a supremely important factor." He credited enthusiastic and supportive faculty mentoring for his success, along with classmates from a wide spectrum of "every age and background imaginable," who inspired him. The biannual 10-day residency periods on Ender's Island in Mystic, Conn., were "magical," he said. "The conversations and stories that were swapped every day during the residencies, as well as our vibrant online presence, helped keep us connected and were a constant gentle reminder to push myself harder every time I sat down to write."

While enrolled in the MFA program, Knittel served as fiction co-editor of the newly launched "Mason's Road," an online literary journal sponsored by Fairfield University. He said the experience allowed him to detach himself from the writing and critically examine how and why a certain piece works and why it doesn't.

Dr. Michael C. White, director of the MFA program and the acclaimed author of six novels and a short story collection, said "Nick Knittel's award highlights the strikingly high level of talent Fairfield's MFA has drawn to its program; at the same time it is a testament to the quality of our faculty in helping to develop such superb young writers."

The Fairfield MFA and New Rivers Press collaborate in a publishing partnership by conducting a competition among Fairfield MFA graduates and students in all genres every other year. New Rivers Press will edit, publish, market and distribute nationally each prize-winning book.

Fairfield University's two-year low residency MFA in Creative Writing Program leads to a Master of Fine Arts with concentrations in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and screen writing. Students are part of a writers' community for four exciting and rigorous 10-day residency periods at Enders Island, off the coast of Mystic; between residencies, students spend the 5-month terms developing their craft under the guidance of skilled and caring faculty mentors who are highly regarded authors in their own right. This summer the program has added a residency abroad in Galway.

For more information on the program, please call (203) 254-4184.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 6, 2011

Vol. 44, No. 19