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2014 Housatonic Book Award winners named, readings scheduled

DANBURY, CONN. — The Western Connecticut State University Master of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing program last spring launched the first Housatonic Book Awards in cooperation with the M.F.A. Alumni Writers’ Cooperative (AWC). The awards were created to recognize excellence in the areas of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and writing for middle grades and young adults. Winners in each category were selected in October 2014, and each will receive a $1,000 honorarium and $500 travel stipend to appear during an M.F.A. program residency to give a public reading and present a master class to M.F.A. students. The winners are:


Winner: “Cartwheel,” by Jennifer duBois (Random House)

Finalists: “The Fifty-First State,” by Lisa Borders (Engine Books); “The Mourning Hours,” by Paula Treick DeBoard (Harlequin MIRA); “My Notorious Life,” by Kate Manning (Scribner); and “River of Dust,” by Virginia Pye (Unbridled Books)


Winner: “Begin Empty-Handed,” by Gail Martin (Perugia Press)

Finalists: “Beauty Mark,” by Suzanne Cleary (BkMkPress); “Large White House Speaking,” by Mark Irwin (New Issues Poetry & Prose); “American Amnesiac,” by Diane Raptosh (Etruscan Press); and “Vestigial,” by Page Hill Starzinger (Barrow Street Press)


Winner: “Bootstrapper,” by Mardi Jo Link (Knopf)

Finalists: “Scattered: The Forced Relocation of Poland’s Ukrainians after WWII,” by Diana Howansky Reilly (University of Wisconsin Press); “The Blind Masseuse,” by Alden Jones (Terrace Books); “The Next Scott Nadelson,” by Scott Nadelson (Hawthorne Books); and “Becoming Tom Thumb,” by Eric Lehman (Wesleyan University Press)

Writing for Middle Grades and Young Adults

Winner: “Brotherhood,” by A.B. Westrick (Viking)

Finalists: “Rules for Ghosting,” by A.J. Paquette (Bloomsbury); “Lone Wolves,” by John Smelcer (Leapfrog Press); “After Isaac,” by Avra Wing (Olinville Press); and “Over the Line,” by David Lloyd (Syracuse University Press)

Upcoming readings: Fiction winner DuBois and poetry winner Martin will read from their work during the M.F.A. in Creative and Professional Writing winter residency. Martin will read at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, and. DuBois will read at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, in the President’s Reception Room, Room 218 of the Classroom Building on the WCSU Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury.

Ron Samul, president of the AWC, said the awards will carry benefits beyond the mission that aims to promote excellent writing, identify authors who serve as professional role models for writing students, and develop the WCSU M.F.A. in Creative and Professional Writing program scholarship fund.

“We are happy to help build our new scholarship fund, which will support students in the M.F.A. program financially and help to build enrollment,” he said. “It is also important that the awards will bring four excellent writers to Danbury each year for public appearances.”

M.F.A. Coordinator Brian Clements added, “The awards will continue the M.F.A. program’s tradition of bringing excellent authors to Danbury, but we expect these awards to go quickly beyond local interest and achieve national prestige. The Housatonic Book Awards will become an annual event of wide appeal to readers, authors and publishers, similar to the American Book Awards or National Book Awards.”

The AWC and the M.F.A. program will oversee the awards and select the winners, following the Ethical Guidelines of the Council of Literary Magazines and Publishers. Guidelines for next year’s awards will appear at the Housatonic Book Awards website, http://housatonicbookawards.wordpress.com/ in early 2015.

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.


Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.