2013 Iowa Short Fiction Award Winners Announced
The University of Iowa Press is pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 Iowa Short Fiction Awards. Tessa Mellas is the winner of the 2013 Iowa Short Fiction Award for her collection Lungs Full of Noise. Kate Milliken's If I'd Known You Were Coming is the winner of the 2013 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. The recipients were selected by Julie Orringer, author of The Invisible Bride and How to Breathe Underwater.
Tessa Mellas's stories have appeared in 52 Stories, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and StoryQuarterly. Born in northern New York, she lived her childhood in ice rinks and competed in synchronized skating. A devoted vegetarian and environmentalist, she lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two cats and teaches writing at Ohio State University. Kate Milliken’s stories have appeared in Fiction, New Orleans Review, Five Chapters, and Santa Monica Review, among others. A graduate of the Bennington College Writing Seminars, the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Tin House summer writing workshops, Kate has also written for television and commercial advertising. She currently teaches for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and lives in Mill Valley, California, with her family.
In the thirteen stories of Lungs Full of Noise, Mellas explores a femininity that is magical, raw, and grotesque. Aghast at the failings of their bodies, this cast of misfit women and girls set out to remedy the misdirections of their lives in bold and reckless ways. Figure skaters screw skate blades into the bones of their feet to master elusive jumps. A divorcée steals the severed arm of her ex to reclaim the fragments of a dissolved marriage. But it is not only the characters who are in crisis; personal disasters mirror the dissolution of the natural world. The sky erupts with feathers as all the birds in a city crash into glass towers. In another story, all the color has drained from the sky and grandmothers believe the whiteness will blind everyone. Orringer says, “Mellas is a visionary, possessed of the ability to take us to worlds we’ve never imagined but that reveal our all-too-familiar hopes, fears, and vulnerabilities. Her stories are lyrical, laced with exquisite detail and image. They show their intelligence not only through their originality but also, and perhaps more importantly, through their sense of humor. Our children may baffle us, bodies may deceive us, our friends may confound us, but at least, these stories suggest, we are not alone. Tessa Mellas has made our human community richer with this deeply original and unforgettable book.”
In If I'd Known You Were Coming, Milliken shows us what can happen when the uninvited guest of our darkest desires comes to call. Whether surrounded by the white noise of a Hollywood celebration or enduring a stark winter in Maine, these characters yearn to heal old wounds with new hurts. In “A Matter of Time,” a mother driven by greed unwittingly finds out how far her needs will allow her to go. A hand model surprises himself and everyone else at the birthday party of an old friend’s daughter. In “Names for a Girl,” a woman evaluates the meaning of the familial stories that we carry with us from birth. These stories about family, desire, betrayal, love, and regret possess that uncanny ability to reveal us to ourselves. Orringer says, “Milliken's stories burn straight to the darkest places in our hearts, speaking aloud the thoughts we hardly dare to call our own. In twelve flawless pieces, Milliken expertly illuminates the aftermath of abandonment; her characters, cast adrift, find themselves painfully alone, futilely seeking what was torn away long ago. Milliken writes with merciless precision about women and men, about the old and the young, about the betrayers and betrayed. You will stay up all night to learn the fates of these people, who will become as real to you as anyone you know.”
The short fiction awards are given to a first collection of fiction in English and are administered through the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The honors are national in scope and have been given since 1969. The John Simmons Short Fiction Award (named for the first director of the University of Iowa Press) was created in 1988 to complement the existing Iowa Short Fiction Award.