Fiction Writing Department turns award-winning experience into exposure for promising writers

By The Columbia Chronicle

Columbia’s Fiction Writing Department is on a roll. Several works by members of the faculty and a number of students have recently been published. Along with these publications the Fiction Writing Department and its members have also won several awards in the past months.

Full-time faculty member and Columbia alumnus, Don de Grazia’s book “American Skin,” is due out in America soon. The book was published last January in London and Grazia has also sold the movie rights to a French publishing company. “American Skin,” has also been optioned for a movie with a script written by Dan Yost, who scripted the screenplay for “Drugstore Cowboy.”

Columbia’s well-known “Hair Trigger” anthology was awarded the Silver Crown Award in March from the Columbia University Scholastic Press Association. This places “Hair Trigger 19” in the top six literary magazines nationwide out of 200. “Hair Trigger 19” is now available in the Columbia College bookstore.

Individual stories within “Hair Trigger 19” have also won awards. Herb Jackson received the only award in the category of traditional fiction for his work, “The Boys.” Kent Modglin received a second place prize in experimental fiction for, “Brewsterhaus the Bartender: A Story of Halsted Street.” This piece is a parody of Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener.”

The first place award in experimental fiction also went to Yan Geling, for her piece “Celestial Bath.” Geling, an MFA from the Republic of China, also received the Million Dollar Prize, an award sponsored by the Taiwan China Daily newspaper. The award is given every two years for a novel written in Chinese. Geling’s story “Celestial Bath” has also been made into a film, “Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl.” The film was directed by Joan Chen, an actress in “The Joy Luck Club.”

“We’ve have had a lot of success over the years but, it seems to be at a crest right now,” said Randy Albers, chairman of the Fiction Writing Department. The department’s core classes are based upon John Schultz’s story workshop style of teaching. The department also offers a wide variety of other writing courses.

“I think students are taking it upon themselves to get work out more,” said Albers. Over 21 students and faculty have been published, received awards, and been optioned for publication of novels recently.

“We hope the new success will affect the department in nothing but positive ways. Hopefully it will be somewhat easier for members of the department to get manuscripts accepted,” said Albers. The department is hoping that this new success will spur growth in the department. “Students are following their curiosity more, they have great stories to tell,” Albers said.

The next publication to be released from the Fiction Writing Department will be “Spec Lit II,” a collection of science fiction writings by both Columbia students and outside writers. The anthology was started by adjunct faculty member Phyllis Eisenstein. “Spec Lit I” sold so well nationwide that it had to have a second printing. The department is holding a release party for “Spec Lit II” on, Friday, Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hokin Gallery in the 623 S. Wabash building.

“F-Magazine,” a publication that used to be put out by the Fiction Writing Department, will be resurrected this coming year. The magazine is for all writers, but it will mainly focus on the novelist, the writing and marketing of a novel.

The Fiction Writing Department will continue to be busy next year. They will be hosting a Career Night and a Story Week at the end of April 1999. These activities will deal with writing, getting your work published, and what to do in between.