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Final judge Wiley Cash chose "Mother" from more than 200 submissions.
"This atmospheric, haunting story is a portrait of childhood grief and the ways in which children wade through it," Cash said. "Rooster, a young boy who cares for his dying mother while yearning for the mysteries of the world outside their home, is sensitive and beautifully drawn. The writing reminded me of the best of Elizabeth Spencer and Donald Ray Pollock."
Virginia Ewing Hudson, cellist turned writer, now spends far more time crafting fiction than practicing. Her story "Silo" won the Women’s Writing Award from Firefly Ridge Magazine, and also was a previous finalist for the Thomas Wolf Fiction Prize. "Silo," like this year’s winning story, "Mother," is an excerpt from a novel, for which Virginia is seeking publication. Her essays, stories, and poems, have appeared in The Colton Review, Vision and Voice, and The News & Observer in Raleigh. Virginia teaches cello at Meredith College, and lives in Raleigh with her husband, Bruce, and a small but merry band of cats.
Jane Shlensky recieved an honorable mention for her story "Clean Burn."
"Waitsel fancies himself a fire-conjuring Robin Hood," Cash said, "and the reader doesn't know whether to respect him or fear him. This story was as brief as a match strike, but its portrait of small-town life and the lives that go unnoticed is seared into my memory."
Jane Shlensky's poetry can be found in Writer's Digest, Pinesong, Kakalak, Southern Poetry Anthology: NC, and others. Her short fiction pieces have been finalists in Press 53, Doris Betts, and Thomas Wolfe contests. Her chapbook, Barefoot on Gravel (2016), is available from Finishing Line Press.
This year's final judge, Wiley Cash, is The New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy, which are both available from William Morrow/HarperCollinsPublishers. His forthcoming novel is The Last Ballad. Wiley is writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina-Asheville and teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program in Fiction and Nonfiction Writing at Southern New Hampshire University. A native of North Carolina, he lives in Wilmington with his wife and their two young daughters.
The Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, which is awarded to a short story of 3,000 words or less, is administered by the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. The program offers opportunities for writers of all levels to join a supportive learning community in which their skills and talents can be explored, practiced, and forged under the careful eye of professional writers. The program is committed to providing the community with affordable university-level classes led by published writers and experienced teachers. Each course carries academic credit awarded through UNC-Asheville.
The Thomas Wolfe Review is the official journal of The Thomas Wolfe Society, publishing articles, features, tributes, and reviews about Wolfe and his circle. It also features bibliographical material, notes, news, and announcements of interest to Society members.
North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938), was born in Asheville. His Look Homeward, Angel is considered one of the most important coming-of-age novels in the English language. Wolfe was considered at the time of his death to be the greatest talent North Carolina had given to American literature. His novels and collected short stories go beyond autobiography, trying to, in William Faulkner’s words, “put all the experience of the human heart on the head of a pin.” His intense poetic language and thoughtfully developed symbology, combined with his uncanny ability to enter the minds of his other characters and give them powerful voices, elevate the books from memoir to undeniable literary art.
The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.
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GREENVILLE—Robert Wallace of Durham is the winner of the 2017 Doris Betts Fiction Prize competition for his story "The Science of Air." He will receive a prize of $250 from the North Carolina Writers’ Network, and his story will be published in the North Carolina Literary Review’s 2018 issue.
Wallace, who also received the 2010 Betts Prize for "As Breaks the Wave Upon the Sea" (published in NCLR 2011), is a recipient of an Emerging Artist Grant from the Durham Arts Council and a Writer’s Fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council. He has published one novel and has had fiction and nonfiction published in various venues, including The News & Observer in Raleigh, Wellspring, and The O. Henry Festival Stories. His story "As Breaks the Wave Upon the Sea" was also featured in Brian Glover’s essay on teaching with the North Carolina Literary Review, published in NCLR Online 2016.
NCLR Fiction Editor Liza Wieland selected Wallace’s story from fifteen finalists, saying "In 'The Silence of Air,' guilt, sadness, and wisdom conspire to make a gracefully introspective work of fiction. I admire this story for its deftly rendered sense of place and sensory detail, its reserve and precision.”
Just under 150 stories were submitted to this year’s competition. Wieland also picked "Banjo" by W.A. Polf for second place and publication in NCLR Online 2018. Wieland calls "Banjo" a "brilliant story about responsibility to family and the impossibility of honoring it. The prose is quiet and careful, but the characters’ violence of feeling make for a tension that captures the truth of family relations."
Polf, a retired hospital executive, moved from New York City to North Carolina to write. His stories have appeared in The Milo Review, Still Point Arts Quarterly, and The Tishman Review, and he was a finalist for the 2013 Glimmer Train Short Story Award.
Other finalists for the 2017 Doris Betts Fiction Prize were "True Story" by Gary V. Powell, "Broken Things" by Jane Shlensky, "Village Life" by Laura Moretz, "The Tiniest Sound of Breaking" by A.G. Kramer, "The Gate" by Laura Golden, "In Guantanamo" by Callie Lewis, "My Name on a Grain of Rice" by Kathryn Etters Lovatt, "Dysfunctional Slumber Parties" by Alli Marshall, "The Mission" by Alan Michael Parker, "Vondalee Puts on Her Cat Eye Glasses" by Vicki Lane, "The Old Americans" by Bryan Giemza, "Abstracting" by Mason Boyles, and "Keeping Company in Lucama" by Mathew Gingrich.
The annual Doris Betts Fiction Prize honors the late novelist, short story writer, and NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Doris Betts, the first to call North Carolina "the writingest state." The competition is sponsored by the non-profit North Carolina Writers’ Network, the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers at all stages of development. Betts’ support of writers, both her UNC students and countless other protégés, is manifested in the Network’s reminder that, particularly in North Carolina, "Nobody Writes Alone."
For additional information about the North Carolina Writers’ Network, visit www.ncwriters.org.
Published since 1992 at East Carolina University, the North Carolina Literary Review has won numerous awards and citations. Fiction Editor Liza Wieland is the author of four novels and three collections of short stories. A two-year subscription to NCLR will include the 2017 issue, featuring the winner from the 2016 Betts competition, as well as the 2018 issue, featuring Wallace’s winning story from this year’s competition. Subscribe at www.nclr.ecu.edu/subscriptions.