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English graduate wins O'Connor fiction award

Aug. 25, 2010

KALAMAZOO--A recent Western Michigan University alumna is the recipient of one of two Flannery O'Connor Awards for Short Fiction, a prestigious annual prize given by the University of Georgia Press.

Melinda Moustakis, who earned her doctoral degree in creative writing from WMU in May 2010, was honored for her collection, "Bear Down, Bear North," which will be published by the press in September 2011. She worked on the book, a linked short story collection about a family in Alaska, for her dissertation and was advised by Dr. Jaimy Gordon, WMU professor of English.

This is the second time a former WMU doctoral student has won this coveted award. In 2001, Kellie Wells won the prize for her collection "Compression Scars."

The other award for 2010 was given to Amina Gautier of Chicago for her manuscript "At Risk."

Named in honor of the American short story writer and novelist Flannery O'Connor, the award was established in 1983 to encourage young writers by bringing their work to the attention of readers and reviewers nationwide. It has since become a significant proving ground for newcomers.

More than 50 short-story collections have appeared in the Flannery O'Connor Award series, and winners are selected through an annual competition that attracts as many as 300 manuscripts. Typically, just two are chosen each year for the award.

Moustakis earned her master's degree in English and creative writing from University of California at Davis and her bachelor's degree in English from California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo. A native of Fairbanks, Alaska, she grew up in Bakersfield, Calif.

She received a research grant from the WMU Graduate College in March 2009 and also has received the Graduate Gwen Frostic Fiction Prize and the Graduate Gordon Prize in Fiction. Her stories have been published in Conjunctions, The Kenyon Review online, Alaska Quarterly Review, PRISM International, Cimarron Review, The Massachusetts Review and elsewhere. She also has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

For more information, contact Dr. Richard Utz, chair of the WMU Department of English, at richard.utz@wmich.edu or (269) 387-2571.

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Media contact: Deanne Puca, (269) 387-8400, deanne.puca@wmich.edu

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