Knox Alumnus Wins AWP Short Story Award

August 21, 2012

by Jakeb Maryott '15

Knox College alumnus Lucas Southworth '01 recently won an Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) award for his short story collection, Everyone Here Has a Gun. The AWP awarded Southworth the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, which is named for one of America's most celebrated short story writers and includes a publishing deal with the University of Massachusetts Press.

"Everyone Here Has a Gun took me on a roller coaster ride that I'd never been on before," praised Dan Chaon, one of the AWP judges. "It shares some of its headspace with the stories of Angela Carter and Robert Coover, a touch of David Foster Wallace's Girl With Curious Hair and Kevin Brockmeier and Kelly Link --but ultimately these stories are sui generis (unique)."

"There are images and moments in each of these stories that have lodged into my brain like shrapnel," Chaon added. "A truly unique and memorable reading experience."

Lucas Southworth '01

AWP, a nonprofit organization, sponsors an annual competition for the publication of excellent new book-length works -- the AWP Award Series. The competition is open to all authors writing in English, regardless of nationality or residence. 

When asked if his time at Knox had anything to do with his writing successes, Southworth said, "Knox was particularly instrumental in my decision to continue writing. It was such a nurturing, supportive environment."

"Some of the professors I had there are still the most influential people I've ever met," he added. "They let me know that being a writer was a possibility and helped me gather the confidence to take chances."

Southworth recalled the advice that he received years earlier from Professor Robin Metz,  director of the creative writing program at Knox.

"I remember when I was at Knox, Robin Metz told our class that half of writing is persistence -- a kind of belief or faith that what you're doing is worthwhile. This seems to me to be true of all artists, and it's not at all romantic, in my opinion. As a writer and a teacher, my main goal is always to keep learning, to keep writing, and most of all to keep improving."

Metz, the Philip Sidney Post Professor of English, has been a member of the Knox faculty since 1967.

Added Southworth, "I stay open to any kind of criticism, and no matter how harsh, I remain willing to consider it and learn from it."

Since leaving Knox, Southworth has earned an MFA from the University of Alabama, where he now teaches literature and creative writing.

He described the thematic explorations of his award-winning collection. "For me -- especially in Everyone Here Has a Gun -- I write about things like the way memory intertwines with history; family; death; what it means to be a killer, use a weapon or hold it; and the way technologies like television can affect the structure and content of the narratives we tell each other and ourselves."

Everyone Here Has a Gun will be published in spring 2013 by the University of Massachusetts Press.

Read reviews, samples, and interviews on Lucas Southworth's literary work on his blog.