Knox Students Named Finalists in Writing Competition

April 30, 2009

Once again, Knox College students have been selected as finalists in the collegiate writing competition named for famous Hemingway character Nick Adams. Adam Soto and Sam Martone are two of six finalists in the annual Nick Adams Short Story Contest. The competition, now in its 37th year, is sponsored by the Associated Colleges of the Midwest. Over the past 37 years, Knox College students have earned nearly twice as many finalist awards as any other college in the ACM.

Soto's story, "A Collective Approach," was one of two finalists that received honorable mentions from writer Audrey Niffenegger, who served as the final judge for the contest. Author of the novel "The Time Traveler's Wife," Niffenegger selected one winner and two honorable mentions from among the six finalists.

Adam Soto: "A gifted and versatile writer"
"A Collective Approach" covers a vast terrain, beginning in the winter of the 2008 recession in a shipment facility where the narrator works beside his pregnant friend, and that ends with his narrating the 1925 silent film, The Battleship Potempkin." Niffenegger praised Soto for his "empathy for and handling of the characters, and his rendering of their complex, intertwined situations."

Soto, a senior creative writing major from Des Plaines, Illinois, is "a remarkably gifted and versatile writer," said Knox faculty member Monica Berlin, assistant professor of English.

"Adam's beautifully tender and heart-wrenching story is, at once, a story of friendship, a story of fatherhood, a story of survival, a story about language, and a story about home and homelessness," Berlin said. "What Adam manages to translate through his spare prose is a world that is true to his characters, who themselves are true to our world."

Sam Martone: "Rendered a deeply moving look at how we live"
Martone, a sophomore from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was named a finalist for his story, "Hangman."

"Sam has rendered almost effortlessly an otherworldly place - a place where hangmen still exist and the hanged escape their graves to visit their executioners - in very worldly terms," said Knox faculty member Chad Simpson, visiting assistant professor of English. "Sam portrays both the dark and the light sides of this world, and in doing so explores subjects ranging from the gallows to the kinds of games children play on long car trips. What he eventually leaves us with is a fantastical and deeply moving look at how we live and love and suffer losses yet somehow manage to get by from one day to the next."

Niffenegger selected Kokoro Lee, a senior at Macalester College as the winner and Taylor Egan of Coe College as the second finalist. The winner receives a cash prize of $1,000, endowed by a gift from an anonymous donor. In addition to "The Time Traveler's Wife," Niffenegger has written several visual novels.

Martone and two other finalists - David Rhysdahl and Erik Van Mechelen of St. Olaf College - were selected from among 40 entries by two faculty from ACM colleges. The faculty judges were Shawn Gillen of Beloit College and Melissa Sodeman of Coe College.

The Nick Adams Short Story Contest is named after a protagonist in several Ernest Hemingway stories.

Since the contest began in 1973, 46 Knox College students have won finalist awards - with nine of them going on to win first place awards - nearly twice as many awards as any other college in the ACM. The educational consortium comprises 13 colleges in five states - Beloit, Carleton, Coe, Colorado, Cornell, Grinnell, Knox, Lake Forest, Lawrence, Macalester, Monmouth, Ripon, and St. Olaf - with Luther College set to join the ACM in July.

Knox undergraduate writers have received distinguished fellowships from such top graduate writing programs as: University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, Stanford University, New York University, Brown University, and Indiana University. Knox alumni have been winners of the American Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, as well as editors of Simon and Schuster, Doubleday and various American university presses.

Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 47 states and 48 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.