February 20, 2012
A short story collection by Chad Simpson, visiting assistant professor of English at Knox, is the winner of the prestigious 2012 John Simmons Short Fiction Award from the University of Iowa Press. Simpson's collection, Tell Everyone I Said Hi, was selected by author Jim Shepard. The University of Iowa Press annual awards for short fiction are among the most competitive in the nation.
In announcing the award, the University of Iowa Press described Simpson's work:
The world of Chad Simpson's Tell Everyone I Said Hi is geographically small but far from provincial in its portrayal of emotionally complicated lives. With all the earnestness of a Wilco song, these eighteen stories roam the small-town playgrounds, blue-collar neighborhoods, and rural highways of Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky to find people who've lost someone or something they love and have not yet found ways to move forward. In "Peloma," a steel worker grapples with his teenage daughter's feeble suicide attempts while the aftermath of his wife's death and the politics of factory life vie to hem him in.
The narrator of "Fostering" struggles to determine the ramifications of his foster child's past now that he and his wife are expecting their first biological child. In just two pages, "Let x" negotiates the yearnings and regrets of childhood through mathematical variables and the summertime interactions of two fifth-graders. Poignant, fresh, and convincing, these are stories of women who smell of hairspray and beer and landscapers who worry about their livers, of flooded basements and loud trucks, of bad exes and horrible jobs, of people who remain loyal to sports teams that always lose. Displaced by circumstances both in and out of their control, the characters who populate Tell Everyone I Said Hi are lost in their own surroundings, thwarted by misguided aspirations and long-buried disappointments, but fully open to the possibility that they will again find their way.
The John Simmons Short Fiction Award was created in 1998 in honor of the first director of the University of Iowa Press. It is a companion to the Iowa Short Fiction Award, which was created in 1969 and was presented this year to Marie-Helene Bertino of Brooklyn, New York. Entries for both awards were judged by Shepard, the author of You Think That's Bad: Stories.
A member of the Knox faculty since 2007, Simpson was awarded the Philip Green Wright/Lombard College Prize for Distinguished Teaching in 2010. He earned a bachelor's degree at Monmouth College a master of fine arts at Southern Illinois University. His work has been published in McSweeney's Quarterly, Esquire, American Short Fiction, The Sun, and many other print and online publications. He is the recipient of a fellowship in prose from the Illinois Arts Council and scholarships from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee writers' conferences.
Most recently, Simpson's story "Your Place in the World" was published latest issue of Midwestern Gothic, and his essay "On Helplessness" was published in Fifth Wednesday Journal. Last November, Simpson accompanied six Knox students to the University of Alabama to participate in a literary conference, Slash Stitch Burn, where he also gave a reading. His chapbook, Phantoms, sold out its print edition and was recently re-released as an e-book for the Amazon Kindle.