Students Earn Awards in Nick Adams Short Story Contest

April 03, 2014

By Veronica Gockenbach ‘14

Knox College students Alex Zimay and Kelly Clare are continuing Knox's streak of success in the annual Nick Adams Short Story Contest.

Zimay earned a first-place award in this year's competition, and Clare earned an honorable mention. Both students are part of Knox's highly regarded Program in Creative Writing.

The contest, which was named for a protagonist in several Ernest Hemingway stories, drew entries from the 14 members of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM). 

Author Bonnie Jo Campbell, the final judge for this year's contest, selected Zimay as a co-winner of the 42nd annual contest for her story, "Infinite." Zimay and the other co-winner, St. Olaf College senior Zoey Slater, will split the $1,000 first prize, which is provided by an anonymous donor. Clare's story, "What Remains, These," received one of three Honorable Mentions. The others went to Alexander Boyd of Coe College and Elise Erickson of St. Olaf College.Alex Zimay

Since the ACM-sponsored contest began in 1973, more than 50 Knox students have been selected as finalists and 11 of those have been first-place winners, more than any other participating college.

For Zimay, a junior from Northbrook, Illinois, the story she submitted for the contest was a work that evolved from a draft for a fiction workshop course during her first year at Knox.

"I chose the story because I honestly think it's one of the best pieces I've ever managed to write," said Zimay, who has a double major in creative writing and political science. "It's also a very emotional piece for me, because it focuses a lot on childhood and family."

The story began as a comic-book styled fantasy where an adolescent became a superhero in a post-apocalyptic world. Zimay presented it in her fiction workshop course at Knox, and after some encouragement from Associate Professor of English Chad Simpson, she pushed her ideas further.

"It was only when I started writing more about (the protagonist's) back story that I realized there was a much better story lurking within the idea," she said. "It became a larger metaphor about history and culture and the struggle in trying to find and understand one's identity. It became a story about the close but fragile bonds of family." 

Kelly Clare

Clare, a sophomore creative writing major and poetry editor of the campus literary magazine Cellar Door, used this contest to challenge herself and weave poetry into a narrative prose structure.

"As someone who primarily tends towards poetry, I sometimes have trouble thinking in a narrative structure...often relying on the ideas of line, repetition, and fragment," Clare said, remarking that she created "a new shape" with her entry.

Clare, founder of the audio poetry initiative You Are Hear! in her hometown of Traverse City, Michigan, will attend the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets in June. 

Both students credit Knox professors for their encouragement and with helping them develop ideas.

"Many faculty members -- from Tom Moses of the physics department, to Andrea Ferrigno from whom I took a printmaking course -- have influenced my writing, giving me fresh ideas, different structures, and new angles with which to see the world, and therefore the work on the page," Clare said.

In judging the contest, Campbell, author of novels Once Upon a River (2011) and Q Road (2003) and two short story collections, said she was impressed by the six finalists. Campbell said she "would have been thrilled to receive stories of this quality from any of my MFA students."