by Elise Goitia '18
Robert Hellenga, George Appleton Lawrence Professor Emeritus of English and distinguished writer-in-residence at Knox College, has been awarded the Society of Midland Authors Award for his latest novel, The Confessions of Frances Goodwin, in the category of adult fiction.
The Society of Midland Authors has been presenting annual awards to the best books written by authors of the 12 Midwestern states since 1915. A few notable winners of the juried competition have included Kurt Vonnegut, Saul Bellow, Jane Smiley, and Studs Terkel.
Hellenga's seventh novel takes place in Galesburg, Illinois, and details the fictional memoir of Frances Goodwin, a retired high school Latin teacher who recounts her life -- from her journeys in Rome and Verona to her career at Galesburg High School.
"I used to think novelists just made everything up, but now I know better," said Hellenga in an interview for Knox Magazine. "For one thing, writers need to know what they're writing about; and for another, research almost inevitably leads to discoveries."
Hellenga says that it's important to discover things in the act of writing. "By 'things' I mean interesting generalizations that aren't simply truisms, epiphanies that catch you off guard, insights that go beyond the obvious, realizations that take you to someplace new," he said.
This is not the first award the Society of Midland Authors has given to Hellenga. He was first recognized in 1995 by the association for his adult fiction novel, The Sixteen Pleasures, which won in the fiction category. He also received the runner-up award for fiction in 2002 for his novel Blues Lessons. Hellenga has garnered a number of additional awards, including the Audie Award for his novel Snakewoman of Little Egypt, and the Los Angeles Times "Best Fiction of 1998" for his novel Fall of a Sparrow.