Quoted from the PittNews on Thursday, September 30, 2010.
By: Shaé Felicien / For The Pitt News
“Skinny Girls’ Constitution and Bylaws” isn’t about legislature, but the short story did help author Tina May Hall win $15,000.
Hall accepted the Drue Heinz Literature Prize at a ceremony last night in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium in front of more than 80 people — a mix of Pitt students and faculty.
Hall — an associate professor of English at Hamilton College in New York — received the prize for her latest book, “The Physics of Imaginary Objects.”
“It’s a great honor to be a part of such a great literary tradition,” said Hall during her acceptance speech.
Hall’s book begins with flash fiction, which Hall said was really short fiction — typically a page or two in length. She said in an e-mail that flash fiction is similar to poetry in that the audience’s satisfaction comes “from a turn in the piece, a moment of revelation, a surprise in the language, a flash of insight.”
Hall’s first full-length book is a collection of fifteen short stories and one novella that she has worked on for over a decade.
“I love short stories. I think they can accomplish things that novels can’t,” said Hall. “They lend themselves to experimentation. You can try things out on readers that you wouldn’t expect them to have tolerance for in a longer form.”
Pitt’s Drue Heinz Literature Prize has been awarded annually since 1981 when Drue Heinz, widow of H.J. Heinz II, began the endowment. Winners not only receive a cash prize — this year’s totaled $15,000 — but also have their book published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.
“I heard about the Drue Heinz many years ago when I was still in graduate school, from my dissertation director,” Hall said in an e-mail interview.
“It is one of those famous and much-desired prizes that you send your work to never quite expecting anything to come of it, so it was a really amazing surprise when I got the happy news that my manuscript had been chosen.”
No longer able to travel to the ceremony, Heinz sent a personal letter of congratulations to the 29th winner of the award to accompany the endowment.
“Mrs. Heinz is no longer able to travel to Pittsburgh for the ceremony as she did for very many years, but still is actively involved in selecting the senior judge each year. She reads the comments on the manuscripts, and I have pulled from her to deliver to Tina tonight a personal letter,” director of the University of Pittsburgh Press Cynthia Miller said at the ceremony.
According to Maria Sticco, publicist for the University Press, a panel of writers narrowed down over 300 submissions to about a dozen. Senior judge Renata Adler then reviewed the final selections and announced the winner in January 2010.
Adler is a film critic and author known for her 2004 book “Irreparable Harm: The U.S. Supreme Court and the Decision that Made George W. Bush President.”
Since winning the award, Hall has not restricted her writing to short stories. She is currently working on a novel about an encyclopedia writer stuck on the Arctic Sea.
“There is a historical component and a murder to be solved, so it’s a bit unwieldly right now, but I am having a blast immersing myself in Victorian ships’ logs and old hand-drawn maps,” Hall said.