Alumna wins O’Connor Prize

Posted on Sep 22, 2016 in Alumni News and News

Becky Mandelbaum | photo by Anna Hurst

Becky Mandelbaum, c’13, is the winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the University of Georgia Press announced this week.

A graduate of the KU English department and winner of the Lawrence Arts Center’s Langston Hughes Creative Writing award in 2013, Mandelbaum will receive $1,000 and have her short story collection, Bad Kansas, published by the press in fall 2017.

Established in 1983 to bring the work of gifted emerging writers to a national readership, the Flannery O’Connor Award is regarded as a major showcase for short story writers. Previous winners have included alumnae Antonya Nelson, c’83, (The Expendables, 1989) and Kelly Wells, j’86, c’89, (Compression Scars, 2002). The award is named for the late fiction writer Flannery O’Connor, a Georgia native.

“This shows major promise in her career, and I think to many of us at KU it’s not a surprise,” says Laura Moriarty, s’93, g’99, associate professor of English, who taught Mandelbaum in her graduate-level writing workshop while Mandelbaum was still an undergraduate. “We knew she was going places and an award of this magnitude shows we were right. She worked with a lot of people and has many, many fans in the KU English department, and we were absolutely thrilled that she got this kind of award. It’s a huge honor.”

“What’s most impressive about this collection of stories, in which Kansas is as much a metaphor for dislocation and disconnection as it is a state, is that Ms. Mandelbaum has us fretting about matters worth the bother,” says fiction writer Lee K. Abbott, Flannery O’Connor series editor. “What lines we dare not cross, how deep love can cut, what to stop wishing for, when to worry that the world is wobbling out of round, and why we tell the lies we must. Hers are characters riven by need, kids and adults about to go which-away toward a betimes terrible self-knowledge. Bad Kansas is so good it hurts.”

Photo by Anna Hurst

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