Baylor English Professor’s Book Receives Country’s Largest Award for Debut Fiction

Arna B. Hemenway
Arna B. Hemenway courtesy photo.
March 27, 2015

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WACO, Texas (March 25, 2015) – “Elegy on Kinderklavier,” a book by Arna B. Hemenway, M.F.A., assistant professor in the department of English in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, has been awarded the 2015 PEN/Hemingway Award for a distinguished first work of fiction, the largest award for debut fiction in the country.

“As you can imagine, I am over the moon,” Hemenway said. “When they called, I couldn’t believe it was real. I felt like I had misheard or that someone was playing a trick on me. It was so far from anything I could imagine when I picked up the phone.”

As part of his prize, Hemenway will receive $20,000 from the Hemingway family, The Ernest Hemingway Foundation and PEN New England, as well as a residency in The Distinguished Visiting Writers Series at the University of Idaho’s M.F.A. program in creative writing. This residency comes with a $5,000 honorarium and a Ucross Residency Fellowship for a full month at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, a retreat for artist and writers.

“This is a significant achievement for Arna, our English department and the university,” said Larry Lyon, Ph.D., vice provost and dean of Baylor’s Graduate School.

“Elegy on Kinderklavier” is a collection of short stories and a novella. Many of the short stories involve soldiers in Iraq or home from Iraq, and the novella tells the story of a young couple whose son has a terminal brain tumor.

"The PEN/Hemingway prize is quite simply the preeminent American award for a first book of fiction,” said Greg Garrett, professor of English and the 2013 Baylor Centennial Professor. “Past winners have gone on later in their careers to win the Pulitzer Prize and virtually every other major literary award. For Professor Hemenway to receive this honor is an amazing achievement. It will not only jump-start his career, but it will draw great and lasting notice to the English department and to Baylor University. His colleagues are proud of him and excited to see what will happen next."

Patrick Hemingway, the son of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway, will present the award to Hemenway on Sunday, April 19, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Hemenway specializes in creative writing workshop and craft. He received his M.F.A. from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa. He has served as the Peter Taylor Scholar of Fiction Writing at the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, a Truman Capote Fellow of Fiction Writing and the John C. Schupes Fellow of Fiction Writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His fiction has appeared in “A Public Space,” “Five Chapters,” “Alaska Quarterly Review,” “Ecotone,” “The Missouri Review,” “The Seattle Review,” “Meridian Literary Review” and “Bat City Review.” His work has been honored as a Distinguished/Notable Story of the Year in both the “Best American Short Stories” and “Best American Nonrequired Reading” anthologies.

“It’s a very prestigious award, and people in the literary community see it as an endorsement of your work as a writer,” Hemenway said. “Hopefully this is an opportunity for people to get to know me and my work.”

by Ashton Brown, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

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