In today’s competitive writing world, it’s no easy task to get your work published. Cathy Day, assistant professor of English, however, managed not only to have her first book published last year, but also to be nationally recognized for it. Day’s collection of short stories, “The Circus in Winter,” which chronicles the lives of the performers of the Great Porter Circus, was selected as one of three finalists competing for The Story Prize Award.
Only in its first year, The Story Prize Award was designed to honor the author of a short fiction collection with a cash prize of $20,000. It was founded by Julie Lindsey, who selected the three finalists along with Larry Dark, director of The Story Prize Award. There were a total of 60 entries eligible for the award, having been submitted for consideration by their publishing house. According to Day, the creation of such an award helps to honor short story writers.
“Every year awards are given out, but story collections don’t fair very well against novels,” Day said. “The Lindsey’s started this award to honor the tradition of story-telling.”
The finalists for The Story Prize Award were announced in the beginning of December and Day, along with fellow finalists Edwidge Danticat and Joan Silber, were left waiting in suspense for over a month. On Jan. 26, a ceremony was held in New York City to announce the winner. In the end, it was Danticat’s “The Dew Breaker” who took home the top honor.
“I was disappointed that I didn’t win,” Day said. “But I was very lucky to have gotten up to the final three. There were lots of other good story collections that weren’t even nominated.”
Although she didn’t win The Story Prize Award, the night of award ceremony proved to be a night Day will never forget. The event was held at Symphony Space and Day estimates there were about 1,000 people in attendance. Before the winner was announced, actors took turns reading excerpts from each of the finalists’ works. After their stories were read, each author took the stage to greet the crowd.
In order to share her experience, Day’s parents came out to visit from her home state of Indiana.
In addition to this, many members of the College community made the trip to New York to support her. Susan Albertine, dean of the School of Culture and Society, various members of the English Department, including chair Jo Carney, as well as former and current students, all joined Day at the awards ceremony.
“It was a very special night. A lot bigger and more special that I ever imagined it would be,” Day said. “I didn’t get to talk to everyone, but it was nice to have so much support. It was a great feeling to have my parents, friends and students there with me. It made me feel very loved and I am very grateful.”
Bethany Allinder, junior English major, was one of the many students who shared in Day’s special night. Allinder, one of Day’s students since the Fall s2003, has watched her professor go through the actual publishing process. Witnessing that process was inspiring to Allinder and she was happy when she found out that “The Circus in Winter” was named a Story Prize Award finalist.
“Being at the award ceremony last Wednesday made me feel like part of her dream,” Allinder said. “It was such an honor to be there supporting a person and a book that were so deserving of the recognition of being a Story Award finalist.”
Although Day didn’t win The Story Prize Award, when she got home she learned that she did win another honor. Day was selected as a recipient of a New Jersey State Council for the Arts fellowship for 2005. This fellowship awards Day a $7,800 grant.
“I was bummed when I got home, but then I got an e-mail letting me know I won this grant,” Day said. “A door closes and a window opens.”
The fact that Day was a finalist for The Story Prize Award alone is sure to
bring some great things to herself.
“Getting a national book award nomination puts you on the radar,” Day said. “It makes people take notice and look for what’s up next.”
Although Day is still promoting “The Circus in Winter,” she already has an idea for her next project. However, don’t be on the lookout for more short stories. Instead look out for novelist Cathy Day.