The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 3, 2004

UI Press Short Fiction Award Winners Read 'Live From Prairie Lights' Nov. 15

The winners of two short-fiction awards from the University of Iowa Press will present a joint reading at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15 in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Janet Desaulniers, winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, will read from the collection "What You've Been Missing," and Merrill Feitell will read from "Here Beneath Low-flying Planes," winner of the 2004 Iowa Short Fiction Award.

The free reading will be broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series hosted by Julie Englander on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910. Listen on the Internet at

Desaulniers, a graduate of the UI Writers' Workshop, has been praised for "pitch-perfect dialogue," "a deft shaping hand" and "an aching, honest love for her characters." In "What You've Been Missing," each of those characters is attempting to deal with some type of loss.

A review in the San Francisco Chronicle observed, "This material could have been unbearably morose and melodramatic, but Desaulniers chronicles the destruction, much as William Faulkner did, without sentimentality and with a precision that imbues her characters with particularities that make their situations riveting.

"The taut writing -- not a word is wasted -- further heightens the reading experience, which is often like watching small children running across a sidewalk littered with shattered glass. The painful situations described in these 10 stories lurk throughout life. Thoughtful people will find the reading profound; lesser minds will flee to romance novels.

"In the context of a culture whose constant advertising and TV bombardment offers fairy-tale idealizations of love and family life, this book is a refreshing elixir."

Desaulniers has taught at Northwestern University, Carthage College and the University of Missouri, and she is now the director of the Master of Fine Arts in Writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, TriQuarterly, the North American Review, Ploughshares and other publications. She has received literary fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the James A. Michener/Copernicus Society, and the Illinois Arts Council, along with a  Pushcart Prize, the Cohen Award from Ploughshares and a Transatlantic Review award for fiction.

Merrill Feitell received her Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University in 2000, was the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference's Margaret Bridgman Fellow in Fiction in 2003 and was chosen as one of Fiction's New Luminaries by the Virginia Quarterly Review. Her fiction has been published in Book Magazine, Glimmer Train and the "Best New American Voices 2000."

A Publishers Weekly preview of "Here Below Low-Flying Planes" stated, "Feitell chronicles impulsive life decisions, crucial moments of self-reflection, lost loves and intimate connections in her skillful debut, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction award. . . . (T)he collection as a whole boasts confident, astute prose as Feitell explores life's surprising moments with generosity and truth."

Jerry Eberle wrote for Booklist, "Feitell traces the orbits of people in transition. . . . Feitell's characters all possess the awareness that they are experiencing change, whether loss or attainment, and the author's fidelity to her characters' emotions in their moments of passage -- and her glimmering prose -- defines this insightful collection."

And Charles Baxter observed, "She writes beautifully and unsentimentally about the kindness strangers can sometimes, and unexpectedly, show each other."

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,