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Qais Akbar Omar (GRS’16), a graduate student in the Creative Writing Program, has published a much-praised memoir, A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story. He recalls how the violence and tumult of civil war jolted his family, who, despite losing relatives, their home, and possessions, continued to nurture his wish to attend a university.

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Tony Wallace Awarded Drue Heinz Literature Prize

February 1st, 2013

Tony Wallace, a senior lecturer in the Boston University College of Arts & Sciences Writing Program, has been awarded the 2013 Drue Heinz Literature Prize for a collection of short stories called The Old Priest. As part of the prize, the University of Pittsburgh Press will publish Wallace’s stories this year.

The Drue Heinz Literature Prize recognizes and supports writers of short fiction and makes their work available to readers around the world. The award is open to writers who have published a book-length collection of fiction or at least three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or literary journals. Nationally known writers anonymously judge submissions for the prize; past judges have included Robert Penn Warren, Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver, Margaret Atwood, Russell Banks, Rick Moody and Joan Didion. The prize carries a cash award of $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

2013 Drue Heinz Literary Prize recipient Tony Wallace

2013 Drue Heinz Literature Prize recipient Tony Wallace

“This is the pre-eminent prize for a first book of fiction, roughly equivalent to the Yale Younger Poets Series,” says Leslie Epstein, professor of English and director of the Boston University Creative Writing Program, where Wallace earned his MFA in Creative Writing.

“Tony came to us from a job as a croupier in Atlantic City, and he wrote about that world and the people in it with Dostoyevskian passion,” says Epstein. “The great thing about him is that he is unafraid and very much not a typical smooth, understated MFA writer. Another great thing is, he never left the BU community.” Wallace teaches Writing Program seminars on American literature, the short story, and contemporary theater.

“The stories in The Old Priest have to do with time and memory, and I think there is a pattern in which they open out beyond ordinary daily time into something larger–the present moment, perhaps, but a larger conception of it,” says Wallace. “The old priest talks about eternity as a place that contains everything that has ever been: every lost dog, as he describes it, every broken watch and burnt dinner, then adds, ‘If eternity really is eternity, then nothing is ever lost. It’s all there, for all time, safe and whole within the sight of God.’ It might be true in these stories that God and eternity are synonymous, or at least coeval, but that’s for readers to decide.”

Wallace was born in Philadelphia, PA, and resides in Brookline, MA. He has a BA in English Literature from Lafayette College and an MFA in Creative Writing from BU. His story, “The Old Priest,” which is included in the collection, originally was published in The Republic of Letters and was awarded a Pushcart Prize. The story appears in PPXXXVII (2013 edition) and has been reprinted in 236, the BU Creative Writing alumni literary magazine. Wallace has published poetry and short fiction in literary journals such as CutBank, The Atlanta Review, Another Chicago Magazine, The Florida Review, and River Styx. He has twice been a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award. Most recently, he has published several non-fiction articles in The Arts Fuse, an e-journal of arts criticism.

About the Creative Writing Program—The BU MFA in Creative Writing is a small, intensive one-year program that features small classes of no more than ten students in fiction and eight to ten in poetry. The Program was recently ranked among the top ten writing programs by The Atlantic magazine, which ranked its faculty and alumni among the top five in the country. The Program is famous for poetry workshops lead by the late Robert Lowell, whose students included Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and George Starbuck. Today, workshops are led by Robert Pinsky, Louise Glück, and Dan Chiasson in poetry and Leslie Epstein, Ha Jin, and Sigrid Nunez in fiction.

About the CAS Writing Program—The CAS Writing Program’s mission is to help BU undergraduates acquire writing and communication skills and more general habits of mind essential both to their full participation in the intellectual life of the university and to their future personal, professional, and civic lives. The program offers a sequence of theme-based writing seminars through which most BU student fulfill their writing requirements, writing courses for non-native speakers of English, and a writing center where students can receive individual consultations about their writing.

Read two of Tony Wallace’s stories here:

The Burnie Can

The Old Priest

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