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Stuart Dybek

2008 Nick Adams Contest Judge

Press release January 23, 2008

Acclaimed Chicago writer Stuart Dybek will serve as the professional judge for the 2008 Nick Adams Short Story Contest. Open to any student at an ACM college, the Nick Adams Contest celebrates Ernest Hemingway's young hero and the creative impulse of ACM students. Fittingly, Stuart Dybek has been likened to Hemingway for his mastery of the short story, his complex voice, and his strong connection to Chicago.

Stuart DybekStuart Dybek's short story collections include I Sailed with Magellan (2003), The Coast of Chicago (1990), and Childhood and Other Neighborhoods (1980). He has also published two books of poetry, Streets in Their Own Ink (2004) and Brass Knuckles (1979). The past year was an extraordinary one for Dybek: he became the first Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University, won the 2007 Rea Award for the Short Story, and was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Dybek's work is heavily influenced by his experiences growing up in Little Village-Pilsen, a diverse immigrant neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. The Chicago Tribune described I Sailed with Magellan as "Spellbinding stories that are, by turns, hilarious, stunning and tragic, but always deeply moving, genuine and compassionate." Studs Terkel reviewed I Sailed with Magellan by comparing Dybek to famed Chicago writer Nelson Algren: "It's hard to tell where Nelson Algren leaves off and Stuart Dybek begins ... Stuart Dybek is, at this moment, our city's blue-collar bard. These eleven lovely stories comprise the Chicago novel of today." Chicago Sun-Times reporter Tom McNamee wrote that when he "spent the better part of a week calling around town to writers, booksellers, academics and editors to see who the big Chicago writers are in this post-Bellow era ... only Dybek was named by almost everyone." In celebrating his work, the Rea Prize jurors wrote, "He explores his people's lives from within, tracing their threatened sense of identity, the desperation of their survival, the terrifying nearness of madness and despair, the saving presence of humor and the luminous presence of love."

Mr. Dybek received a bachelor degree and later a M.A. in literature from his hometown's Loyola University and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. He taught English at Western Michigan University from 1974 until 2006.

Stuart Dybek's work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, TriQuarterly, and many other magazines. Mr. Dybek has also received the PEN/Bernard Malamud Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship (1981), a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship (1982), the Nelson Algren Award (1985) for "Blight," a Whiting Writers' Award, a Lannan Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and four O. Henry awards in 1994, 1987, 1986, and 1985 for "We Didn't," "Blight," "Pet Milk," and "Hot Ice," respectively. I Sailed with Magellan was adapted for the stage and performed in 2007 at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago.

Dybek is currently working on a book-length manuscript of short shorts and short stories -- many along the lines of what the French call "fragments." He writes that he is "trying to shape these fragments into some kind of pattern, or maybe more accurately, I am looking for a pattern that is already there, one I can amplify through rewriting and writing a few more pieces to add to the whole." In fitting together previously published works and new ones, Dybek finds "an odd feeling of the present me working in collaboration with a somewhat similar fellow from the past."

ACM greatly appreciates Stuart Dybek's generosity as a judge and the tremendous contributions he has made to the literature of Chicago and the genre of the short story.