The 18th Annual James Jones First Novel Fellowship awarded first place and $10,000 to Tena Russ of Riverwoods, Ill., for her novel After Paradise. The competition is co-sponsored by the Graduate Creative Writing Program of Wilkes University and the James Jones Literary Society.
Russ was shocked when her manuscript won after several previous years of submissions and revisions. She was notified by novelist Nina Solomon, a judge for the competition and a faculty member in the creative writing program.
“It was like Ed McMahon just came to my door,” Russ said. “When Nina called, I literally got goose bumps.”
The James Jones Fellowship was established in 1992 to “honor the spirit of unblinking honesty, determination, and insight into modern culture as exemplified by (the writings of) James Jones.” It is awarded to an American author of a first novel-in-progress. This year’s competition drew 674 submissions.
Runners-up in the competition were Michael Schiavone of Gloucester, Mass., for his manuscript Call Me When You Land; and Christine Wade of New York, N.Y., for her manuscript Seven Locks. They were each awarded $750.
Russ worked as a portrait artist following her studies at Northwestern University and the American Academy of Art. She started writing regularly after she joined a local writers group and took an additional writing workshop at Northwestern University. In addition to her new writing routine, Russ volunteers for The Canine Reading Buddies, a literacy program for young children.
Prior to winning the James Jones competition, Russ’s manuscript won first place in the Novel-in-Progress category of the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition of 2008. She is now working on her second novel which focuses on Sam, a secondary character in After Paradise who is a Vietnam War veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She is also still revising After Paradise.
Requests for guidelines for entering the annual competition should be sent, along with a stamped, self-address envelope, to James Jones First Novel Fellowship, c/o The Graduate Creative Writing Program, Wilkes University, 84 West South Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
The submission deadline for entries is March 1 of each year.