Campus: CSU Long Beach -- April 21, 2003

Cal State Long Beach English Professor Wins Prestigious Literature Prize for Short Fiction

Suzanne Greenberg, an English professor at California State University, Long Beach, has been named the 23rd winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize for her collection of short fiction titled “Speed-Walk and Other Stories.”

Established in 1980 and endowed by the Drue Heinz Trust in 1995, the Drue Heinz Literature prize is one of the country’s most prestigious awards for short fiction. The award includes a cash prize of $15,000 and publication of the winning manuscript by the University of Pittsburgh Press, which administers the annual honor.

“It’s amazing,” said Greenberg, a CSULB faculty member since 1995. “I could hardly believe it. I tried to figure out who might have access to this information and play an elaborate joke on me. It still feels a little surreal. I’m used to publishing but nothing like this.”

Greenberg is the co-author of “Everyday Creative Writing: Panning for Gold in the Kitchen Sink,” now in its second printing from McGraw-Hill. Her fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in several publications, including Mississippi Review, The Washington Post Magazine and West Branch.

Award-winning author Rick Moody selected “Speed-Walk” for this year’s prize.

“A charge sometimes leveled against contemporary fiction is that it has abrogated its responsibility to depict civilization as it actually exists,” Moody said in praise of Greenberg’s work. “‘Speed-Walk’ replies forcefully to this contemporary aesthetic error by locating its protagonists in completely recognizable environments. Its protagonists are ever engaged by the routines of American life: walking the dog, eating at the sushi bar, doing the laundry.”
While not purely thematic, the stories in this collection explore dislocation, often from the perspective of people who find themselves living, at least temporarily, in worlds that do not feel like home, Greenberg explained.

“One nice thing about putting together many stories was the chance to write from different points of view such as older men and women or young children,” she said. “There are a variety of perspectives that take place in a number of locations, including a number in Southern California where I have lived for eight years.”

The award will be presented to Greenberg at the University of Pittsburgh in November, and it will coincide with the collection’s publication by the university press. “The fact that short fiction is being recognized in this way is a tribute to the Drue Heinz Foundation for establishing this kind of project,” Greenberg said. “Short fiction has not always been considered to have the same status as the novel, at least in this country. Prizes like this give credibility to the short story as a genre. I’m thrilled and honored and glad these awards exist. I feel lucky that my stories rose to the surface.”

Greenberg received her bachelor’s degree in English from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. and her master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Maryland.

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