MFA Fiction Student Wins McSweeney’s Award

Posted: February 16, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Stephanie Hay

MFA fiction student Jess Anthony is the first winner of the Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award given by McSweeney’s Quarterly Journal for her novel The Convalescent.

“I started writing the novel last spring,” Anthony says. “I was in a McDonald’s in a mall, where there was a picture of an abandoned 1950s meat bus in a field. I went home and started writing.”

Jess Anthony
Jess Anthony
courtesy Jess Anthony

Last March, Anthony was awarded George Mason’s 2003-04 Fiction Thesis Fellowship to work on her book, and she admits that her year would have been particularly trying without the fellowship. Subsequently, she sent McSweeney’s 40,000 words of her novel, two short stories, and a list called “Bad Jobs I’ve Had.” She explains, “I’ve had a lot of bad jobs.”

The award is a $5,000 grant cosponsored by McSweeney’s and 826 Valencia, a San Francisco-based organization that helps young students develop their writing skills. Created in memory of Amanda Davis, a writer who died in a 2003 plane crash, the award aims to assist young female writers who exhibit “warmth, generosity, and a passion for community” to finish a book in progress.

“Personally, this award is special not only because it memorializes a wonderful writer, but also because it acknowledges all the grunt work most people have to go through to be a writer. I had 20 jobs before I began my graduate work at Mason. I’ve been a meat cutter in Alaska, a maid, a singing telegram gal, a secretary many times over,” Anthony says. “It feels good to know that there was a purpose to all those experiences, and I wasn’t just messing around, even though I felt so at the time.”

Anthony expresses gratitude to English faculty members Alan Cheuse, Richard Bausch, Susan Shreve, and Stephen Goodwin for their support. She currently is working to finish the novel and to complete a collection of stories.

An excerpt from her novel in progress is posted online.

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