|Massachusetts Writer Caitlin O'Neil|
Caitlin O’Neil, a writer and college professor from Milton, Massachusetts, is the winner of the thirteeth annual Danahy Fiction Prize, judged by the editors of Tampa Review. She receives a cash award of $1,000 and her winning short story, “Mark,” will be published in the forthcoming Spring/Summer issue of Tampa Review.
O’Neil is a graduate of the MFA program at Columbia University and currently teaches in the English Department at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Her short fiction has appeared in the Massachusetts Review, Kenyon Review, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Calyx, Calliope, Beloit Fiction Journal, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has previously won the Ninth Letter Prize in Fiction, the Women Who Write International Short Prose Contest, and received a Massachusetts Cultural Council individual artist grant.
O’Neil says that her winning story came directly from her life experiences as a college professor and as a human being living in America today.
“I watched multiple school shootings unfold on television with sadness and fear,” O’Neil says. “Given the gridlock around gun control, I began to think about what a world that had adjusted to guns and gun violence might look like.”
O’Neil’s story is set in a near-future in which guns become an even more pervasive part of the culture.
“What if our society imagined them as something you’d grow into, something that we accepted, happily or not, but something we could agree on because it protected our children,” O’Neil asks. “College could become a place where kids entered into an adulthood of guns and violence in a controlled way. But of course ideas we have about ‘control’ work in theory and fall apart in practice. Violence is inescapable and finds us in ways we can’t see coming. In this story, the violence of the world meets the vulnerability of motherhood, which can make any harm hurt more deeply.”
Tampa Review judges praised O’Neil’s story for bringing complexity and an original imaginative perspectives to characters struggling with violence, values, and knowledge.
“O’Neil’s story is both contemporary and timeless,” said Tampa Review editor Richard Mathews. “In multiple dramatic and metaphoric ways, it reminds us how important the details are, getting the specifics right in what we learn, and not forgetting or overlooking them. And it reminds us that it is increasingly difficult—as well as increasingly important—to be attentive to the often subtle, specific, individual details essential to teaching, to learning, and to surviving in an increasingly mass society.”
O’Neil says the story represents a somewhat different approach to fiction.
“The story contains more echoes of my actual life than most stories I write these days,” she says, “probably because the speculation here doesn’t seem as far-fetched to me.”
* * *
This year Tampa Review judges also named four Danahy Prize Finalists:
Camille Cusumano, of San Francisco, California, for “Messages from the Womb”;
Allison Kade, of Northampton, Massachusetts, for “Doing a Mitzvah”;
Michael Sarabia, of Guadalupe, California, for “Jean Hill’s Tia”; and
Ann Stoney, of New York, New York, for “Soldiers and Lovers.”
* * *
The Danahy Fiction Prize was established by Paul and Georgia Danahy as an annual award for a previously unpublished work of short fiction judged by the editors of Tampa Review, the faculty-edited literary journal of the University of Tampa, which is published twice yearly. Subscriptions are $25 annually, and subscriptions received by the end of February will begin with the issue featuring O’Neil’s prize-winning story.
The Danahy Fiction Prize is open to both new and widely published writers, with an annual postmark deadline of December 31. The $20 entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Tampa Review, and all entries submitted are considered for publication.
Complete guidelines are available on the Web at TampaReview.org or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to The Danahy Fiction Prize, University of Tampa Press, 401 West Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33606.