Paula Brancato of Long Island City, New York, has been selected as winner of the ninth annual Danahy Fiction Prize by the editors of Tampa Review. She will receive a cash award of $1,000 and her winning short story, “Executive Spa,” will be published in the forthcoming Fall/Winter issue of Tampa Review.
Brancato is a first-generation Sicilian-American writer with a business degree from Harvard and both Wall Street and Hollywood experiences informing her writing.
“‘Executive Spa’ is one of a series of stories from my novel-in-progress called Never Iron Naked, loosely based on my growing up in the 1970s in and around New York City,” Brancato explains. ”While the Bronx was burning, disco reigned, and entire buildings stood empty in the inner city, a new generation of women had begun to fight their way into power positions in the mainstream. We came from difficult, parochial backgrounds, where a college education was rarely more than a hope and a dream.”
Brancato is a graduate of Hunter College and the Los Angeles Film School. She also earned an MBA from Harvard, becoming one of the first women executives on Wall Street. She is also a filmmaker, music producer, and financial advisor working with hedge funds, family offices, and The World Bank, all of which have contributed to her unique voice.
“We learned to make our way in foreign territory bringing our cultures, beliefs and creativity with us and forever changing business, the sciences, and the arts, ”Brancato says. “If you recognize this story it is because this is what young men always do, but we really were the first generation of women who had the full liberty to do so, often against what our families and the men in our lives had to say about it. After all, the Ivy Leagues only began accepting women in the mid-’70s, weird as that may now seem.”
Brancato’s poems and stories have appeared in Mudfish, Bomb Magazine, Georgetown Review, Litchfield Review, Southern California Anthology, Ambit Magazine, and Georgia Review. She has received the Brushfire Poet Award, first prize from the Chester H. Jones Foundation, and the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize honorable mention.
She explains that her business experiences are part of her fiction, “But this is not what I was thinking when I wrote this story. What I was thinking about was the feel of ironing, the warmth, the soothing sensation of the cloth, the smells and tastes of home and home lost, because that’s what it takes if you are going to move forward into new territory. It takes leaving everything and everyone behind. So, I remembered myself, alone, 17, making my own way in a city in a culture that was simultaneously bursting with life and falling apart. In three days I would be homeless. I had sunk so low there was nothing else to lose—and then what? Then what is this story.”
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This year the judges also named four outstanding finalists for the Danahy Prize:
“Ruth’s Red Ale” by Ann Stewart McBee of St. Francis, Wisconsin;
“Rome” by Gretchen Comba of Richmond, Virginia;
“Reclaimed” by Mary DiRago of Chicago, Illinois;
and “Everything Nice” by Jill Rosenberg of Montclair, New Jersey.
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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, published twice yearly in a distinctive hardback format. Subscriptions are $22 annually, and those received before August will begin with the issue featuring Brancato’s prize-winning story.
The Danahy Fiction Prize is open to both new and widely published writers, with an annual postmark deadline of November 1. The $20 entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Tampa Review, and all entries submitted are considered for publication.
Complete guidelines are available online or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to The Danahy Fiction Prize, University of Tampa Press, 401 West Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33606.