Every year, hundreds of writings are submitted to the Association of Writers and Writing Program’s Intro Journals Project. This year Alys Dutton ’15 made her mark on the writing community and distinguished herself among both undergraduate and graduate students by receiving an honorable mention in fiction for her piece “Hobophobia.”
“(Graduate students) are a couple steps ahead of me, career-wise, and that I can hold my own against them means, especially with the rate I’ve been improving as a writer these past couple years, that I might have the opportunity to go above and beyond where I expected,” said Dutton, a creative writing major from Columbia, Md. “I’m trying not to get too excited, but it’s an enormous honor.”
The accolade not only speaks highly of Dutton and her work, but of Hiram’s creative writing major. The Intro Journals Project seeks out the best new works created by students enrolled in one of the more than 500 AWP member programs. To be mentioned in the program distinguishes not only the writer, but the writing program they come from. The writing department hopes that this honor will go a long way in attracting more writing students and visiting authors.
“This shows that our small, liberal arts college can foster the kind of writing community that builds strong and talented writers as well as, and perhaps even better than, larger institutions,” said Associate Professor of English Mary Quade. “I think it means our model of small classes and close individual attention works. Our terrific writers draw admiration from the rest of the writing world, and that’s outstanding.”
Inspiration for the story came during Dutton’s Advanced Fiction class last fall with professor and visiting author Daniel Riordan. Students had to write about someone with a terrible job, and she decided to write about someone who was paid to not have a job. “Hobophobia” itself is about David, who becomes a city investigator and must spy on and root out the homeless, and the harder the city fights against the homeless, the harder the homeless fight back.
“I’ve been really attracted recently to stories and premises that are funny until they’re really not,” she explained. “I have a lot of fun doing writing that transitions from absurdly comedic to absurdly painful.”
As for life post-graduation from Hiram, Dutton plans to take a year off to work and refine her portfolio that she’ll use for graduate school, where the competition is tough.
“That’s the best you can do when you get to the top: Work as hard as your competition,” she said. “No one’s going to slip up or slack off. I’m excited to get to that level – I think grad school will help me do that.”
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