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Literary Award for Knox College Professor

Rich Egger

The University of Iowa Press chooses two winners each year for the Iowa Short Fiction Awards. One of the winners this year is Chad Simpson of Knox College.

Simpson received the 2012 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. As part of the honor, the University of Iowa Press just published Simpson’s collection of short stories Tell Everyone I Said Hi.

Simpson said his stories often take a somber tone.

“What gets me started writing a story usually is an image that I want to get to, and in order to get to that image I have to find a kind of tone,” Simpson said.

“I keep hearing from people who read the book about how much loneliness there is in it, and about how much dislocation and isolation (there is).”

Simpson said the tone might come from living in the Midwest. He said he sees people here who experience a certain sense of longing, which he also experiences. He said that’s one of the things that gets him to put the pen on the page.

The stories in Tell Everyone I Said Hi are fiction but Simpson said there are elements of real life in them. However, he said while real life events might provide good anecdotes they don’t necessarily make good fiction.

“I have to figure out how to make that (anecdote) be meaningful to someone else and that’s kind of my task as a fiction writer,” Simpson said.

Simpson’s book was chosen for the award by writer Jim Shepard, who in a release is quoted as saying:

“Chad Simpson writes with a piercing tenderness and sadness about loss and helplessness and the impossible decisions that we face every day, and the complexity of the compromises we offer the world, and ourselves, in response.”

Simpson said it meant a lot to be chosen by Shepard because he’s read much of his work, including the novel Project X, which Simpson said was important to him.

“I learned a lot about writing from that book and from his short stories. It was a real honor to find out that he was the judge and that he was the one who selected my book as one of the two winners. I was really excited about that,” Simpson said.

Simpson said he’s currently working on a draft of a young adult novel. He has also been writing some linked stories (which are all told by the same narrator). Simpson said he’s always trying to write a story or an essay.

Simpson is married to Jane Carlson, who is Director of Audio Information Services at Tri States Public Radio.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.