WTP 2017 First Place Literary Winner

WTP 2017 First Place Literary Winner

Jacqueline Kolosov

recipient of the

Elizabeth Sloan Tyler Memorial Award

Jacqueline Kolosov is the recipient of the Elizabeth Sloan Tyler Memorial Award for the Literary.  She is a professor of English at Texas Tech University, where she directs both the undergraduate and graduate creative writing programs, and works in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and in hybrid genres. She has recently published work in Boulevard, The Southern Review, The Writer’s Chronicle, and The Sewanee Review. She is the recipient of a literature fellowship from the NEA; a residency at the Banff Centre; and a $47,000 grant from The CH Foundation to create the 2018 CH Foundation Arts for Healing Programming & Workshops, which will establish multi-modal arts programming with populations including at-risk teens, veterans, pediatric patients, palliative care patients, as well as their families, and the doctors, nurses, and staff who care for them.

Kolosov is eager to share news of her WTP award with her thirty-two junior-level fiction students, in large part to demonstrate the rewards of revision and patience, aspects of the writer’s craft that she has been stressing throughout the last twelve weeks of this semester. She notes, “As Colum McCann so accurately puts it in Letters to a Young Writer, a story should feel as if it has a life before the reader enters it. As for the ending of a story, it should reinforce Gogol’s credo that ‘nothing was ever the same again,’ but it should also be the beginning of the reader’s journey, a door opened onto the threshold of her own meaning-making.”

In her winning short story, the protagonist, Peter, is a Shakespeare professor still grieving for his wife, who was in her final trimester of her pregnancy when she died. Kolosov took the title from The Winter’s Tale, one of Shakespeare’s late romances: “The Winter’s Tale is among my three favorite Renaissance plays, and like Peter, I have always wondered why Shakespeare shifted away from tragedy to alight on romance in his final years. In The Winter’s Tale, the following lines might just as well be the play’s raison d’etre: ‘There is an art /that doth mend nature, change it rather, yet/the art itself is nature.’ What a profound, uplifting way out of the finality—or perceived finality—of death. Although I did not consciously align Peter with the grieving Leontes of The Winter’s Tale, who wrongly has his wife condemned to death, only to realize, and belatedly, that she was innocent, the subconscious is a powerful artist, and I imagine my subterranean life forged an affinity between Peter and Leontes, though Peter, of course, had no hand in his wife’s death.”

While some might assume a story idea begins with an idea for the lead protagonist, Kolosov explains that it actually began with one of Peter’s students, Agnes, who is near term in carrying a surrogate pregnancy: “Agnes began with a photograph of her real-life predecessor, the beautiful nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, who nursed Ernest Hemingway back to health when he was hospitalized in Milan during World War I—of course he fell in love with her. She became the model for several of his female characters including Catherine in A Farewell to Arms. I no longer know how my Agnes began speaking to me of what she wanted and all that she did not understand, yet urgently needed to know. Perhaps I knew when I drafted this story in May 2014; what I know, now, is that Agnes was her own person from the very beginning. And in knowing Agnes, I searched and found Peter, the teacher who has the answers or at least holds the keys to deepening the mysteries in which Agnes is so invested. He is her Shakespeare professor, after all; and in him she detects a sadness akin to her own. Sadness, or sorrow, has depths in which one can swim or abide for a very long time. Or so I believe. And so, I think, Shakespeare believed, as The Winter’s Tale exemplifies. There is an art that doth mend nature…. As these two characters began speaking to me, and more importantly, to each other, I understood that they needed to unlock something fundamental in each other.

“I will add that I wrote a second story that catches up with Agnes and Peter nine years later. Many writers, among them Charles Baxter and Alice Munro, two of the best short-story writers out there today, frequently delve in and out of their characters’ lives in the short-story form. I have done so only once, with Peter and Agnes. They quickly became beloved to me, and I did not, I do not, want to let them go. ‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’ was almost picked up by The Hudson Review, but the editor ultimately disagreed with my interpretation of The Winter’s Tale. In argument, of course, lies energy, so perhaps I need to return to Peter and Agnes and the children who do surround them. For now, I’m honored, deeply honored, to discover that they have found resonance with The Woven Tale Press and especially with DeWitt Henry, the founder of Ploughshares literary magazine. Thank you.”

Learn more about Kolosov on her blog at poppiesbloom.blogspot.com.

Look for “Exit, Pursued by a Bear”  in the WTP special winners edition this December.

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