Reading Matters

Winthrop writing prof wins big prize

The Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction is one of the most prestigious prizes in this country, offering a $3,000 cash prize and publication of a manuscript by the University of Nebraska Press.

Hundreds enter the contest. Only one manuscript is chosen.

And in 2015, the winner was Winthrop University’s Dustin M. Hoffman, a 35-year-old man who painted houses before entering an MFA program at Bowling Green State University and earning a PhD at Western Michigan. His winning manuscript, “One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist,” a collection of stories about Midwestern working class folks, is out this week.

The characters in these stories work with their hands. They are painters, drywall finishers, carpenters, roofers, oil refinery inspectors and hardscapers, each trying to survive the work week.

They want what we all want: recognition.

Listen to the first paragraph of the title story, how he splits open the earth for the story to spill out:

“We tore up the earth in the yard of a three-story four-thousand-square-footer in Swinging Willow subdivision. We backhoed a gash through the silky sod, brown like a week-old scab, red at the center. That hole in the Glavine family’s front lawn was a big dig, so deep it split us into pieces, and we were never right agan.”

Hoffman’s is the sure hand of a master.