HomepageNewsAlumnus, Professor Shane Kowalski ’11 Wins Prestigious Publishing Award

Alumnus, Professor Shane Kowalski ’11 Wins Prestigious Publishing Award

Assistant Visiting Professor in Creative Writing Shane Kowalski ’11 just became the youngest recipient of the 2022 Freund Prize, a $5,000 award from Cornell University’s English department given to alumni writers, celebrating high achievement in publication. The prize also includes an invitation to recipients to read their work at the “Freund Prize Reading” during the fall semester.

It was spring of 2007 when Kowalski received the “first finalist scholarship” for Ursinus’s annual creative writing award. Now, in addition to teaching, the Cornell MFA graduate writes a short story every day—a habit he has sustained for more than 10 years.

What led to the conferring of this prestigious Freund Prize? Read more about Kowalski’s journey from the writer himself:

Q. When did you have the seed idea for Small Moods, your book that was published this year?

A. I’ve been writing every day and then posting it on Tumblr ever since I graduated from Ursinus. So, I have over 2,500 stories floating around out there. I initially sent a 35-page chapbook of stories entitled Stories About Sex Or Power Or Just Simply Objects to Future Tense Books’ open reading period. Kevin Sampsell, the editor, got back to me and said he wanted to publish something longer. So, I started to cull different pieces from my site and from my files that seemed to fit the mood or vibe of the original manuscript. I had that old compilation CD of new age, ambient, and world music called Pure Moods on my mind—so the title changed, and the manuscript was complete.    

Q. How has learning and then teaching creative writing impacted your stories?

A. I went into grad school not wanting to teach creative writing. Not wanting to teach, period. But the experience I had there was, no hyperbole, life changing. Being able to talk about stories and poems in a classroom with smart, young people with fresh ideas only enlivened my writing life. I’ve unfortunately discovered I’m one of those people whose creative vitality is only energized by students talking about a Lydia Davis or Ottessa Moshfegh story. A Russell Edson or Chelsey Minnis poem. I like new energy, unexpected energy, unpredictable energy—and that’s a lot of what college students bring to these texts, some of which are decades old.   

Q. What are you up to right now—are you mainly focused on teaching or do you have something else in the works?

A. I’m always writing. Currently, I’m at work revising a novella I wrote a couple years before the pandemic started called Homebodies. And I’m instigating another short-short story collection together. Teaching is right there, too. I’m excited about the new semester and reading what these new students bring to workshop.

Shane Kowalski

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