Senior Myra Thompson is the 36th winner of the annual Associated Colleges of the Midwest Nick Adams Short Story Contest. Thompson’s story was one of 44 entries in the contest.
Her winning piece “Recollection,” tells the story of an old man in Russia who takes apart his watch and hides the pieces around his apartment as a mental exercise. Author Stuart Dybek, who judged this year’s contest, said in an ACM press release that “the allied themes of aging and memory are powerfully conveyed” in her story. The full text of the story can be found on the ACM website (http://www.acm.edu/nickadams/08story1.html).
“I always wanted to write, it was one of the reasons I wanted to go to Knox,” said Thompson, who has been a creative writing major since she was required to declare one.
“Recollections” was inspired and informed by Thompson’s interest in Russia. Thompson took a three-week trip there after her first year with the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship and developed an interest in the language and the region.
“Which, inconveniently, was right when they closed the [Russian department at Knox,]” she said. Despite that setback, Thompson has pursued curriculum in both writing and Russian, getting most of her Russian education from independent studies and trips abroad. She spent last winter and spring in Russia and completed an independent study on the work of Anton Chekhov.
After college, Thompson is headed back to Russia. Though she might pursue an MFA in Russian or a career in translating, she said she wants to keep writing “no matter what I do.” She spent some of her $1000 prize on a digital SLR camera so she “can take good pictures” when she goes back after she graduates.
Robin Metz, director of Knox’s creative writing program and one of Myra Thompson’s professors, calls Thompson a “fabulous writer.”
“She is quiet by nature, with a kind of serene quality almost, but makes really stunning commentary on other students’ work,” said Metz.
Thompson is far from the first Knox student to win the Nick Adams contest. Since the beginning of the competition in 1973, nine students have won first place, fifty percent more than the next college down in the standings, and 37 have been named finalists, twice as many as the next highest-performing school.
“That’s pretty stunning, isn’t it?” said Metz about Knox’s high performance, but he did not actually appear surprised.
“I think we draw terrific students because of our reputation for writing,” said Metz, referencing Knox’s mention in Poets and Writers magazine as being one of the top three writing programs in the country.
“That generates a terrific response from students. We have a tremendous faculty, and the interaction between students and faculty on the importance of writing has created probably an undergraduate writing program that doesn’t have any peer in the nation,” said Metz.
This article originally ran in the Galesburg Register-Mail on May 24th, 2008.