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About the Contest

Georgia Shreve, ’69, won this year’s fiction contest with “The Countess of M—,“ a story inspired by the 19th-century fiction of German author Heinrich von Kleist.

Novelists and former Stegner fellows Ron Hansen and Bo Caldwell, ’77, who are married to each other, chose this winner and two honorable-mention stories from among 14 anonymous finalists. The finalists were selected by Stanford editors from among 72 entries.

Shreve, interested in writing from an early age, saw her first two plays performed in her basement before she was a teenager. Her studies in creative writing continued after Stanford in master’s programs at Brown University and Columbia University. After earning an MBA from Columbia, she worked in business for five years. While raising her three sons, she studied music composition and began publishing poetry and fiction.

Honorable-mention winners are “The Natural History of Don Juan” by Netta Gillespie, ’52, about a woman who is serially susceptible to a certain kind of male charm, and “My Auntie’s Wedding” by Stephen L. Kanne, JD ’61, about a romance between two unusual survivors.

Gillespie transferred to Stanford as a junior “primarily to study creative writing and go to beach parties, neither of which were available at Swarthmore.” During her junior year, she spent “hours each week in a state of awe mingled with a healthy dose of terror” in a poetry seminar taught by Yvor Winters. She continued to write while marriage, motherhood and graduate degrees filled her life. She retired in 1991 from a job in instructional technology at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.

Before attending the School of Law, Kanne graduated from Harvard and served in the Army. He practiced real estate law for 33 years in Chicago and Los Angeles, retiring in 1994. He and his wife, Claudia Adams, a former writer for series television, live in Los Angeles and Durango, Colo. His first novel, The Furax Connection, has been submitted to publishers. “My Auntie’s Wedding” was inspired by a trip to China and his reading of Iris Chang’s history, The Rape of Nanking.

Contest judge Hansen’s fiction includes the novels The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Mariette in Ecstasy and the forthcoming Exiles. This spring he will be the Isaac and Madeline Stein Visiting Writer at Stanford. Caldwell is the author of the novel The Distant Land of My Father. In the kind of coincidence that would feel at ease in a 19th-century story, Caldwell in 1991 won an award given to a Stegner fellow to help in the completion of a lengthy project. The prize was established by Georgia Shreve. The two have never met.

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