Oprah announces conference alumna Ayana Mathis’ debut as the second pick for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0

Our alumni have hardly been hibernating during the autumn and winter months. Since our last update we’ve received word of publications and accolades galore — rewards for long seasons of toil.

On the fiction side, 2011 participant Ayana MathisThe Twelve Tribes of Hattie has received every writer’s dream debut. Oprah Winfrey selected the novel for her online book club, saying, “I can’t remember when I read anything that moved me in quite this way, besides the works of Toni Morrison.” The novel went on to garner high praise in not one, but two reviews in the New York Times, and climbed to #6 on the bestseller list.

Also available now is 2012 participant Amanda McTigue‘s Going to Solace. The novel traces the stories of a handful of diverse characters who cross paths at a hospice facility called Solace in Appalachia — where they “come to know the altered states of shock and clarity that visit us as our loved (and hated) ones pass from this world to the next,” says Amanda’s Web site. The book is published by Harper Davis as part of the company’s experimental new publishing model, and is being released as a print-on-demand paperback as well as in other e-formats.

Another 2012 participant, Chaney Kwak, was featured as the “First Time in Print” writer for the Winter 2012 edition of Zyzzyva. The editors described his story as “what might be the best Christmas story you’ve read in ages (complete with over-the-top holiday decorations, furtive roadside sex, and a precocious would-be hustler).”

Finally, 2011 participant Marian Palaia has been awarded a $10,000 Steinbeck Fellowship for 2012-2013. “Cù Chi,” the first chapter of her first novel, was published in the Fall 2012 edition of the Virginia Quarterly Review, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Melanie Noel's The Monarchs
Melanie Noel’s debut collection

Our poetry alumni have been plenty productive, too. Melanie Noel, who attended the conference on 2012, has published her first book of poems, titled The Monarchs. Poet Cole Swensen praises how Melanie’s “stunning phraseology and vibrant vision put things together in novel, awakening ways. Tender and bitingly exact, this work is among the most exciting of our time.” Melanie managed to fund a West coast book tour on Kickstarter — a sign of the publishing times.

Fellow 2012 alumna Diana Woodcock just let us know that her chapbook, Taming the Desert, was a finalist in Finishing Line Press’s 2012 Open Book competition. It will be published this year — stay tuned!

Our conference poetry staff have also published new work. Poetry director Nan Cohen has placed new works in Slate magazine and The New Republic. And poetry assistant Iris Dunkle‘s first book of poetry, Gold Passage, has just been published by Trio House Press as the winner of the 2012 Trio Award.

Do you have alumni news to share? Stop by our booth (#P4) at AWP March 6-9, or drop us a line. We look forward to hearing from you!