Being somewhat partial to all things Irish, I happened to notice this week some comments from Nadine O'Regan, judge of the Frank O'Connor Award. The award honours the best original collection of stories published in English in the past year and is the richest short story prize in the world (what is it with these Irish guys anyway that they have to have the richest short story prize in the world and the richest novel prize too — The Impac — haven’t they heard that the Celtic Tiger has long since been declawed?) Anyway, O’Regan commented to The Guardian newspaper that she “was looking for a story collection which I felt I could give to someone on the street who liked short stories, and say: 'This is a story with an interesting take on life.' I didn't want something which felt like it came out of a creative writing program — I wanted the stories to show individuality."
So here’s the thing: Robin Black, T.C. Boyle and Lauren Van Den Berg (three of the five finalists) all have MFAs from Creative Writing Programs, which might suggest that individuality is possible despite Ms O’Regan’s misgivings!
And hey, all you aspiring writers out there, UNB’s English department has a pretty good Creative Writing program itself if you don’t mind developing individuality and the possibility of winning big money prizes.