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Meramec Alum Reese Wins Mailer Award for Two-Year College Fiction

October 18, 2012

Meramec alumnus Edwin Reese was recently named the winner of the 2012 Norman Mailer Two-Year College Fiction Writing Award for his story, “The Lost Cosmonauts.”

The competition was open to first and second year full-time students enrolled in community colleges, junior colleges and technical colleges.

Reese received a cash award of $5,000 and travel and lodging to the Norman Mailer’s Writers Colony national award ceremony held earlier this month in New York City.

Entering the contest was, in Reese’s words, “a shot in the dark,” but that shot paid off thanks to an email sent out by Maxine Beach, assistant professor in English at Meramec.

“Professor Beach sent out a mass email to those of us in her creative writing classes this past spring. I had a couple of stories laying around that I thought of as finished, so I sent one of them in just a day or two before the deadline,” said Reese.

Beach played more of a role in Reese’s development as a writer than just telling him about the contest.

“I first met Edwin Reese when he was a student in my American Literature class," Beach said. "Although Ed tended to be one of the quieter more reserved students in this class, he stood out. His written responses to the works we were studying were insightful, mature, and thought provoking.” 

The potential Beach saw in Reese was evident, encouraging him to make his voice be heard in class, knowing his insight and interpretation would benefit his classmates.

“Maxine was my first real mentor in creative writing,” said Reese. “Writing fiction is something I had wanted to pursue since childhood, but returning to school for the first time in 15 years, I really needed someone to take me under their wing and give me loads of encouragement.”

He added: “Maxine was cautious with me at first, knew I had grand ambitions but wanted me to understand that “making it” as a writer is exceedingly difficult. After it became apparent that I could not be dissuaded, she let me know in ways both big and small that I had the ability, and then it was just a matter of refinement.”

Beach invited Reese to become an editor for Currents, the student literary journal at Meramec. His fellow editors elected him editor-in-chief. While working on Currents, Reese Also took Beach's creating writing course. “The Lost Cosmonauts” was a story he had been working on, and he knew he had something special during a workshop exercise with his fellow classmates.

“My story was one of the first to go around the room, and every person said something positive, with several of my fellow students claiming that they had no suggestions for improvement whatsoever,” said Reese. “Of course, that wasn’t true – there’s always something that needs fixing. But the response that I received, the outpouring of kindness and respect for my work…frankly, I just wasn’t prepared for it. It was an enormous boost. Thinking about it still makes me smile.”

“The Norman Mailer Prize in Community College Fiction was written by Ed for my fiction writing class, so I am doubly proud,” Beach said.

“One reason I chose to teach at a community college is because I value the second chance community colleges offer many talented, passionate but lost people. I was one of those people,” said Beach, herself a 1987 alumna of STLCC-Forest Park. “Ed was one of those people. Community colleges offers students the chance, but it is up to the students to take that opportunity and run with it.”

Reese was equally as complimentary of STLCC.

“The instructors at Meramec really seemed personally invested in my education," he said. "They cared and it showed. I doubt I will ever get that same level of personal attention at any other school.”

The Mailer Award is just the first step in his literary journey.

“This contest win is amazing, but I know I still have so much to learn," Reese said. "I hope to be published someday, and writing for the rest of my life, no matter what I end up doing for a living.”