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Greenberg speed-walks to Drue Heinz short story prize

Sunday, March 16, 2003

By Bob Hoover, Post-Gazette Book Editor

Suzanne Greenberg grew up in New Jersey, attended colleges in New England and Maryland and now lives in Long Beach, Calif., so it's no surprise that her short stories are about dislocated Americans.

Now, those stories are the reason she'll be heading back East when she accepts the Drue Heinz Literature Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press later this year.

Last week, the press announced that judge Rick Moody had selected her story collection "Speed-Walk" for the $15,000 award, making her the 23rd winner of one of America's major book prizes.

Drue Heinz, widow of H.J. Heinz II, established the competition in 1981.

Greenberg, 42, teaches creative writing at California State University at Long Beach, the position that drew her across the country eight years ago.

She says the title story is "emblematic of all the stories in the book. It's about a man who is left alone in a new place, California, actually, and how he tries to find his own way in a strange place far from home."

Greenberg said she knew she wanted to be a fiction writer since she was a college student, but that the responsibilities of raising three children and teaching taxed her creativity.

"I try to squeeze [writing] in whenever I can, an hour here, an hour there," she said, a schedule that sounds best suited to short stories rather than novels.

"I used to try writing short stories as a warm-up to starting a novel, but I've come to love the story as wonderful literary form," she said, although her latest project is "something longer, I think," preferring to say no more until her project takes more shape.

The Pitt Press will publish "Speed-Walk" in the fall. In selecting it, Moody said Greenberg's stories countered charges that contemporary fiction was neglecting the world around it.

He said the book "replies forcefully to this ... error by locating its protagonists in completely recognizable environments. Its protagonists are ever engaged by the routines of American life..."

PEN/Faulkner award

Nominees for another top literary prize, the PEN/Faulkner Fiction Award, were announced Wednesday. They are:

Peter Cameron for "The City of Your Final Destination"; William Kennedy for "Roscoe"; Victor LaValle for "The Ecstatic"; Sabina Murray for "The Caprices"; and Gilbert Sorrentino for "Little Casino."

The winner also gets $15,000 and will be announced next month.

Poetry contest

There are no winners as yet for the Sara Henderson Hay Prize for Poetry, so there's still lots of time to enter.

The deadline is July 1 for this locally sponsored competition started in 1992 by the Pittsburgh Quarterly. The guidelines:

Entries must be unpublished and are limited to three, each no longer than 100 lines. While not restricted to subject, works addressing quality of life and conditions in a new world are sought.

Entry fee is $10. Mail to the Pittsburgh Quarterly, 36 Haberman St., Pittsburgh 15211-2144. Checks should be made out to the Pittsburgh Quarterly. Include a cover letter with the entrant's address and phone number.

Book Editor Bob Hoover can be reached at bhoover@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1634. For an archive of his columns, visit www.post-gazette.com.

Correction/Clarification: (Published March 18, 2003) The Drue Heinz Literature Prize honors collections of short stories, not poetry. A headline on a story about the prize in Sunday's editions was incorrect.

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