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Creative writing alumnus wins National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, student follows in his footsteps

January 17, 2014

Loyola University New Orleans English Writing alumnus and former faculty member Martin Pousson ’94 was awarded a 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship. The honor, which includes a $25,000 grant, is for a collection of interlocking short stories, titled “Black Sheep Boy.” Past recipients of this prestigious fellowship include Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, Richard Ford, Denis Johnson and U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.

Pousson is now an associate professor of English at California State University, Northridge. His previous work includes his acclaimed novel, “No Place, Louisiana” and his poetry collection, “Sugar.” He started writing his novel at Loyola, where he valued the intimacy and interactivity of a small campus community.

“Other universities may speak of an educational mission, but Loyola acts on theirs by fostering a dynamic exchange between cultures and between faculty and students,” Pousson said. “The small classes and close contact with mentors drew me back to campus to finish my degree and gave me the courage to apply to Columbia.”

His Master of Fine Arts thesis at Columbia University was sold to Riverhead Books as his first novel, a finalist for the John Gardner Award in Fiction.

After returning to Loyola post-Hurricane Katrina as a faculty member from 2005 to 2007, he found the culture and community he remembered alive on campus and was thrilled to work closely, now as a professor himself, with another one of Loyola’s most distinguished English Writing alumna, Catherine Lacey ‘07.

“Martin's teaching style was so empowering and his enthusiasm for literature so contagious that his classes instantly gained a reputation for being transformative,” Lacey said. “We left his workshop with stronger voices on the page, but more importantly we had a greater ability to see the nuances of a story, and by extension, the nuances of the world around us.”

While at Loyola, she studied with Pousson, who served as faculty adviser for her creative nonfiction thesis. Pousson encouraged her to submit her writing to Columbia University, where she was not only accepted but granted a fellowship.

Lacey is now charting her own success with a writing career in New York. In 2012, she was awarded a New York Foundation Artists’ Fellowship in Fiction. Her writing has been published widely in a number of leading national journals, including McSweeney’s Quarterly, The Paris Review Daily, The Believer, The Atlantic and Granta.

Now, she has trained her talents on a much-anticipated debut novel “Nobody is Ever Missing,” due out July 8 by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. Her novel tells the risky and surreal encounters of a woman who boards a one-way flight to New Zealand without informing her family. Her bold work has drawn favorable comparisons to celebrated novelists Haruki Murakami and Amelia Gray. About Loyola, she said, “I really do owe so much to my time there, and specifically to Martin Pousson, for encouraging creativity in those college years.”

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