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Awards recognize literary talents in the university’s creative writing program

Each year, the Glenn Balch Prize in Fiction recognizes three MFA fiction students for outstanding work in the short story or novel-excerpt form. The family of Glenn Balch, the famed Idaho writer who published over 30 books, funds the annual contest.

The 2022 winners:

  • First place: Zach Small, first-year MFA student, for the story “Cutter” ($2,000)
  • Second place: Hannah Phillips, second-year MFA student for the story “Winter Break” ($1,500)
  • Third place: Ayotola Tehingbola, second-year MFA student for the story “The Water is not the Faucet” ($1,000)

Elizabeth Gonzalez James, a novelist and the judge for the 2022 Glenn Balch Prize, said of “Cutter,” the winning story, “The author’s use of voice in this story is masterful. […] We get to see the author’s full talent and use of their gifts. […] It’s a neat parlor trick to create a strange world and fill it up with strange bodies and strange customs; it’s a true art to not only show us this strange world, but also imbue it with such emotion and humanity that we recognize ourselves in these odd forms.”

Gonzalez James also noted, “This is a story that’s going to stay with me for a long time. The strong visual details, the incredible voice, and the tragedy of watching a sentient being bred for labor realize the futility of his condition, only to watch that being receive divine grace when he’s given a second chance – it was just a home run from the first word to the last. Wow. Wow. Wow.”

About the award

The family of Glenn Balch established the Glenn Balch Prize in Fiction to honor the memory of the late writer. In 2018, Balch’s daughter, Betty Weston, established an additional award recognizing work by undergraduate creative writing majors. An outside judge reads the students’ submissions and chooses the winner and the two finalists. Past judges include: Hester Kaplan, Wiley Cash, and Kali Fajardo-Anstine.

Past student winners include Ariel Delgado Dixon, who published her first novel, “Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You,” in February 2022 with Random House.

About the 2022 judge

Elizabeth Gonzalez James’s stories and essays appear in The Idaho Review, The Rumpus, StorySouth, PANK, and elsewhere. The 2019 Santa Fe Writers Project recognized “Mona at Sea,” Gonzalez James’s first novel, as a finalist in a contest judged by Carmen Maria Machado. The Interviews Editor at The Rumpus, as well as a regular contributor to the Ploughshares Blog, Gonzalez James lives with her family in Massachusetts.