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Drew Prof Scores World’s Richest Short Story Prize

‘The narrative arc was beset by dangers and required immaculate judgment of tone. It was a high-tariff endeavour, exactly brought off.’

April 2018 – The director of Drew University’s creative writing program won The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award.

Courtney Zoffness, a Drew professor since 2012, was honored for “Peanuts Aren’t Nuts,” one of just six stories short-listed for the prize—the world’s richest for a single short story. The finalists emerged from a long list of 15 and an initial pool of 810 entries.

Zoffness received the award at a black tie ceremony at Stationers’ Hall in London. The winner was also announced on Twitter and the award’s website.

“We’re so proud of Courtney. She’s a terrifically talented writer and a wonderful member of the Drew community,” said Drew President MaryAnn Baenninger. “Not only is she a dedicated mentor to her students, she runs Writers@Drew, which brings high-profile authors to campus to discuss their craft with our students. This prize is a well-earned honor for her.”

Past Writers@Drew guests include Jacqueline Woodson and Mary Gaitskill. Zoffness also advises Insanity’s Horse, Drew’s art and literary magazine.

Her story describes the confusion that a high school student feels after her biology tutor is arrested in a child predator sting operation. During the tutoring, he flirts with her but ultimately doesn’t prey upon her, triggering many questions in her head.

“There was something about ‘Peanuts Aren’t Nuts’ that spoke to all of us,” said one of the judges, Sebastian Faulks, in a statement. “The narrative arc was beset by dangers and required immaculate judgment of tone. It was a high-tariff endeavour, exactly brought off. And at its heart it had that precious thing that underlies the best fiction. It’s not just about giving a voice to the overlooked; it is about valuing the inner world above the outer—dramatically reminding us that this quiet place is where lives are shaped.”

You can read the award-winner here. Also, Zoffness explains the backdrop to the story and how teaching influences her writing here.