MFA faculty member Amy Hempel and Fiona Maazel MFA '02 have both received $30,000 literary prizes for their contributions to fiction.
Hempel, who has published such acclaimed short story collections as Reasons to Live and The Dog of the Marriage, was named this year's winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story for her "significant contribution to the discipline of the short story form."
"Amy Hempel is one of our masters of the dire emotional state rendered with an offhandedness that, combined with tenderness, results in fiction that's at once dispassionate and compassionate," the Rea judges said.
The award, named for Michael A. Rea, a passionate reader and collector of short stories, is considered one of the most prestigious of the genre, with past winners including Eudora Welty, Tobias Wolff, Grace Paley and John Updike.
Hempel's latest book, The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel, was a finalist for the PEN-Faulkner Award and named one of the Ten Best Books of the year by The New York Times.
Fiona Maazel, who studied under Hempel while at Bennington, received the 2009 Bard Fiction Prize for her first novel, Last Last Chance, the story of a young drug addict trying to navigate the American landscape in the wake of a lethal virus spread by terrorists.
"This sprawling, wonderfully digressive novel is up to the task at hand: love at the end of the world as we know it," says Hempel.
The Bard Fiction Prize is awarded to an emerging American writer under the age of 40. Maazel, the former managing editor of the Paris Review, will be the writer in residence at Bard College for the spring 2009 semester.