October 25, 2013

Local professor gets two Faulkner awards for play, short story

Submitted by Dalton State College

— Nancy Mason, assistant professor of Spanish at Dalton State College, was recently named a winner in two categories of the William Faulkner Literary Competition.

She received first place honors in the one-act play category for her work “Meeting at Midnight” and second place in the adult short story division for “After Nighthawks.”

The literary competition, created in 1997 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Faulkner’s birth, is a part of the Tallahatchie RiverFest, an annual event that takes place in Faulkner’s hometown of New Albany, Miss. Dedicated to celebrating the rich literary history of New Albany, the two-day festival begins with a luncheon to announce the winners of the competition.

For Mason, winning the awards was doubly thrilling as she has roots near New Albany.

“I was excited to go back to Mississippi to receive the awards,” Mason said. “New Albany is the birthplace of William Faulkner and I graduated from high school in Pontotoc, which is nearby.”

Mason is the author of “Muscadine Wine,” a three-act Southern drama which had its premiere last fall at Dalton State.

“Not only does Dr. Mason write, publish and present short stories and plays, but she also encourages students in her Spanish classes to write as well,” said Mary Nielsen, dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Dalton State. “Our school is proud of Dr. Mason and her accomplishments.”

“Meeting at Midnight,” Mason’s winning work, is a prequel to “Muscadine Wine.” The one-act play introduces the story of the Dowis and Montgomery families, details how their feuding came to be, and follows the love triangles surrounding the two families. This time, however, in an exciting plot twist, the characters get involved with Colombian drug dealers.

Her short story “After Nighthawks” was inspired by the famous painting “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper.

“It’s the story of a lonely and troubled Vietnam veteran who seeks companionship at the Aragon Ballroom, a famous dance hall in Chicago,” Mason said. “It focuses on the changing times, from the music and customs of the 1940s and ‘50s to the chaotic era and social changes that took place in the ‘60s.”

The literary competition receives entries from all over the world, and more than $4,000 is given away each year in prizes. Mason received a cash prize of $600 for her play and $300 for her short story.

“This was the first time I’ve been paid for any of my fiction and I hope it won’t be my last,” she quipped.

In addition to her prizes, Mason received enthusiastic acclaim and support from the attendees of the RiverFest, as well.

“About 170 people came out for the awards luncheon,” she said. “It was inspiring to have so much support for all the writers and it’s an incentive to do more. It’s very humbling to have the characters reach out and touch the emotions of the readers.”