ASU professor is finalist for PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

March 24, 2008

ASU Professor T.M. McNally has been named a finalist for the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

McNally, a professor of English and creative writing in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was cited for his collection of short stories titled “The Gateway: Stories.” He will be honored during the 28th annual PEN/Faulkner Award Ceremony May 10 at Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Download Full Image

McNally earned his master of fine arts degree at ASU in 1987 and worked in Europe and other parts of the United States before joining the ASU faculty in 1999.

“Professor McNally’s achievement in being named a finalist for the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award is both a recognition of his national reputation in the field of creative writing as well as an indication of the quality of ASU’s creative writing program, a program that works in concert with the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing to bring graduate students in creative writing together with award winning writers,” said Deborah Losse, dean of humanities.

“Professor McNally is known for his natural gift of storytelling and for the conviction of his writing. He and his colleagues continue to be recognized through national and international awards for their achievements,” she said.

McNally is also “a dedicated teacher,” according to Neal Lester, chair of the English department. “Our students benefit immensely from his candor, his eloquence, and his steadfast commitment to training and mentoring the next generation of talented fiction writers,” Lester said.

McNally was one of four finalists cited by the PEN/Faulkner Foundation for work published during the 2007 calendar year. Nearly 350 novels and short story collections by American authors were considered. Submissions came from more than 70 publishing houses, including small and academic presses. The winner was Kate Christensen, for her novel “The Great Man.”

McNally said he did not know “The Gateway: Stories” was being nominated, and was surprised and pleased to learn of the award.

He wrote the stories in “The Gateway” over a 10-year period, beginning in the spring of 1993. The final story, from which the book gets its name, took six to seven months to write.

“I wrote it as a way of saying everything I might possibly say about the nature of the short-story form,” McNally said.

Writer David Shields described the work as “vaultingly ambitious narratives” and “uncommonly dense, complex, and well-made.”

“The Gateway” is the sixth work of fiction written by McNally. He also has written two other books of short fiction and three novels: “Until Your Heart Stops,” a New York Times Notable Book; “Almost Home,” a St. Louis Post-Dispatch Best Book of the Year; and “The Goat Bridge,” a Booklist Editors’ Choice.

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation was founded by writers in 1980, and named for William Faulkner, who used his Nobel Prize funds to create an award for young writers, and PEN, the international writers’ organization. The PEN/Faulkner Award is the largest peer-juried prize for fiction in the United States.

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Media Relations

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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Federal judges dispense advice to law students

March 24, 2008

Students at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law received an informative lesson in case preparation and courtroom strategies March 6 from three judges whose bench is the last stop before the U.S. Supreme Court.

A panel from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took questions from students during a special sitting at the college, where it also heard oral arguments from attorneys in four cases. Judges Michael Daly Hawkins of Phoenix, Richard R. Clifton of Honolulu and Sidney R. Thomas of Billings, Mont., interacted with first-year law students and others assembled during a dean’s session. Download Full Image

Because the judges hear about 30 cases per month, involving up to 3,500 pages of reading, attorneys should write more succinctly, with the most important details of an argument up front, they said.

“You’re going to get us to look at the briefs, but we are human beings, and the attention span begins to wander,” Clifton said. “Be concise, don’t hide the ball. Tell me why it is that this is the right result.”

The judges said the biggest mistake lawyers make in court is not listening to judges’ questions, either because they don’t want to depart from their scripts, are attempting to hide weaknesses in their cases or are fearful they might say the wrong thing.

“Some attorneys stop listening about halfway through our questions and start to do what politicians do and form answers they want to give, not the ones to the questions that are asked,” Hawkins said. “So listen to the question, answer it directly, give a yes or no answer, or a figure or a list, if that’s what the judge is asking for. It’s the skill your mother taught you when you first went to school: listen and respond.”

Clifton said judges notice weak spots in cases and expect them to be dealt with.

“It’s not often the case where everything is pristine,” he said. “If it comes this far, there’s usually something to talk about, and you have to be prepared.”

Oral arguments don’t often change judges’ preconceptions about cases, but they represent an “intimate conversation” between a lawyer and the judges, and they help judges understand the nuances of cases, the panel members said.

“I love it when an attorney says, ‘You’re wrong, judge, and let me tell you why,’ ” Hawkins said. “That’s not a negative, that’s a positive, and I truly enjoy it.”