by Kim O’Brien
Two professors won National Endowment for the Arts fellowships for 2012: Alan Heathcock and Mitch Wieland. In the country only 40 writers were chosen out of 1,200 applicants.
“I’m not surprised,” adjunct Professor of fiction writing, Alan Heathcock said. “I think there’s something special going on here, in general, all the writers have embraced this idea about quality and excellence and we actually think we should be writing something that matters.”
Heathcock (right) graduated from the Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) program at Boise State. He has several short stories published in national magazines such as Zoetrope: All-Story, Kenyon Review and Harvard Review.
His stories have won the National Magazine Award for fiction. His book Volt has received several awards and he is a literature fellow for Idaho.
“Mitch (Wieland) was one of my professors back in the day. Mitch is this very quiet guy that has this idea of excellence.In class, he would talk to us all the time about excellence and quality. It’s the first time I had a professor bring those things up,” Heathcock said.
Professor of English, Wieland has written two books that have received starred reviews — Willy Slater’s Lane and God’s Dogs.
He was founding editor of The Idaho Review and his short stories have appeared in several magazines including The Best of the West, The Southern Review, The Kenyon Review, The Yale Review, TriQuarterly and The Sewanee Review.
Wieland is currently on an Arts and Humanities Fellowship for Boise State. The fellowship is annually awarded to three arts and humanities faculty members.
“For this academic year, I have been released from all teaching and committee duties to finish a novel set in Japan entitled Enka Men,” Wieland said.
He will visit Tokyo for a month in the spring of 2012 to finish his research for the book.
His research includes Enka music, the shunning of traditional roles by young Japanese and high-school bullying.
Heathcock has a wife and three kids who are proud of his accomplishments.
“But at the same time, life is life. I have to set the table, clean the house and take my youngest to hip-hop dance class.” Heathcock said.
Weiland’s wife is a graphic designer and his son is a member of a band called Jumping Sharks.
“With so much art, music and writing taking place in our house, we pretty much have the humanities covered. It stays lively,” Wieland said.
For Wieland, the grant will help him do research for his book. Heathcock will only have to teach one class of fiction writing next year.
“It’s come to the point that I really need the time to write, and this gives me the luxury”, said Heathcock. “But I’m going to keep teaching; it keeps me sharp, keeps me connected.”