Alumnae featured in annual literary showcase

Two essays from Fresno State alumnae are getting national attention after being included in this year’s The Best American Essays publication.

The publication is part of the Best American Series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and showcases the best short fiction and nonfiction works in the nation.  

Notable works published through the year are considered and guest editors chose the best pieces to publish.

Brigitte Bowers’ “Attempted Homicide,” and Sarah Fawn Montgomery’s “Syndicated Silence” are in the annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction.

Bowers’ essay was published in Under the Gum Tree, while Montgomery’s essay was published in Syndicated Silence. Both essays are from the university’s nonfiction Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program.

“That speaks well of our program of the non-fiction staff in our program,” said Steven Church, nonfiction editor for The Normal School.

Church also had an essay that was noted: “Crown and Shoulder” from Passages North and professor John Hales had “Seeing, and Believing” from Hudson Review was noted as well.

“I am very proud to be in there, it’s a nice honor,” said Church.

The Normal School is a literary magazine run by graduate students and faculty in the MFA program.

Church said The Normal School has national distribution in Barnes & Noble and in independent bookstores all across the country.

Church said this year, The Normal School had eight notable essays and a short story that was included in the table of contents for the Best American Mystery Stories.

Church also teaches a class that staffs the magazine.

“Grad students are the ones who select all the content and faculty are the editors,” said Church.

“We actually don’t just publish students at Fresno State, we publish people from all around the country and some of the biggest named writers in the country,” said Church.

MFA students are the ones who select the pieces that will run in the magazine.

“The purpose of it is really to publish literature and giving students experience working on a publication,” said Church.

Everything that is submitted to the magazine is read by students. If students like the work, they will discuss them. Senior students who serve as associate editors decide if it is passed on to genre editors.  Genre editors then pick what goes into the magazine from of the pieces that are submitted.

Church said Fresno State students are not able to submit their work because there are magazines in the English department that publish them.

“This one is a professional magazine with a national distribution, so we publish people from all over the country and all over the world,” said Church.

“It’s sort of like the best, but not best, the second best, the long list and then there’s the short list that actually gets published so the notables are sort of like the other best American essays that are out there,” said Church.


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