Omer Friedlander and Victor Yang Finalists for Nelson Algren, with Weike Wang as Judge

We’re so proud of Omer Friedlander (Fiction ’19) and Victor Yang (Fiction ’20), who were recently named finalists for the nationally-renowned Nelson Algren short story award! This prestigious contest, named in honor of Chicago writer Nelson Algren, honors five finalists and one winner out of several hundreds of entries from around the country. We’re so pleased that two of them are BU MFA alumni, and our very own Weike Wang (Fiction ’15) judged the competition.

Read on to learn more about each writer’s process and their thoughts on reading and writing during the pandemic.

Screen Shot 2020-07-08 at 17.45.48 (1)Omer Friedlander:

When I was writing “Alte Sachen,” I was experimenting with my prose. I gave myself more freedom to incorporate different rhythms, which normally I might not use in a story, such as long and detailed lists. The burden of a list of items (the weight of the prose) went well with the subject of the story – two brothers who are junk collectors, whose lives are filled with objects and clutter everyone else thinks is worthless, dealing with the emotional weight of a dead father. I tried to balance some of the heaviness of the lists with shorter, more abrupt and airy sentences, with lightness and humor.

Italo Calvino’s concept of lightness and heaviness is a good way of thinking about this balance. Calvino uses an example from Greek mythology. To cut off the Medusa’s head without being turned to stone, Perseus must be indirect in his gaze. He can only look at the reflection of the Medusa in his shield. Perseus is the hero of reflection, of wind and clouds, while Medusa petrifies, turns everything to stone with her gaze. Anyway, with my writing, I tried to have a bit of Medusa and a bit of Perseus, both clouds and stone.

VictorVictor Yang:

I started and edited “My Son” during Sigrid’s revision workshop last fall. I am so grateful to her and my cohort mates for believing in this story. Also, A Feather on the Breath of God! I remember finishing the book in Xuefei’s migrant lit class, and thinking, wow, a novel can be like this. It inspired in me new possibilities for writing about family, diaspora, and love.

During pandemic times, I have felt so lucky to have the MFA workshop as a constant over the past few months. In many ways, workshop remained the same, even over Zoom: cheering each other on, pointing to pretty sentences, and giggling about inane things. As one of my classmates mentioned, it is such a gift and privilege to be able to continue reading and writing during this time.

Weike Wang:

It was an honor to be a judge.  Judging was blind but I admit there must have been some subconscious connection between me and the writers. I read these pieces during the month of May, which was a dreary month to say the least. But the stories buoyed me and I can still distinctly remember Omer’s and Victor’s prose. I hope they both continue to write, especially now, when fiction can function as both escape and hope.


Head over to The Chicago Tribune to read more about our two finalists.  Thank you so much, Omer, Victor, and Weike!  Congratulations, all!

Post a Comment

Your email address is never shared. Required fields are marked *