Tuesday, Jun 07, 2022
Although we are best known for student scholarships, the UW Wausau Campus Foundation also supports campus faculty with research and development grants. For example, Associate English Professor Jill Stukenberg is a recent recipient of the annual Distinguished Faculty Society (DFS) award and an additional summer stipend, which has helped her achieve a goal to write and soon publish a prize-winning novel.
“I am so grateful to the Foundation for this support,” she said. “The DFS recognition and summer stipend supported me in my writing financially at a time in my life when I had to pay for some child care in the summer in order to have time to write. Additionally, and even more importantly, the recognition of my work by the DFS gave me the encouragement to take my work as seriously as I needed to. I even used some of the funds to attend a conference at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, where I learned more about publishing and sending to small press contests.”
In Stukenberg's debut novel, News of the Air, Allie Krane is heavily pregnant when she and her husband flee urban life after a rash of ecoterrorism breaks out in their city. They reinvent themselves as the proprietors of a north woods fishing resort, where they live in relative peace for nearly two decades. That is, until two strange children arrive by canoe. Like the small ecological disasters lapping yearly at their shore, have the problems of the modern world finally found Allie, her husband, and their troubled cypher of a teenage daughter? This econovel of a family, told from three points of view, explores how we remake our lives once we open our hearts to all the news we’ve chosen to ignore.
Stukenberg is from Wisconsin and sees it as part of her work as an artist to represent the people and places of the contemporary Midwest in ways that are both realistic and enlarging of popular perceptions of the region. In this work, she became interested in incorporating details of climate change as it may affect the north woods of Wisconsin, and as a result the book can be read as dystopian or as "cli fi" (climate fiction), a new genre emerging in contemporary American literature.
When it came time to publish, Stukenberg targeted small independent presses that are known for publishing literary works that are respected in her field, similar to the way other faculty members submit their work to peer-reviewed journals. She submitted to Black Lawrence Press' Big Moose prize for the novel three times before winning, advancing each year as a semi-finalist, a finalist, and finally as the 2021 winner, which came with the prize of publication by this respected press. This year she was asked to help judge the entries for the next winner and is humbled to discover there are about 600 submissions every year.
Pre-orders are available now through the publisher's link, which supports the independent press. Books ordered now will arrive in September, when the book officially debuts. Stukenberg will be giving a public reading in late September as part of the Central Wisconsin Book Festival, a group she has volunteered with every year to celebrate regional writers and bring authors to our area for workshops and readings. Learn more about the book festival here: https://www.mcpl.us/cwbf.