By Tanner Kent
---- — Pop quiz: What do Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Toni Morrison and Carl Sandburg have in common with Mankato's recently published author Nick Healy?
Answer: All three were recognized as emerging authors by Friends of American Writers, a Chicago-based literary association that honors adult and juvenile literature that either takes place in the Midwest or is written by a Midwestern author.
"It's really nice to be in that company," said Healy, adding that fellow Minnesota writers Jon Hassler, Will Weaver and Thomas Maltman (who, like Healy, is a Minnesota State University graduate) have been similarly honored. "This has been a pretty big surprise."
While Sandburg and Morrison continued on with writing careers of award-winning acclaim, Healy has only just begun his. After establishing a resume that included a handful of prize-winning short stories and anthology inclusions in the mid-2000s, Healy won a short story contest held by the University of Minnesota-Morris' New Rivers Press in 2010.
His collection of short stories, "It Takes You Over," was released in October 2012 and immediately garnered local and regional attention. The debut effort was even named a finalist for a 2013 Minnesota Book Award.
Yet, in today's high-volume world of publishing, Healy feared his stories would quickly lose attention to splashier genres and titles that typically garner more interest from readers than short stories.
"I was afraid when the book came out that we'd have the launch party and then it wouldn't get reviewed anymore and we'd all go on with our lives," he said. "That can happen with short story collections. But I guess I kind of kept thinking, 'Maybe one good thing will lead to another.'"
Well, one good thing did exactly that.
Earlier this year, Healy received an email from the Friends of American Writers review committee, which reviews hundreds of submissions every year. The email said he'd been chosen as the second-place winner in the Adult category.
The committee said of Healy's work: "'It Takes You Over' was chosen in recognition of the craft Healy demonstrates in all his stories and because his characters, in spite of their quirkiness, convey a sense of authenticity that makes them seem like people the reader actually knows. In addition, Healy is an engaging writer who makes liberal use of both wit and wisdom."
Such recognition often leads to wider reach and readership for emerging authors, especially those whose work was published by small or alternative presses (such as New Rivers). Healy will attend the Friends of American Writers luncheon on Friday to receive his award. After that, who knows?
"We'll see," he said. "This is really the first significant thing to happen with my writing outside the borders of Minnesota."