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Chicago’s Literary Luminaries Have Strong Northwestern Ties

Stuart Dybek, Weinberg’s Distinguished Writer in Residence, tops Newcity’s 2014 Lit 50 List

EVANSTON, Ill. --- With two long-awaited short story collections released to high acclaim this month, Stuart Dybek -- Northwestern’s Distinguished Writer in Residence and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences faculty member -- topped Newcity magazine’s 2014 list of 50 Chicago literary movers and shakers. But Dybek is hardly the only Northwestern-related writer to make the Lit 50 cut.

“When Stuart Dybek arrived on campus to teach creative writing to undergraduate and graduate students, he gave added visibility to Northwestern’s outstanding creative writing programs,” says Northwestern Professor Reginald Gibbons. An award-winning poet, novelist and translator, Gibbons, from 1981 to 1997, edited Triquarterly, the University’s venerated literary magazine.

Second on the lit 50 list is alumna Gillian Flynn, author of the bestselling novel “Gone Girl” (soon to be a major motion picture), and, in the third spot, Veronica Roth, one of the nation’s hottest young adult fiction writers. While still an undergrad studying creative writing in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Roth snagged a three-book deal from HarperCollins for her “Divergent” series and the rest, as they say, is history.

Other Northwestern-related literary lights among the top 10:

MFA/MA creative writing faculty member and 2009 Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction winner Christine Sneed. The New York Times called Sneed one of the top-ten debut novelists of 2013.

Attorney/author Scott (“Presumed Innocent”) Turow, former Center for the Writing Arts writer in residence. One of the nation’s top-selling authors of the past few decades, Turow has seen his work translated into more than 40 languages and sell more than 30 million copies.

Northwestern alumnus and former creative writing faculty member Aleksandar Hemon, winner of a MacArthur “genius” and National Book Critics Circle award. Hemon’s first published short story appeared in TriQuarterly, Northwestern’s acclaimed literary magazine.

Gina Frangello, author, most recently, of “A Life in Men.” Like Dybek, Turow, Hemon and Sneed, she has taught creative writing in the MFA/MA program at Northwestern’s School of Continuing Studies (SCS).

Additional Northwestern-related names on the 2014 Lit 50 list (in order of appearance) are:

Undergrad alumna and writer Cristina Henriquez, who the Los Angeles Times dubbed one of 2014’s “Faces to Watch” and winner of Northwestern’s 2010 alumni fiction contest. She recently earned a rave review in Booklist for her latest novel.

Megan Stielstra, author of a collection of stories that the Chicago Tribune dubbed a Favorite of 2011. A teacher of fiction in the MFA/MA creative writing program, Stielstra is literary director of 2nd Story, a Chicago collective of storywriters and readers.

Chris Abani, Weinberg’s Board of Trustees Professor of English, who teaches creative writing through the English department and SCS’s MFA/MA writing program. Literary luminary Dave Eggers recently wrote that the Nigerian-born Abani “might be the most courageous writer working right now.”

Pulitzer Prize winner and Northwestern emeritus professor of history and American studies Garry Wills. The ever-prolific writer and man-of-letters is author of 30-plus books on American history, politics and religion and is a frequent reviewer for the New York Review of Books.

Essayist and short story writer Joseph Epstein, who for many years taught writing at Weinberg while publishing in The New Yorker, Harper’s magazine, the Atlantic Monthly and other publications.

Simone Muench, a member of the SCS creative writing faculty and a 2013 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship recipient. Muench is author of “Wolf Centos,” “Orange Crush” and other poetry collections.

Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications alum Jonathan Eig. Eig’s biography of Lou Gehrig was named one of the 2005 best books of the year by the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Sports Illustrated.

MFA/MA faculty member Peggy Shinner, two-time Illinois Arts Council Fellow and author of “You Feel So Mortal: Essays on the Body,” published to acclaim earlier this year.

Playwright Zayd Dohrn, assistant professor of radio/TV/film in Northwestern’s School of Communication, who has had plays produced and developed across the country. These days Dohrn is writing screenplays for American Film Company and Vox3Films.

Parneshia Jones, the poetry editor and the sales and subsidiary rights manager of Northwestern University Press. Winner of a Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award and Margaret Walker Short Story Award, Jones has performed her work internationally and serves on the editorial board of UniVerse: A United Nations of Poetry.

To view the complete Lit 50 list, visit

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