To honor its former faculty member, the creative writing program this year inaugurates two new awards, one each in fiction and nonfiction and named for him.
Alan, who taught at Mason from 1987 until his death in the summer of 2015, was a strong advocate for the students who came to the university to develop their talents and craft, including consistent support for the opportunities afforded by the Spring Writing Contests.
As a writer and editor, Alan began his career with his first short story in The New Yorker in 1979 and went on to publish ten volumes of fiction and three of original nonfiction, as well as to edit or co-edit seven books of fiction and nonfiction. Included in his editing work are several books on craft as well as the comprehensive multi-volume anthology Literature: Craft and Voice, on which he collaborated with Nicholas Delbanco. Over the course of his working life, Alan became a fixture on the Washington, D.C., literary scene, including more than 34 years as a book critic and commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He earned his undergraduate degree in 1961 and his Ph.D. in comparative literature in 1974, both from Rutgers University.
Alan taught at Bennington College, Sewanee: The University of the South, The University of Virginia, and The University of Michigan before joining Mason. For over 25 years, he also taught during summers at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, where he served on the Board of Directors.
Candidates for awards in fiction and nonfiction should submit a freestanding entry, such as a short story or a self-contained section of a book. No entry in fiction or nonfiction should exceed 20 pages. The competition is open to any currently enrolled George Mason students, graduate or undergraduate; students are limited to one submission. Once a writer receives this award, he or she may not apply in another year, even in a different genre.