Carnegie Mellon University
May 20, 2016

Ron Carlson Advises Young Writers To “Finish a Story as Well as You Can”

Acclaimed Novelist Keynotes Adamson Student Writing Awards

acclaimed novelist ron carlson spoke to carnegie mellon university creative writing students

Award-winning novelist Ron Carlson met with Carnegie Mellon University Creative Writing students and said he takes his work very seriously.

“I’m one of those guys who gets to do what he always wanted to,” Carlson said.

Carlson’s short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Esquire and GQ. He has taught creative writing to students at Arizona State University and currently co-directs the MFA programs in fiction writing and English at the University of California, Irvine.

He also advised students from Assistant Professor of English Kevin González’ ‘Advanced Fiction Workshop’ to, “Finish a story as well as you can and your job is to be in love with it.”

Carlson was on campus to give the keynote speech at the Adamson Student Writing Awards ceremony, an annual celebration of writing. He read selections from his multi-genre collection, “Room Service: Poems, Meditations, Outcries and Remarks,” and presented awards to undergraduate students from across campus who demonstrated excellence in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and screenwriting.

acclaimed novelist ron carlson gave the keynote speech at the adamson student writing awards

“This is a great evening for all of us in the Creative Writing Program, the end of a year in which our most ambitious students have worked hard, revised and polished their best stories and poems and sent them off to the judges,” said Jane Bernstein, professor of English who co-organized this year’s event with González. “Before the ceremony, we never know whose work the judges will choose, and who will not be recognized.  Either way, it’s all part of what it means to be a writer.”

Emily Pond, a senior majoring in chemistry with minors in creative writing and Japanese Studies, placed first in the “Fiction” category for her work titled, “Greenbank.” Her piece explores a radio quiet zone where a mother and daughter move to in hopes of alleviating the mother’s electromagnetic hypersensitivity she claims she is suffering from.

“This year was my first time taking creative writing workshops, and I thought submitting my work to the Adamson Awards was a good opportunity to apply my experience from those classes,” she said.

The Adamson Student Writing Awards have been presented since 1982 in honor of Pauline B. Adamson at the bequest of her husband, the late Clarence H. Adamson, as a testimonial to their marriage and her interest in the English Language and American Literature. Sponsored by the Department of English, the competition received approximately 120 submissions this year and was judged by professional writers.

The 2016 Adamson Student Writing Awards Winners


First Place: "Greenbank"
Emily Pond, Chemistry

Second Place: "The Last Days of Tohoku"
Laura Berry, Creative Writing & Japanese Studies

Third Place: "Willie's Sign"
Naomi Sternstein, Chemical Engineering & Creative Writing

Honorable Mention: "A Second Thought"
Jacob Gordon, Chemistry

Honorable Mention: "Carry Me Down"
Ariel Hoffmaier, Creative Writing & Ethics, History, and Public Policy


First Place: “Jumping on No Feet"
Shaune Marx, Creative Writing & Professional Writing

Second Place: ”Nina Bajbor"
Sinead Foley, Creative Writing & International Relations and Politics

Third Place: “A Different World"
Vinay Viswanathan,  Statistics and Machine Learning


First Place: Jennifer Huang, BHA, Creative Writing & Art

Second Place: Emily Charleson, Chemistry

Third place: Yaminah Carter, Psychology

Honorable Mention: Sophie Zucker, Chemistry & Creative Writing

Honorable Mention: Stephen Chabassol, BHA, Creative Writing & Music


First Place: “Birdcatching"
Naomi Burgess, Professional Writing

Second Place: "This Will Not End Well for You"
Laura Berry, Creative Writing & Japanese Studies

Third Place: "Pippa"
Eleanor Haglund, Creative Writing

Honorable Mention: "The Thing that Stalks the Fields"
Jane Threefoot, Electrical and Computer Engineering & Creative Writing

Additional Awards

Academy of American Poets Prize: Hyunho Yoon, Psychology & Creative Writing

CMU Press Prize for Fiction: "Desert Balloons"
Michelle Mathew, Psychology & Creative Writing

CMU Press Prize for Poetry: Sophia Emanuel, Music Performance

The Donna Grear Memorial Award: Nick Rial, Creative Writing

The Edythe and Leon Nagin Award for Best Creative Writing Honors Thesis: “Swim Talk”
Laura Berry, Creative Writing & Japaniese Studies 

The Hilary Masters Award for Personal Essay: Laura Scherb, Creative Writing & Professional Writing

View photos from Carlson's visit with students and the Adamson Student Writing Awards Ceremony.

Read more about the Adamson Student Writing Awards.

Related Articles:

By Amanda King