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April 30, 1998

Iowa writer wins Drue Heinz Literature Prize

Barbara Croft, a native Iowan with a long list of writing-related credentials, has won the 18th annual Drue Heinz Literature Prize. "Necessary Fictions," Croft's collection of three short stories and one novella, was chosen from among 224 entries to the contest, which is open to published writers. The prize, established and endowed by Drue Heinz, widow of H.J. Heinz II, is administered by the University of Pittsburgh Press. The award carries a $10,000 cash prize and publication by the Press in November.

In evaluating Croft's submission, this year's finalist judge, author Bharati Mukherjee, said, " 'Necessary Fictions' has a thematic resonance that echoes long after the reading. These stories of guilt, bitterness, loss, connectedness are, individually, and in total, magnificent." According to Croft, her stories flow from a number of sources: newspaper accounts, a diary, an imagined version of a story told by a friend. Her novella, "Necessary Fictions," grew out of an earlier short story, "Someday House," begun in 1983 and published as part of her first collection of stories in 1991, Croft said. But incidents involving the central characters date back even earlier. So the collection's previous incarnations went from a novel to a series of connected stories, back to a novel and finally to a novella and three stories.

"You have to live with your stories for a long time," Croft explained, "and wait for them to find their form." Croft has worked as a teacher, editor, journalist, drama and book critic, public relations writer and out-of-print book dealer. With her husband and fellow writer, Norman Hane, she edits Writer to Writer, a semi-annual literary journal that focuses on the writing craft. Croft studied Irish literature at the University of Toronto and earned her Ph.D. in 1977. She has taught writing at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, Drake University, Iowa State University, Loyola University, Columbia College and DePaul University. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Kenyon Review, ACM, The Women's Review of Books, The Georgia Review, and Colorado Quarterly, among other journals.

She is the recipient of the Daniel Curley Award for Recent Illinois Short Fiction and several awards from the Iowa and Illinois arts councils. She is the author of a textbook on resume writing, "A Vision," and "Primary Colors and Other Stories," which won the Minnesota Voices Project literary competition in 1989.

–Peter Hart

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