From The Daily Athenaeum, student newspaper of West Virginia University in Morgantown.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012


English professor receives literary award

by Carlee Lammers

For Mark Brazaitis, director of West Virginia University’s Creative Writing Program, inspiration and creativity have always sprung from personal experience and a fascination with particular images.

“As a writer, I’m always curious about where certain images or ideas will take me,” Brazaitis said.

The WVU professor is a recent winner of the University of Notre Dame’s Richard Sullivan Prize “The Incurables,” a collection of ten short stories about the impact of mental illness on the men and women in a small Ohio town.

brazaitis-mBrazaitis said the book also includes stories of other incurable conditions, familial relationships that never seem to satisfy anyone involved and romantic relationships that offer as much heartache as pleasure.

“For the first story in the collection, ‘The Bridge,’ I had this vision of a couple throwing themselves off the side of a bridge, and I decided to pursue that idea,” he said.

Brazaitis said the story eventually became the tale of a small town in Ohio where the townspeople were continually jumping off a local bridge. “The Bridge” is told from the perspective of the town’s sheriff, Brazaitis said, and highlights his reaction to the hysteria surrounding the town as its citizens continue to jump off of the bridge.

“These stories come from my fascination with an image, a line or a shape,” he said. “Some of them are also inspired by my own personal journeys with depression.”

Brazaitis said while his stories take place in small Ohio towns, he receives much inspiration from his experiences in Morgantown.

“WVU is a great place to be a writer,” he said. “Even though the stories are set in Ohio, much of my inspiration comes from scenarios and experiences in Morgantown.”

While an undergraduate student, Brazaitis said he had a passion for journalism and said he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a reporter; however, he always felt more drawn to the creative side of writing.

“Journalism is a great field. I love everything about newspapers, meeting deadlines and writing quickly, but I found that what I loved even more was inventing things,” he said. “That doesn’t exactly lead to a healthy journalism career.”

After a tour in Guatemala while serving in the Peace Corps, Brazaitis earned his Masters of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Bowling Green State University.

Brazaitis will receive a $1,000 prize and a reading of “The Incurables” at the University of Notre Dame in the spring of 2013. The University of Notre Dame Press will also publish the stories in winter/spring of 2012–13.

“It’s always an honor to receive the praise of people you admire. I am very grateful for the people at Notre Dame for having chosen my work,” he said.

Brazaitis said he is thrilled for the opportunity to fulfill a dream held by many writers: to have others read his work.

“I’m grateful that the press will be putting this book out for the world,” he said. “It makes me feel like my work has some merit. You don’t just write for yourself — every writer wants to be read.”