Cynthia Morrison Phoel winner of Maria Thomas Fiction Award

phoel-c-mCynthia Morrison Phoel (Bulgaria 1994–96) is the winner of the Maria Thomas Fiction Award for Cold Snap: Bulgaria Stories cold-snappublished in 2010 by Southern Methodist University Press.

She  served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a Bulgarian town not unlike the one in her stories. She holds degrees from Cornell University and the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. Her work has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, and Cerise Press. She lives near Boston with her husband and their three children.

In the review of Cold Snap in Booklist Donna Seaman wrote: “Phoel’s first collection of stories and a novella incisively dramatizes the interlocked lives of the beleaguered denizens of a Bulgarian town. Phoel spent time in Bulgaria as a Peace Corps volunteer, but one gets no sense of an outsider looking in. Instead, she fully inhabits the minds of her jittery characters as they grapple with various forms of family pressure, poverty, and the maddening cold. ”

In his review for our site, Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991-93) wrote:

“It’s natural to want to compare Phoel’s writing to Chekhov’s, and not only because of the relative closeness of Bulgaria to Russia (they’re on the same side of the world, anyway, three countries apart) or because one of Phoel’s minor characters is named Boris or because one of her star-studded blurb-writers did (“Cynthia Phoel’s collection has a Chekhovian feel…” says Lee Martin). No, it’s because there is a similarity in the sound and subtlety of the writing. If you sleep through one of Cold Snap’s sentences, you’re liable to miss a nuanced turn in a character’s psychology. With Phoel’s work, as with Chekhov’s, it pays to pay attention.”

Congratulations, Cynthia.

Cynthia receives a special citation and a cash award from Peace Corps Writers – a blog of Peace Corps Worldwide. Our congratulations to all the winners, and all the RPCVs who published books in 2010.


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  • Bravo. As an SMU alum and advocate of the what has always been regarded as a fine small press, I am delighted that Cynthia’s book is on the list. Those who learn that in 2010 SMU’s provost, in a unilateral, unexpected slash, shut the press down should have no fear about the book’s availability. The SMU press belonged to a consortium of Texas presses, and so while the press will vanish, the books it produced will live on.

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