Ling Ma (BA’05) and Ben Hoffman are already acclaimed fiction writers. Ma received the prestigious 2018 Kirkus Prize for Fiction for her novel Severance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018), as well as the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Hoffman was honored by the Chicago Tribune’s 2014 Nelson Algren Award for short fiction work for his story “This Will All Be Over Soon,” as well as a Carol Houck Smith Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing, and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University.
Despite these successes, Ma and Hoffman did not expect to receive the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships. The competition is fierce for these NEA Fellowships of $25,000 each. Biannually, the NEA chooses only 36 Creative Writing Fellowships for prose from approximately 1,700 eligible applications. More significant after receiving NEA Fellowships, many recipients gain wider recognition, such as Anthony Doerr, Louise Erdrich, and Jennifer Egan.