April 5, 2017 at 10:48 am

Pretorius Wins Literary Prize and OHIO Fellowship

Michelle Pretorius has won a prestigious literary award and OHIO fellowship,

Michelle Pretorius has won a prestigious literary award and OHIO fellowship.

by Kristin M. Distel

Michelle Pretorius, doctoral student in fiction, has won a Friends of American Writers literary prize for her debut novel, ‘The Monster’s Daughter.”

‘It Was Hard to Believe This Is a First Book’

“Our reading committee was blown away by the book,” says Tammie Bob, literature awards chair of Friends of American Writers.

“It took us to times and places we knew little about. [Pretorius] skillfully managed a large and complex set of characters and settings and several plot lines. It was hard to believe this is a first book,” Bob remarks.

Cover of The Monster's Daugther

Michelle Pretorius’s debut novel in was published in July 2016

The awards committee received over one hundred submissions this year. Pretorius will receive $1,500 and will be honored at the organization’s awards luncheon in May.

“The FAW literary prize came as a complete surprise,” Pretorius says. “I almost didn’t enter ‘The Monster’s Daughter’ because I thought that it wouldn’t be the type of work that they were looking for. I think the value of a prize is ultimately the exposure and critical appeal it gives a book, thereby enabling a new author to establish a name and keep on publishing their work.”

Friends of American Writers (Chicago) was founded in 1923. The organization supports and draws attention to literary works produced by Midwestern writers, especially those who have published three or fewer books.

Previous winners of this award include Toni Morrison, Ted Kooser, Celeste Ng, and many other accomplished authors.

‘The Monster’s Daughter’ takes as one of its two main characters Alet Berg, a female constable in the modern South African Police Force who finds herself in the midst of a murder mystery that spans multiple generations.

Tessa is the novel’s second female protagonist. Pretorius wanted her debut novel to feature a character like Tessa who is, Pretorius states, “a witness to the whole history of apartheid.”

Presenting South African Noir at NeMLA

Pretorius’s novel stems from her interest in the bridge between postcolonial literature, crime fiction, and South Africa’s complex and sometimes violent history. She recently presented a paper on this topic at the annual Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) conference in Baltimore.

The panel on which she presented, titled “Twenty-first Century Crime Fiction: When Is it Just Dark and When Is it Noir?,” allowed Pretorius to make connections between her own novel and the work of other crime writers.

“South Africa, like many postcolonial societies, has experienced a surge in both the production and consumption of crime fiction since the end of apartheid in 1994, so much so that it is being recognized as a serious literary trend,” Pretorius states.

OHIO Fellowship Supports Pretorius’s Second Novel

Pretorius has also been selected as the winner of OHIO’s 2017-2018 John Cady Graduate Fellowship, which will support her most recent project—a second novel, tentatively titled ‘Where the Devil Turns.’

The novel “addresses the socio-economic condition of post-apartheid South Africa, specifically issues pertaining to gender violence, using the lens and format of crime fiction,” Pretorius explains.

The fellowship, which includes an award of $15,000, is designed to free the selected graduate student from assistantship duties and teaching for one academic year. The student is thus able to complete a project he or she might otherwise have been unable to pursue.

“I was so grateful to be awarded the John Cady Graduate Fellowship,” Pretorius says. “It will give me something that graduate students don’t often get, and that is time. Time to research, as well as time to write. Focusing on being creative is tough when there is grading to be done, and looming course work deadlines, so I’m really excited for the next year.”

‘The Monster’s Daughter’ is currently available at Melville House, Audible, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and independent bookstores.







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