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Dzanc literary and community service prize announced

December 8, 2008 |  7:06 am

Jodischeer Independent publisher Dzanc Books has selected author Kodi Scheer as winner of the second annual Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. Scheer will receive $5,000 to support a proposed project of running a creative writing workshop for cancer patients and their caregivers in a Michigan hospital.

Scheer is a graduate of the University of Iowa who earned her MFA in creative writing at the University of Michigan.  She answered a few of our questions:

Jacket Copy: Did you develop your workshop project for cancer patients and caregivers specifically for the Dzanc Prize?

Scheer: In the summer of 2007, I had the opportunity to serve as a graduate intern in Complementary Therapies at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. I assisted in developing and implementing a creative writing program for patients, which included facilitating studio time and starting an oral narrative project. I'm thrilled to be able to continue my work there and start teaching workshops for patients and caregivers.

JC: What was your inspiration?

Scheer: I've always been fascinated by the complexity of the human body. As an undergraduate at Iowa, I studied cognitive neuroscience and planned to go to the medical school. I worked for several years in a neurology lab, but found myself much more interested in people's stories than their pathologies. And the narrative is ongoing — with an illness like cancer, the story never really ends, so I'd like to help people shape that narrative.

JC: Have you developed a complete syllabus yet?

Scheer: To be perfectly honest, I don't have a syllabus, but I'm considering using poetry and prose from Rafael Campo, Raymond Carver, Lucy Grealy, Lorrie Moore, and Andre Dubus. When working with patients and caregivers, due to the nature of illness, I've found the schedule must be more fluid than that of a traditional workshop.

JC: Will you include any narratives of illness or caregiving, or will the workshop, instead, look much like any other creative writing workshop, just in a different setting?

Scheer: While I'm planning to incorporate published work that deals with cancer (excerpts from Lucy Grealy's "Autobiography of a Face" and Lorrie Moore's "People Like That Are the Only People Here") these illness narratives won't be the sole focus of the workshops. I'd like to strike a balance between giving people the tools for self-expression, as in a more traditional workshop, and tackling the unique complexities of illness narratives.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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