Vincent Scarpa ’12 is still dumbfounded at his recent accomplishment: winning the Norman Mailer Award for Best College Fiction Writing.
Along with the recognition, the recent graduate received a check for $10,000 and a month-long fellowship to the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony, which will be held at the late legendary novelist’s house on Cape Cod in May.
“I’m still waiting for them to call me back and say it was a mistake,” said Scarpa, a New Jersey native who graduated in May with a Bachelor’s Degree in Writing, Literature and Publishing. “It’s a huge honor.”
Scarpa received his award last month during a ceremony at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City that was hosted by actor Alec Baldwin. He was one of four high school or college students to receive one.
Scarpa won for his story, “I Hope You’re Wrong About Scottsdale,” beating out four finalists: two from Yale University, one from Stanford University and another from University of Iowa.
Scarpa’s story is about a failed actress who takes a job as a phone psychic.
“She comes to crystalize things she’s not dealing with in her personal life,” he said.
Scarpa said he’s “endlessly fascinated” with the concept of phone psychics and conducted his own research – calling a dozen psychics before writing his story – to indulge.
“It’s funny that people will pay to hear good news,” he said. “Every time I called the psychics they said the same thing every single time. It’s sad and hilarious.”
“What’s especially cruel,” Scarpa continued, “is that, considering our economic climate, they’re telling people their finances are going to improve. It’s cruel because they probably won’t.”
Scarpa’s story was written as a project for Professor Jessica Treadway’s Advanced Fiction class, he said.
“I wanted to take a class with her because I loved her book so much,” he said, referring to Please Come Back To Me, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for short story fiction.
When Scarpa attends the Writers’ Colony in May, he’ll be among a group staying at Mailer’s former home in Provincetown while participating in workshops and readings.
In the meantime, he’s applying to graduate school and saving the money he won for future school-related expenses.
“I owe a lot to the people I worked with at Emerson,” Scarpa said. “The writing workshops are among my favorite memories of college. I loved all my professors. I miss it a lot.”