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New Letters staff and friends at Lincoln Center, after the awards ceremony. (Left to right: Thomas Stroik, associate dean, College of Arts & Sciences; Karen Vorst, dean; Betsy Beasley, administrative director; Michelle Boisseau, poet and professor of English; Lisa Stewart, writer ; and Robert Stewart, editor.)

New Letters Scores Big

New Letters, a literary journal published at UMKC, scored a win recently in the National Magazine Awards competition.

New Letters, edited by Robert Stewart, beat out such regulars as the New Yorker and Harper’s for publishing the best essay in 2007.

The journal won the award for a personal essay, “I Am Joe’s Prostate,” which was published in the summer 2007 issue about prostate cancer by Thomas Kennedy, an American writer living in Denmark. Stewart collected the award at a ceremony in New York.

In presenting the award, the judges wrote, “…Reader's Digest (from which the essay was adapted), was never like this. Wince-inducing, outrageously honest and wickedly funny, Thomas Kennedy’s account of his prostate-cancer scare is essay writing at its most original. Laugh the whole way through, then ponder the subtext of medical testing gone haywire.”

Stewart, a UMKC assistant research professor, said Kennedy’s essay was initially chosen for New Letters not only because it was timely and important, but because it was true literature — both terrifying and hilarious at the same time.

“The National Magazine Award tells us that we at New Letters and at UMKC are doing work that can stand shoulder to shoulder with just about anyone,” said Stewart, who joined Kennedy in accepting the award at the official ceremony in New York. “Much of the credit for that goes to the true collegiality of the creative people at this university and the support of the College of Arts and Sciences.”

New Letters quarterly is available by subscription at New Letters.