May 7, 2008    #042
Contact: John Austin

New Letters tops literary giants, captures prestigious National Magazine Award UMKC’s resident literary journal wins for Thomas E. Kennedy essay

Beating out the likes of literary titans Harper’s, The Atlantic and The New Yorker, the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) literary journal New Letters took home the top prize in the essay category of the 2008 National Magazine Awards. New Letters won the award for Thomas E. Kennedy’s essay “I Am Joe’s Prostate,” which was published in the summer 2007 issue.

Kennedy, an American writer currently living in Denmark, co-opted the title for his essay from the popular “I Am Joe’s ____ [fill in the body part/organ]” Readers Digest series, but the similarity most definitely ends there.

In presenting the award, the judges wrote, “…Reader's Digest 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.”

Robert Stewart, UMKC assistant research professor and editor of New Letters, 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 City. “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 or by telephone at (816) 235-1168; subscription orders of two or more years will receive the issue with Kennedy’s award-winning essay as a free bonus.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Celebrating 75 years, UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a three-part mission: visual and performing arts, health sciences, and urban engagement.

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This information is available to people with speech or hearing impairments by calling Relay Missouri at (800) 735-2966 (TT) or (800) 735-2466 (voice).


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