Arts & Humanities

USU Creative Writing Faculty Win Prestigious Literary Awards

By Andrea DeHaan |

USU Creative Writing faculty Amber Caron and Jennifer Sinor.

LOGAN — Two Utah State University faculty are among this year’s authors selected for inclusion in 2024 “best of” collections, placing them alongside some of America’s most notable storytellers and essayists.

Assistant Professor of English Amber Caron is the recipient of a 2024 O. Henry Prize for Short Fiction, an honor previously shared by the likes of Jhumpa Lahiri and Stephen King. Caron joined USU’s Department of English in 2022 and teaches fiction writing and contemporary literature.

Caron earned the O. Henry Prize for “Didi,” which first appeared in the literary magazine Electric Literature as part of its Recommended Reading series. The story also provides the conclusion — and anchor — of Caron’s debut short story collection “Call Up the Waters,” published in 2023. The story will be included in “The Best Short Stories 2024: The O. Henry Prize Winners” collection.

Considered the oldest major award for American short fiction, the prize has been awarded every year since 1919 (except in 2020).

In the announcement of this year’s winners, series editor Jenny Minton Quigley wrote about the important role these stories play in current society: “We are living in a moment when it is crucial to be able to imagine the souls of our fellow human beings, to see past their curated social media personas, their filtered self-portraits, and their polarized allegiances — to part the curtains on the fleeting, momentary, miraculous sight of their secret selves that is essential for empathy and human connection.”

Professor Jennifer Sinor’s essay “The Lives of Bryan” will appear in “The Best American Essays 2024,” a collection edited by The New York Times critic Wesley Morris and award-winning essayist Kim Dana Kupperman. Sinor is a memoirist and essayist who has taught at USU for nearly 24 years.

Sinor’s piece about the death of her brother was first published in The American Scholar. When it appears this fall in “The Best American Essays,” it will become part of a collection that dates back to 1986 and is largely credited for reinvigorating the form of the essay as well as the emergence of creative nonfiction in the academy.

“Best of” collections are more than just a who’s who of contemporary writing. As Jenny Spinner suggests, they are “both recording and writing a chapter” of literary history. Read together, the stories and essays reflect where we are and where we are going.

Inclusion in these kinds of collections is highly competitive. The pieces are chosen from among thousands of submissions made by editors around the country. According to Sinor, to be one of the 20 is akin to winning the lottery.

“Given the odds, it would have been remarkable to have a faculty member receive the award in any given year, but to have two chosen in the same year is unbelievable,” Sinor said.

Both Caron and Sinor’s works focus on a similar theme, asking readers to think about loss. The title character of Caron’s story whose disappearance brings both fear and familiarity for the woman assigned to watch her. The loss of Sinor’s brother who left the world on a full moon with no one to stand witness. Both selections stand as meditations on what can be saved, what can be lost, and how little control we have over either — ideas that are mirrored in national conversations.

Department Head of English Brian McCuskey called the awards a testament to “our amazingly accomplished faculty and USU’s thriving creative-writing program.”

“As well as being brilliant writers, Jennifer and Amber are inspiring teachers, fully dedicated to their craft and deeply committed to their students,” he said.

A cornerstone of Utah State University, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences brings together faculty members engaged in original research and creative activities to teach and mentor students who aspire to be leaders in their professions and communities. Degrees in humanities and social sciences cultivate highly adaptable professional skills in students through teaching effective communication, research, data analysis and creative problem-solving.


Andrea DeHaan
Communications Editor
College of Humanities and Social Sciences


Brian McCuskey
Professor and Department Head
Department of English


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