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Ling Ma MFA '15 Wins $50K 2018 Kirkus Prize

By: Amanda Brockner, 
Thu, 11/08/2018

MFA in Creative Writing alumna Ling Ma ’15 has received the 2018 Kirkus Prize for fiction for her debut novel, Severance. Every year, the Kirkus Prize makes three awards of $50,000 each – one for fiction, one for non-fiction, and one for young reader literature. This year, Ma was honored along with Rebecca Solnit (non-fiction award, for Call Them By Their True Names), and Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James (young readers award, for Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut).

Ma, a fiction writer from Chicago, came to Cornell in 2013 where she worked closely with her special committee – fiction writers J. Robert Lennon and Stephanie Vaughn. Lennon shared, “Ling Ma’s Severance represents the arrival of a brilliant and exciting new writer. We all knew it when we saw the early drafts—Ling has a killer ear and eye, a mordant sense of humor, and an extraordinary instinct for narrative tension and thematic depth. I couldn’t be more proud to have been a part of her early career here at Cornell."

The Kirkus Review describes Ling Ma’s debut novel as “smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.” Ma’s talent and voice is apparent in her 2015 MFA graduation reading where she reads from her self-described “apocalyptic office novel.”

Upon completing her MFA, Ma went on to take a position teaching writing at the University of Chicago and returning to her home town, where she completed her work on Severance. Ma’s work has also appeared in Ninth Letter, Unstuck, Another Chicago Magazine, and Wigleaf.

Cover of Severance by Ling Ma