F&M Stories

Bank Prize Winner Jeremy Mauser Reflects on Writing

Novelist Weike Wang, author of the PEN/Hemingway Award-winner "Chemistry," selected Franklin & Marshall senior Jeremy Mauser's "Chasing the Solar Eclipse" as the winner of this year's Jerome Irving Bank Memorial Short Story Prize. Runner-up honors went to first-year Vincent (Minh) Pham.

Wang walked a crowd of students through her writing process at the Bank Prize Craft Talk, held March 10 at the College's Philadelphia Writers House. A reading followed the event.

Mauser's story follows a high school-aged protagonist through two relationships and what lingers beyond them.

"It's a story about searching for something tangential to love and finding closure," Mauser said.

Pham's tale, "The last moments of different intelligent species," explores unnamed planets with sentient life being struck by asteroids.

"There are no characters or series of events — the whole piece just goes into how these societies collectively deal with mass extinction," Pham said.

Read the winning stories here.

Mauser, a double major in English (creative writing) and Spanish, discussed the inspiration behind his writing.

What inspired you to write your story?

In part, I was inspired by Weike Wang. I listened to her craft talk when she was part of the Emerging Writers Festival my first year at F&M, and since reading "Chemistry," I have written several stories that have adopted some version of her vignette-esque writing style. I'm also inspired by the small, seemingly insignificant moments that can capture real emotion in a narrative.

Could you talk about your writing process?

I started with a few moments that I knew wanted to happen, and from there, I worked backward to craft a cohesive story that granted the proper amount of time to each plotline. I figured out the narrative arc relatively quickly, and from there, I kept adjusting the details of each scene until it felt like a unified story. Also, I completed most of my writing in my room – silence and the opportunity to relax are crucial to writing something like this story.

Do you have any advice about storytelling for other student writers?

Don't be afraid to experiment! Some of my best writing has resulted from reading interesting moves that other writers make before adapting some version of these moves into my own pieces. Sometimes they work, other times they don't, but the only way to grow stronger is to keep trying new things. Additionally, make sure you treat each sentence with as much respect as possible — even one wonky sentence can take the reader out of the experience, and each story is really just a collection of words and sentences that you get to manipulate, so make sure you take full advantage of the opportunities that language provides.

What are your post-graduation plans?

Law school is the long-term plan, but for now, I'm waiting to hear back from some jobs and fellowships that I've been interviewing with. Regardless of what I pursue, I hope to continue writing and polishing my craft.

Do you have a favorite author?

I'm struggling to pick one favorite writer, so I'll go with three: Tayari Jones, Kurt Vonnegut and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.

"I'm inspired by the small, seemingly insignificant moments that can capture real emotion in a narrative."

– Jeremy Mauser

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