Volume 32 of The Northern Virginia Review (TNVR) launched with a celebration and awards ceremony attended by faculty and staff on April 5 in the Ernst Center on the Annandale Campus. Manassas Campus English Professor and TNVR Editor-in-Chief Ruth Stewart welcomed the large crowd and paid tribute to the late long-time TNVR managing editor Steve Drasner.
A reproduction of an essay Drasner wrote for TNVR Volume 13 in 1999, entitled “The Lessons of Travel,” in which he stated that he had traveled to every continent except Antarctica and explained that the people he met on his travels taught him the lessons of life was distributed at the event. “I will continue to travel,” he concluded, “for I have many lessons yet to learn.”
An Associate Professor of Information Technology at the Annandale Campus from 1981 until his untimely death in 2017, Drasner served on the TNVR Board of Directors for 17 years. “We were so lucky to have him as a board member and so lucky to have him at NOVA,” Stewart said in her tribute. “There was a love in Steve that the more he learned, the more he wanted to learn.”
Stewart then presented the award winners among the contributors to Volume 32. Jacob Appel, a physician in New York city who has published six collections of short stories and a novel, won the Best Prose award for “Opacities of the Soul.” He was not able to attend the ceremony.
Jessica Rapisarda, a NOVA adjunct faculty member who teaches English at the Annandale Campus, won the Best Poetry award for “Odalisque” and she came forward to read from her poem, which gets its name from a painting by Ingres, about a prostitute on “The Block” in Baltimore.
The Best Art award was presented to Wayne Guenther, for his photograph “Swing It” that shows amusement park rides in London. A fine art photographer in Northern Virginia since 1995, he printed the photograph in sepia tones on textured paper, giving it the look of a hand drawing.
The awards are chosen by the 11-member TNVR Board of Directors. Among those board members in attendance were Managing Editor Nicholas Bomba (AN), Associate Editor Jonathan Harvey (MA), Adam Chiles (AN), Nathan Leslie (LO) and Meredith Reynolds (LO).
The keynote speaker was NOVA English Professor Bob Bausch, who has taught at the Woodbridge Campus since 1975 and is a NOVA alumnus who received the 2013 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award.
A critically acclaimed short story writer and author of 10 novels, Bausch was awarded the 2009 John Dos Passos Medal for Literature, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and his novel Almighty Me was made into the movie Bruce Almighty. Holding up a copy of TNVR Volume 32, he said “I think that it is an extraordinary publication and this book is very handsome.”
“I want to honor this book before I read anything from mine,” Bausch added. “I am going to read places that I marked that I thought were extraordinary writing.” He then read excerpts from 28 of the works of the 24 poets and 10 writers of prose in Volume 32.
Among the passages he read was the last paragraph of “The Apple, With Lemons” by Matthew Dulaney, which he said made him laugh at the end of a “profoundly sad” story. “If you can make the reader cry and laugh,” Bausch said, “you have written a powerful piece of work.”
Before reading from his 2017 novel, In the Fall They Come Back, a story based on his first two years of teaching, Bausch spoke of being a writer. “I tell all of my students: if you think of yourself as a writer, then you are never going to write a thing,” he stated. “You are a typist and when the time comes and you have a manuscript, then you are a writer. That’s when writers write.”
His latest novel is a reflection on what his life would have been like if he had not been a teacher because he said that he got into teaching by accident. He received a high score on the LSAT and planned to attend law school. But, needing income, he took a part-time job teaching English literature in a prep school in suburban Maryland that he thought would be temporary.
Bausch said that he would read various poems to his students at the beginning of class. One of his students was a painfully shy young woman who did not look up or speak. She started putting poems she had written on his desk and he was able to get them published in the George Mason University literary magazine.
At the end of the school year, he said that he was in his classroom gathering things when he realized there was someone else in the room. He looked up and saw the young woman. She was looking above his head and spoke to him for the first time.
“Thank you, Mr. Bausch. Thank you for this whole year,” she said. “I had tears in my eyes, she had tears in her eyes,” he said, “and it hit me: I wouldn’t exchange how I felt at that moment for all the money on earth. And, then I thought, this is what I want to do. That is why I am a teacher.”
Bausch’s speech and the entire TNVR launch celebration and awards ceremony can be seen on the NOVA’s video-on-demand website: https://vod02.nvcc.edu/Watch/Pp5n8X7R
For more information about TNVR, the annual publication of poetry, short stories, fine art and creative nonfiction, visit the TNVR blog.