Matthew Neill Null
Department: English & Creative Writing
Assistant Professor of English & Creative Writing
- MFA, Univ of Iowa
- BACH, Washington & Lee Univ
Assistant Professor of English & Creative Writing
- Contact Information
Office LocationWriters Institute - Rm 11
I’m a writer from West Virginia, where my family has lived for generations, and I tend to write about how landscape, history and politics shape the private lives of people (and animals!) who seemingly live far from the main stage of culture. There is the zeitgeist, then there is the counterlife. I’m more interested in the latter, what goes on unnoticed in the corners.
Having written in both forms, I happily teach the short story as well as the novel, trying to understand why a particular strategy might triumph in one form and fall like a bad cake in another. I have taught at the University of Iowa, Bryant University, and the Hindman Settlement School, and I am a member of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown’s Writing Committee.
As a reader, I admire writers who have a distinct style, and I hope to help students discover and nurture their own. In a workshop setting, I don’t think we ought to iron out an individual’s idiosyncrasies, but try to tease out what makes them eye-catching in the first place. You can read a page of Isaac Babel, Jamaica Kincaid, or Daša Drndic and know who it is. Mavis Gallant said it best: “Style in writing, as in painting, is the author’s thumbprint, his mark … I am thinking now of prose style as a writer’s armorial bearings, his name and address. In a privately printed and libelous pamphlet, Colette’s first husband, Willy, who had fraudulently signed her early novels, tried to prove she had gone on to plagiarize and plunder different things he had written. As evidence he offered random sentences from work he was supposed to have influenced or inspired. Colette’s manner, robust and personal, seems to leap from the page. Willy believed he had taught Colette ‘everything,’ and it may have been true — ‘everything,’ that is, except her instinct for language, her talent for perceiving the movement of life and a faculty for describing it.” Style is a slippery thing to consider and teach — almost any other facet of fiction is easier to discuss — but one must try.
Right now, I’m trying to incorporate more works-in-translation into my teaching, especially writers from Latin America and continental Europe, for their formal innovation and engagement with politics.
I like to fish, garden and hike, so central PA is a nice place to be.
Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Fiction)
Iowa Writers’ Workshop
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, May 2010
Thesis: “Honey in the Lion’s Head: Early Chapters of a Novel”
Bachelor of Arts with Honors in English and Concentration in Poverty Studies
Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, June 2006
GPA 4.0, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa
Thesis: “Three Forks of the Cheat: Stories”
Allegheny Front. Story collection, Sarabande Books, May 10, 2016. Translation
forthcoming (as Allegheny River: nouvelles) from French publisher Éditions
Albin Michel in 2020.
Honey from the Lion. Novel, Lookout Books, September 8, 2015 (excerpts have
appeared in Lit Hub, American Short Fiction, and at Length). Translations
have appeared from the Italian publisher Bompiani (July 2018, as Come il
paradiso, come la morte) and the French publisher Éditions Albin Michel (May
2018, as Le miel du lion).
Magazine and Anthology Publications (print and online)
“The Jail Cell.” Creative nonfiction, Grist, Spring 2020 (forthcoming).
“Five Days.” Short story, Southern Humanities Review, Spring 2019.
Redneck Letter from Rome (six-part serial essay about travels in Italy), Oxford American
“Reclamation: Maria Beig.” Essay and collaboration with Jaimy Gordon and
Peter Blickle, Ecotone, Fall 2016.
“All Was Fine.” Short story, Harvard Review, Summer 2016.
“The Lost Cosmonaut: 99 Stories of God by Joy Williams.” Book review, Oxford
American (online), July 12, 2016.
“Brad Watson on Scoundrels, Medical Mysteries & Building His New Novel out of a
Family Secret.” Interview with Brad Watson, Electric Literature (online), July
“Writers From the Other Europe.” Essay, Catapult (online), May 26, 2016.
“Wanting to Die.” Essay, Guernica (online), May 18, 2016.
“Letter from West Virginia.” Essay, Paris Review Daily (online), May 17, 2016.
“Gauley Season.” Short story, Electric Literature (online), May 11, 2016.
“No One is Writing the Real West Virginia: Why Rural Lives and Literature Are in
Crisis.” Essay, Literary Hub (online), May 9, 2016.
“Black Ink: On Henry de Montherlant.” Essay, Paris Review Daily (online), January 15,
“A Lost Literary Legend of Iowa City: On Mark Costello, the Midwest, and The Murphy
Stories.” Essay, Literary Hub (online), December 10, 2015.
“No Justice, No Message, No Mercy: On Maria Beig.” Essay, Paris Review Daily
(online), October 16, 2015.
“Mates.” Short story, the minnesota review, Fall 2014.
“The Island in the Gorge of the Great River.” Short story, Ecotone, Spring 2014.
“The Slow Lean of Time.” Short story, American Short Fiction, Spring 2014.
“Destinations.” Short story, Mississippi Review, Winter 2014.
“Eudora Welty and Failure.” Essay, American Short Fiction (online), August 6, 2013.
“Gauley Season.” Short story, West Branch, Summer/Fall 2013. Anthologized in Best
American Mystery Stories 2014 (Houghton Mifflin).
“Rocking Stone.” Short story, Tin House (online), May 31, 2013.
“Natural Resources.” Short story, Baltimore Review, Spring 2013. Anthologized in Eyes
Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia (May 2017, WVU Press).
“Telemetry.” Short story, Ploughshares, December 2012.
“Something You Can’t Live Without.” Short story, The Oxford American, Spring 2010.
Anthologized in the PEN / O. Henry Prize Stories 2011 (Anchor Books / Random
Awards and Honors
Finalist, L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize, 2017.
Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize in Literature, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 2016.
Mary McCarthy Prize, 2015.
Emerging Artist Award, St. Botolph Club Foundation, Summer 2014.
O. Henry Award, 2010 (for “Something You Can’t Live Without,” which was also
selected as a Juror Favorite by Manuel Muñoz).
Co-Winner, Prairie Lights Fiction Contest, Spring 2010.
Phi Beta Kappa, 2005.
Omicron Delta Kappa, 2005.
Grants, Scholarships, and Fellowships
Faculty Research Mini-Grant, Susquehanna University, 2020.
Rome Prize Fellowship in Literature (residency), American Academy in Rome, Fall 2016 – Summer 2017.
Fiction Fellowship, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Summer 2016.
Michener-Copernicus Fellowship, Michener-Copernicus Society of America, Fall 2012 – Summer 2013.
Key West Literary Seminar residency, Key West, Florida, April – May 2013.
PEN / O. Henry Writing Fellowship (residency), Jentel Foundation, Sheridan, Wyoming, Summer 2012.
Writing Fellowship (residency), Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Fall 2011 – Spring 2012.
Provost’s Postgraduate Writing Fellowship, University of Iowa, Fall 2010 – Spring 2011.
Teaching-Writing Fellowship, Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Fall 2009 – Spring 2010.
Joseph E. and Ursil I. Callen Scholarship, University of Iowa Graduate College, Fall 2008 – Spring 2010.
Graduate Student Scholarship, University of Iowa Graduate College, Fall 2008 – Spring 2009.
Maxwell P. Wilkinson Scholarship in English, Washington and Lee University, 2005.
“On Revolt.” 12th Annual International Forum on the Novel, Villa Gillet, Lyon, France, May 2018.
“God’s Clock: Managing Time in Fiction.” West Virginia Writers’ Conference, Ripley, West Virginia, June 12, 2016.
“Killing Wounds: A (Digressive) Craft Talk on Empathy & Historical Fiction in the Work of Eudora Welty and John Ehle.” University of North Carolina – Wilmington, November 16, 2015, and West Virginia Writers’ Conference, June 11, 2016.
Professional Membership & Service
Member, Fine Arts Work Center Writing Committee, 2019 – present.
Juror, Fellowship and Tuition Scholarship (Prose) Admissions Jury, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, 2017, 2018.
Juror, Fine Arts Work Center Writing Fellowship Fiction Jury, 2014, 2015 (jury foreperson), 2016 (jury foreperson), 2018, 2019, 2020.
Judge, Porter Fleming Literary Competition, Morris Museum of Art, 2015, 2017, 2019.
Judge, George A. Mahan Award for Creative Writing (Prose), Washington and Lee University, 2015.
Judge, Cadigan Prize for Younger Writers (Prose), Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry, 2014.
Member, Society of Fellows, American Academy in Rome
Member, Phi Beta Kappa
How Much Water Does a Man Need? (novel)
Matthew Neill Null is author of the novel Honey from the Lion and the story collection Allegheny Front. His fiction, criticism, and essays have appeared in Oxford American, Ecotone, Electric Literature, Ploughshares, and Harvard Review, among other journals, and his books have recently been translated into French and Italian. In recognition of his work, he has received the O. Henry Award, the Mary McCarthy Prize, the Michener-Copernicus Award, the Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship, and the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts & Letters.
- ENGL-540 Internship
- WRIT-270 Small Press Publishing and Editing
- WRIT-351 Intermediate Short Story
- WRIT-451 Advanced Short Story
- WRIT-500 Independent Study
- WRIT-590 Departmental Honors