University Press Awards Dorothy and Wedel Nilsen Prize for First Novel


by News Bureau on Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2012


CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., June 19, 2012 — Tony Rogers of Cambridge, Mass., has won the first annual Dorothy and Wedel Nilsen Prize for a First Novel.

Nilsen established the award with the Southeast Missouri State University Press as a tribute to his late wife, Dorothy, and a boost to aspiring, professional authors. The winning novel will be published by the Press in spring 2013.

Now retired, Rogers graduated Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude from Yale University and has a law degree from Harvard Law School.¬ He has practiced law on Wall Street, been a professional jazz guitarist, and directed a veterans’ hospital. His awards include the Writer’s Voice Capricorn Award, first runner-up and two-time finalist in the Texas Review Press novella contest, and semi-finalist in the Quarterly West novella contest. His short story “The Universe Has It In For Harry” will be made into a short film by the award-winning American filmmaker, Jesse Baldwin. His work has been published in journals such as Pleiades, Thema, North Dakota Quarterly, Worcester Review, the Boston Globe Magazine and many others. Rogers lives in Cambridge with his wife Tamara, who is vice president of Alumni Affairs and Development at Harvard University.

Dr. Susan Swartwout, publisher of the University Press, chose the winning manuscript.

“I’m delighted to have Tony as the first author to win the Nilsen Prize. We’re very fortunate to not only have gotten a fine and moving novel to publish but also an author who is ready and willing to actively publicize his novel. He has already made arrangements with the director of the Harvard Bookstore, among other places, to have the book sold there. I’m very happy that Southeast will have a presence at Harvard and elsewhere on the East Coast.”

The novel, entitled “The Execution of Richard Sturgis, As Told by His Son, Colin,” is the story of a rowdy, complex family man who befriends two devious men and, with them, is arrested for the rape and murder of a young man. While the other two men are released, Richard is sent to trial and convicted. His son Colin, deeply scarred by the effects of the trial and going through his teen years known as the son of a murderer, can’t bring himself to believe in his father’s guilt, continuing what may be a lifelong search to find out the truth about the murder and about his father.

Finalists in the competition were Lisa Rosenberg of Montclair, N.J., for her manuscript, “Birch Wood Doll;” K.C. Wilson of Neptune Beach, Fla., for “Saint Bob Day;” and Benjamin Warner of  Silver Spring, Md., for his manuscript, “The End of the Edge of the City.”

The annual Nilsen Prize for a First Novel is a national competition open to U.S. residents with a completed manuscript in English who have not yet published a full-length fiction novel or novella. Southeast Missouri State University Press is currently accepting manuscripts for the 2013 Nilsen Prize, with a Nov. 1 deadline set for submissions.

For more information about the prize, contact Dr. Susan Swartwout at or (573) 651-2044.