Manhattanville Reid Castle In the Spring

Joe Stracci ’06 Wins Prestigious New Rivers Press 2011 Many Voices Project

Joe Stracci thumbJoe Stracci '06 was chosen as the winner of the New Rivers Press 2011 Many Voice Project, for his novel Whitney, a post-modern love story set in the ever-changing Italian-American neighborhood of Pelham Bay in The Bronx where options are limited, distractions are never in short supply, and familial ties are always unraveling.

Stracci, who currently works for Manhattanville's Office of Residence Life, wrote a short story that eventually became a chapter in the novel during his time at the College. While completing his MFA in Writing at Bennington College, he wrote a few short stories, which all featured a character named Whitney.

"I don't like to spend a lot of time thinking about names of characters. I just pick names at random and change them at the end," Stracci said. "I had written a few stories that all had a character named Whitney and one of my friends said they should be turned into a novel."

Over the next two years Stracci worked on compiling the stories and transitioning them into a novel.

Shortly after graduation, Stracci felt he had hit a roadblock. He wasn't making any traction on getting his novel published. He reached out to his mentor at Bennington, Amy Hempel, The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel (2006). She suggested he pick up the writing contests issue of Poets & Writers. It was there that Stracci learned of the New Rivers Press contest. The Many Voices Project is a distinguished annual competition to find new and emerging writers. Recent judges include Jack Driscoll, John Dufresne, Richard Hoffman, Ann Hood, Michael Hettich, David Mason, Jay Parini, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Charles Simic, and Tim Seibles.

Stracci found out he was a finalist for the contest in May. When his phone rang in July, he knew he had won. After finding out the good news, Stracci contacted three Manhattanville faculty members — Jeff Bens, Jonathan Tropper, and Kevin Pilkington — who were instrumental to his writing life and success.

"If I hadn't have had each of them, I doubt I'd be here now," Stracci said. "They were so important in their own ways."

Whitney will be out in September 2013. The novel set in 2009, follows the unnamed narrator and his significant other, Whitney, in the year leading up to their engagement. The two must learn how to coexist in a relationship addled by alcohol, drugs, and infidelity, three factors that are accelerating the narrator's quarter-life crisis. Whitney is a coming-of-age tale of a man whose age has not yet come.