Carmel High School grad’s short stories collection wins award


Maegan Poland didn’t initially plan for her short stories to be one book.

The 2000 Carmel High School graduate’s collection of short stories, “What Makes You Think You’re Awake?,” was published by Blair Press in June 2021. The book earned the Blair Press Bakwin Award, given to an author who identifies as female, according to the Blair Press website.

CIC COM 0817 Poland author

“These stories focus on modern women and their anxieties about competing perspectives, unreliable perspectives and the difficulty of responding to predicaments when the exact nature of their threat is hard to decipher,” Poland said. “This collection is largely about loneliness and trying to find connection in an uncertain and unsettling world.”

Poland said a couple of stories that made it into the collection were written while she was in the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Mississippi. She graduated in 2013 and later earned a doctorate at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

“I wrote most of the collection during that Ph.D. program,” Poland said. “I found out that my manuscript had been selected by Carmen Maria Machado for the Bakwin Award last year, and I spent the rest of 2020 revising the collection with my editor at Blair, Robin Miura. You could say that I spent several years writing this collection, although I wrote other stories during that time that were not included. I initially just focused on writing individual stories, but at a certain point during my Ph.D. about five years ago, it became apparent that I was gravitating toward a particular worldview in many of them, so I began purposefully writing toward the completion of this collection.”

University of Mississippi professor and award-winning author Tom Franklin praised the collection.

“This is my favorite kind of collection, beautifully written and full of surprises,” Franklin stated. “Maegan Poland is a terrific new talent. Her stories make strange normal and normal strange.”

Since 2019, Poland has worked full time as an assistant teaching professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she teaches creative writing and composition.

She is working on a novel of speculative fiction that is set in the future.

“The novel explores the potential impact of surveillance and artificial intelligence on privacy, bodily autonomy and the reliability of perspective,” she said.

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