Lisa Cupolo

Lisa Cupolo (Creative Writing, Wilkinson College) is the winner of the 2020 W.S. Porter Prize for her short-story collection, Have Mercy On Us. Cupolo will receive $1,000 and a book publication by Regal House Publishing.

The stories in Have Mercy On Us are all about love. How one chases love and falls short of it, or crashes and smolders in the wake of it, or clings to lost love.

The W.S. Porter Prize is awarded to recognize a wonderfully written short story collection, while also honoring William Sydney Porter, a native born son of North Carolina and renowned short story writer who wrote under the pseudonym O. Henry.

“I write about the things that confound me and they all have to do with suffering and love, and how often enough, they are the same thing,” said Cupolo

“The ten stories in Have Mercy On Us are set in places I’ve spent time, from Calgary to Kenya to Crete, and more. One story is about an expat[riate] woman at an orphanage in Kisumu who finds out she’s pregnant by her American boyfriend, the one she had wanted to dump. Another is from the point of view of an older privileged man in Portland, who travels all the way to Nairobi to encourage his son, who is working at an NGO to come home to help his depressed sister. Neither of these stories is reflective of my own life but I spent a year working at an orphanage in Kenya and that informed the landscape for both of these stories.”

Hundreds of published writers from across the country submit their manuscripts for consideration for this annual prize in hopes of finding a publisher for their manuscript. A team of editors at Regal House Press narrow the submissions down to ten people, and then select one winner. “I’ve been around writers my entire adult life – I worked in publishing in Toronto for years and I’m married to a successful writer [Creative Writing professor Richard Bausch], and I teach story writing at Chapman. So for me, this award is all joy. I’ve had many of my stories published in literary journals and magazines but to have a book come out is a dream. I am so happy and proud of this recognition of my work, and with such a brilliant press.”

In addition to this award, Cupolo was a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers Conference in 2017 and her latest story, Felt and Left Have the Same Letters, in Prime Number Magazine, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, which will be announced in May.

Good Luck, Lisa!