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Five’s a Charm: The Idaho Review picks up its fifth Pushcart Prize

In February of this year, Boise Weekly told readers about the release of the 18th issue of The Idaho Review—Boise State University’s literary journal published by its competitive MFA creative writing program. Months later, on Nov. 12, Boise State announced that the review had picked up its fifth Pushcart Prize.

“This is our Emmy award or our Golden Globe or something like that,” said Editor Mitch Wieland. “As editors, it’s one of the best prizes out there. It’s really how a literary journal establishes and keeps a reputation. It’s always a surprise, but it’s really helpful to our enterprise. It gives us a national profile.”

The Pushcart Prize is an annual anthology of the best short fiction previously published in magazines like The Idaho Review all over the country, and since the mid-1970s, it has established itself as one of the most important literary accolades in America. This year, it picked up “Aunt Job” by Nickalus Rupert, which was published in the 18th edition of The Idaho Review.

Wieland said he learned about the win over the summer, when he received a phone call while walking his dog from Pushcart Press Founder and Editor Bill Henderson, who, during the call, referred to The Idaho Review as “The Iowa Review,” itself a preeminent literary magazine.

“I thought he’d just got the wrong number,” Wieland said.

The Idaho Review selects the stories and poetry it publishes through a lengthy and exacting process that begins with the students of a publishing and editing class Wieland teaches. Every year, writers submit between 2,000 and 3,000 stories, and those that make it through that sieve appear in an editorial meeting that makes buying decisions. Stories then move on to an associate editor, then Fiction Editor Brady Udall, and finally they make it to Wieland’s desk.

Wieland said a fifth Pushcart Prize is a feather in the Boise State MFA program’s cap, but for the students involved in the process, it’s an invaluable experience and a significant resume line item.

“That gives them a lot of street cred when they go out on the job market,” he said.

—Harrison Berry

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