GREAT FALLS – Leigh Ann Ruggiero, head of the English department at MSU at Great Falls College, recently completed her first novel, titled Subscribers, and won the prestigious Juniper Prize for it.
The book tells the story of a young girl who moves to a new country and the struggles she faces as a foreigner in a new culture and environment. The novel began as a simple paragraph for a quick daily writing exercise for Leigh Ann, which became her first published book.
“I had decided that I was going to write a first paragraph of a story, of a book, every day for a month and so it started out as one of those paragraphs, like in 2009, so it’s been a long time.” , said Ruggiero. “Of course this paragraph is nowhere in the current draft, but yes it has been a long process and I think for me the writing process has been a big part of my process of growing and developing. become an adult. “
Certain scenes and subjects of the novel appeared in Ruggiero’s writing right after graduating from the University of Maryland in Fine Arts in 2007. “I’ve been working on this for over a decade,” she says. . âI feel like I’ve come a long way since it was the first literary fiction novel I intended to complete. Now, I would tend to sketch a manuscript before I sit down to write it, but this one was all out of feeling, which is why it took over 10 years to figure it out.
Ruggiero explained that the novel is about a young American girl who grows up in the mission field of rural Ethiopia and is due to return to the United States at the age of 18. her way back to Ethiopia, âshe said. “Of course, along the way, she begins to grapple with what evangelism is, what her faith is, whether God exists or not.”
In 2019, Leigh Ann was shortlisted as a finalist in the Great Novel Contest by the Ohio Writers Association. This led her to submit her work to the Juniper Literary Prize in Fiction, at the University of Massachusetts Press.
Each year, for the Juniper Literary Awards series, the University of Massachusetts selects two winners in poetry, two in fiction and one in creative non-fiction. The winners each receive a prize of $ 1,000 and a publishing contract with the University of Massachusetts Press.
Leigh Ann says that the day she found out she had won the literary award for her novel, she finally fulfilled a dream she had had her whole life.
“Yeah, it definitely took me a while to say, ‘Wow, that’s real,’ and then, yeah, the first thought I really had was, ‘Oh, I really wanted this ever since I was. ‘am 10 years old.’ You know, getting published is something, and of course it won’t happen for a year, but getting published is something that I really wanted since I was 10 and it was very surreal to have that moment. and to be just like, ‘Wow, that’s one thing, it’s like a milestone,’ âsaid Ruggiero.
Leigh Ann’s novel, Subscribers, will be published and go on sale in spring 2022.