Professor earns high scores for short story

Perseverance has true meaning to a man who waited years to see his hard work pay off.

Bryan Furuness, Butler University adjunct professor of English, is among the honored writers to be published in this year’s “Best American Nonrequired Reading” anthology.

Furuness’ short story, “Man of Steel,” will be the featured work.

The “Best American Nonrequired Reading” is a compilation of the best of fiction, journalism, essays, comics and humor chosen by high school students in San Francisco, Calif., and Ann Arbor, Mich. Furuness said the work is to be released in October.

“Man of Steel” follows the story of a young boy whose mother leaves the family. The boy begins to believe he is experiencing premonitions that allow him to protect himself from life’s misfortunes.

Furuness said he wrote “Man of Steel” over five years ago and sent it out to literary magazines. After receiving 40 different rejection letters, he said he put the work to rest for the next few years.

“It just goes to show that things like that can sit around a long time before eventually springing into life,” he said.

Furuness said after letting his story collect dust in his desk drawer, he finally found a breakthrough when the magazine Hobart published another one of his short stories that involved the same characters as “Man of Steel.”

Philip Graham, fiction editor of literary magazine Ninth Letter, read the story and decided to contact Furuness about some of his other works.

“I’d bought two copies [of Hobart], one for me, and one for my son,” Graham said. “I thought we might enjoy reading the issue at the same time and then talk about the stories.

“My son immediately raved about [Furuness’s] story in the issue. I loved the story, too, and wrote to [Furuness] as soon as I could to ask him to submit work to Ninth Letter.”

Furuness said he thought of “Man of Steel” and began working on a series of redrafts to fix its major flaws.

Once he felt satisfied with his improved version, Furuness sent “Man of Steel” to Ninth Letter, and Graham said publishing the story was a “no brainer.”

“As for the success of [Furuness’s] story being a reflection of the quality of Ninth Letter, well, we certainly try our best to publish the finest work that comes our way,” Graham said. “But I’d say all the glory goes to [Furuness] in this case, for such a fabulous story. We all loved it.”

Jodee Stanley, editor of Ninth Letter, said it was the richness of the story that first attracted her to Furuness’ work.

“When he submitted ‘Man of Steel’ to Ninth Letter, our staff immediately fell in love with the story, which has that perfect, rarely attained balance of humor and emotional resonance,” she said.

Stanley said it came as no surprise to the staff of Ninth Letter to see the success of “Man of Steel” so quickly after publishing the work in their magazine.

“We knew right away we had found something special, so it was exciting, but not really surprising, to learn that ‘Man of Steel’ had been selected for ‘Best American Non-required [Reading],’” Stanley said. “We always try to publish the best work we can find and we’re thrilled when awards anthologies recognize writing from our pages, primarily because these widely read reprints help our authors find even more readers for their fine work.”

Furuness said he was surprised, pleased and honored when he was contacted about the publishing of “Man of Steel” in the “Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthology.”

“The most dangerous thing to do is to sit down and say you are going to write something great,” Furuness said. “You might have to write 10 stories [from which] you have to be willing to throw nine away and take one to revise and see where it takes you.

“You have to enjoy the actual writing or you’ll go crazy.”

Furuness is a third year teacher at Butler and works mainly with freshmen in first year seminar classes.

Though Furuness said having his students read his own stories would be “really tacky,” Butler professor Robert Stapleton said he will be teaching “Man of Steel” in his English classes this year.

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