Theatre instructor, alumna wins NPR short story contest| November 15, 2011
Christine Westberg ‘77, adjunct instructor of theatre at William & Mary, won round seven of NPR’s Three-Minute Fiction contest over the weekend.
Westberg’s short story, “Little Hossein,” beat out more than 3,000 other submissions for this round in the contest, which challenges people to create original short stories that can be read in about three minutes.
Westberg said she was surrounded by William & Mary students when she received the news.
“When I gave them a thumbs-up sign, they hooted and clapped, and the NPR lady said, ‘I wish I had that on tape,’” Westberg said in an e-mail.
For this round, writers had to include in their stories a character leaving town and a character returning to town. Westberg based her story on people she knew as a child while living in the foothills of mountains near Tehran, Iran in 1963.
American University Assistant Professor Danielle Evans, the author of the short story collection “Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self,” served as the judge for round seven. According to an NPR article, she selected Westberg’s piece because “the story stuck in her mind after reading it.”
"I got the sense that there was this whole world here," Evans said in the NPR article. "[Westberg] took that feeling and those memories and made them something kind of heightened and compressed and really interesting."
For winning, Westberg will receive a signed copy of Evans’ book and an hour-long critique session from Evans. Her story was also read by Susan Stamberg on air Saturday during “All Things Considered Weekend” hosted by Guy Raz.
During the show, Raz asked Westberg how she had the chance to live near Tehran. She said she credits her “adventurous parents” – fellow William & Mary alumni Patricia Beggs Westberg '55 and John Augustin Westberg '54 – for getting to live there.
With her mother’s help, Westberg is currently editing her father’s papers. She plans to donate them to Swem Library’s Special Collections. Westberg said that part of her father’s life’s story – including his transition from college football player to diplomat -- is revealed in letters that the father and daughter wrote to one another while Westberg studied comparative theatre at the College on the 1970s.