Former Cañada College student and current Belmont resident Rose Whitmore has received the prestigious William Peden Prize, which recognizes the best piece of fiction published in The Missouri Review during the previous volume year.
Whitmore will receive a check for $1,000 and will read at the annual Peden Prize reception in Columbia, Missouri. “It’s such an honor to be recognized with this prize,” she said. Whitmore’s writing has appeared in Mason’s Road, Fourth Genre and the 2013 California Prose Directory, an anthology about the state of California. She has work forthcoming in the Mid-American Review and The Sun.
Whitmore’s Peden Prize-winning story is about a little girl who grows up in a cannery in Eureka. It is titled, The Queen of Pacific Tides. “I grew up commercially fishing smelt, a world that is both beautiful and imbued with the guts and sand and cold,” Whitmore said.
“There are many stories about young girls on the precipice of adolescence, digging in their heels against change, but ‘The Queen of Pacific Tides’ manages to surprise on every level,” says contest judge Tina May Hall. “The story is a gorgeous story all around and is one of those that will stay with you, will sneak into your dreams and perfume them in strange and wonderful ways.”
Whitmore’s path towards becoming an award-winning fiction writer began at Cañada after a pilgrimage across Spain in 2009. “I came home and decided I would take a step towards becoming a writer, something I always wanted to be – something the pilgrimage inspired me to act on.” She enrolled in a creative writing class taught by Professor Mike Nagler. “I loved Mike’s class, and somewhere about half way through I decided I wanted to pursue an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in creative writing. I used the two stories I wrote in his class for my application and was admitted to the University of New Hampshire that spring.”
The mere act of getting to Cañada and Nagler’s class was, at times, an adventure for Whitmore. Living in Berkeley and working in San Francisco, Whitmore would take MUNI to Caltrain, disembark at Redwood City, where she would jump on her scooter, which she parked at the train station, and ride up the hill to Cañada. “Round trip it took about an hour and a half,” she said. “I would leave my job in San Francisco, fleeing the fog and noise of the city just wanting to be in that class. I would arrive and the air would be warm, and the campus green, and everyone in my class very supportive. It was a great experience.”
Nagler said Whitmore was a valuable member of his class. “She offered enthusiastic critical analysis of her classmates’ efforts but she did it with great honesty that was gently and encouragingly given. Her insights helped the class to be better, and, for that, as well as her gifts as a writer, I valued greatly her membership in it.”
Nagler said Whitmore is a terrific example of the diverse student body served at community colleges. “She already had a degree when she decided to come back to school,” he said. “She was truly a lifelong learner.”
Whitmore grew up on the Peninsula and graduated from UC Berkeley. Her mother is a Cañada alum. “My childhood was filled with fishing and backpacking and trips to Baja,” she said. “I became a West Coast writer in a very North East place. I began to write about California and the Pacific, I always like to joke, to mentally escape the New England winter. But I do have New England to thank. The program at New Hampshire allowed me the freedom to see my version of the West Coast more clearly, to solidify my experiences and have space from them.”
After graduating from the University of New Hampshire in May, Whitmore moved back to the Peninsula. She is currently living in Belmont, working on a novel, a collection of short stories, and an essay collection. She is also a copywriter for a company in San Diego.