Meet Meghan O’Toole ’17

Launch of a Writing Career

Meghan O’Toole ’17 was browsing at Barnes & Noble a few months after graduation when she came across an issue of the literary journal LitMag.

“I decided to submit a story for publication, and then I saw that they were running a contest,” said Meghan, who majored in English at Elmhurst. “I thought, why not apply? Winning was the last thing I expected.”

So in March 2018, O’Toole was surprised to discover that she had won LitMag’s Virginia Woolf Award for Short Fiction. The award includes a $3,500 prize and publication in the journal.

“Winning the prize felt like a real validation that I can do this,” said O’Toole. “It’s a really big first step in my career.”

The winning story, “Abditory,” grew out of an independent study course O’Toole took at Elmhurst. Working with associate professor of English Janice Tuck Lively, O’Toole studied the literary genre of magical realism and wrote the first draft of the story. Lively then helped her edit it over the summer.

As part of the award, O’Toole was connected with a literary agent. “They reviewed the story and said they really liked it, and then I sent them two more stories to review,” she said. “It’s a good way to get my name out there.”

O’Toole said her Elmhurst professors helped her find her voice as a writer. “Once I took Dr. Lively’s Advanced Fiction class, everything fell into place,” she said. “Suddenly I had a professor willing to be a mentor to me and help me reach my goal of becoming a writer.”

I’m very excited that something I started in college has had this kind of impact.

Meghan on her winning LitMag entry

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