Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
David J. Morris
Fourth Committee Member
Number of Pages
This collection of short stories constitutes the strongest work I’ve completed during
my time as a student at UNLV, as well as the work that best represents who I am as a
writer. These stories have undergone fastidious revisions—several over the course of two
or more years—and have at once adhered to a conceptual ideal I’ve had for the collection as
a whole, as well as ventured into surprising territories that changed my under standing of
the collection. Over the course of writing these stories, the breadth of my writing, not
limited to but including the aspects of style, emotional content, and subject matter, has
This collection is linked in a variety of ways. “Bleachers,” “Under the Light,” and
“Surface” follow the arc of Zander, an amateur wrestler. “Bleachers” is told from the point
of a view of a parent observing her son and his friend compete in a youth wrestling
tournament. “Under the Light” is written from Zander’s point of view, an extremely
competitive high school wrestler battling an injury and living with a friend due to the
relationship he has with his father. “Surface” follows two retired collegiate athletes as they
look for significance outside of their lives in competition. “The Bench” and “Names and
Places” are linked by the character Marcus, and while it is not the focus in “Names and
Places,” in both stories he searches for ways to cope with loss.
While the other stories in this collection do not follow a similar arc, seven of the
eight are linked in that the stories take place in the state of Washington, and in the case of
“Jellyfish,” the two central characters are Washingtonians on a plane traveling back to
Washington. The diverse regions of the state are represented in these stories—the Kitsap
Peninsula in “Names and Places,” “Under the Light,” and “Surface,” Southwest Washington
and the woods of the Cascade Foothills in “Hell is a Green Place” and “Cryptodome,” dry and
pine forested Okanogan County in “The Bench,” and the rough and arid Columbia River
Basin in “Cryptodome” as well. I seek to capture a strong sense of place in my writing, and
these stories will hopefully situate the reader well in these landscapes I not only grew up
in, but am incredibly fond of.
While the majority of the stories in this collection are written in the tradition of
literary realism, “Hell is a Green Place” and “Names and Places” explore supernatural
elements that I did not believe I would explore when initially conceiving this collection.
They are also products of my interest in Washington State history, and they examine the
colonization and settlement of the state.
“Cryptodome” and “Jellyfish” are two stories told from the points of view of
characters with deep and intimate understandings of fairly specific subjects—
“Cryptodome” being narrated by a volcanologist observing the volcanic activity preceding
the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens, and “Jellyfish” drawing parallels between the
narrator’s relationship and the rising populations of jellyfish in the Puget Sound.
Finally, while not limited in the range of emotional content, a sense of isolation the
characters feel may be the symbiotic link between all of the stories in this collection, and
the subject matters and settings I’ve written into only aid this sense of isolation.
Arts and Humanities
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Stilwell, Jack, "Beyond All of This" (2018). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 3330.
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Available for download on Thursday, May 15, 2025