"Dancing With Gravity" by UMSL alumna Anene Tressler-Hauschultz, MA English 1996, recently won the International Book Award for Literary Fiction.

Anene Tressler-Hauschultz became a novelist with the release this year of her debut, “Dancing With Gravity.” Now the University of Missouri-St. Louis alumna, MA English 1996, can add “award-winning” to her title. She recently received the International Book Award for Literary Fiction.

“Dancing With Gravity” is set in St. Louis and focuses on the lonely character Father Sam Whiting as he grapples with numerous life obstacles. The Catholic priest is seemingly sleepwalking through an unhappy life when he receives an unusual wake-up call – the assignment of minister to a small Latin American circus bequeathed to an order of aging nuns.

“It’s a novel of thoughts and emotions, not of sweeping action. Still, few readers are likely to forget Father Sam in a hurry,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said in a “Dancing With Gravity” review earlier this year. “If Tressler has really taken us inside the head of a priest (and on the back cover, a quote from a real-life priest in Webster Groves insists that she has), she has given us an interesting journey.”

David Carkeet, a former English faculty member at UMSL and author of six novels, also praised Tressler-Hauschultz – who writes under the name Anene Tressler – for her creation of lead character Father Whiting. Carkeet called the character “a fascinating hero” and “a study in self-absorption, self-doubt and social clumsiness.”

“Not the ideal priestly profile, but as I read this sad and funny novel, I care deeply about his fate, especially when his heart leads him into uncharted emotional waters,” he said. “The author, a gifted stylist with a keen eye for human frailty, charts the path of Whiting’s confused longing with a sure hand. A lively, engaging read.”

Tressler-Hauschultz co-owns Blackbird Creative, a small company specializing in corporate writing for print, film/video, production and meetings. Her award-winning fiction and poetry has appeared in “Best of Writers at Work” anthology, “The Distillery,” “Treasure House,” “Currents,” “River Blossom” and “Word Wright’s.” While at UMSL, she won the Department of English’s annual prizes for both fiction and poetry.

Her professional awards include broadcast television Emmys, the International Film and Television Festival of New York, Silver and Bronze Telly Awards for corporate productions, International Association of Business Communicators’ Gold and Bronze Quills and a Saint Louis Advertising Federation Addy.

“Dancing With Gravity” is available in hardback, trade paper and e-book formats. An audio version is forthcoming.

St. Louis-based Blank Slate Press published the book.

Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz