Each year English majors and minors have the opportunity to earn membership in two honor societies and win awards based on their research and writing abilities.
Illinois Wesleyan University Department of English Prize for Short Fiction
Winner: Vi Kakares, for her fiction, “La Sal de Nuestras Lágrimas (The Salt of Our Tears)"
Honorable Mentions: Emma Gray, for her fiction, “My Time with a Dead Man” and Gillian Thomson, for her fiction, “Monsters in the Shadows Will Swallow you Whole”
Judge: Woody Skinner
About Vi Kakares’ work, Skinner writes, “With its alternating narrators, formal inventiveness, and seamless translations, ‘La Sal de Nuestras Lágrimas’ is not merely lyrical but language-drunk—saturated with metaphor, woozy with syntactical repetition. One narrator, displaced from Cameroon, arrives in Spain ‘looking for language’ in the tragic headlines of discarded newspapers; the other narrator takes her name from the sea: ‘I was born to live a life by el mar and love el mar.’ These voices tenaciously pursue the possibilities of language, combining to evoke loss in a way that’s both personal and political, intimate and imposing. This story ripples with ambition.”
IWU Department of English Prize for Short Fiction judge Woody Skinner has published fiction in Mid-American Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Hobart, Booth, Another Chicago Magazine, and elsewhere, and his work has been honored with the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award. His short story collection, A Thousand Distant Radios, was a semi-finalist for the 2018 PEN/ Bingham Prize.
Illinois Wesleyan University Department of English Essay Prize
Winner: Rachel Williams, for her essay, "Cancer Can't Take It All"
Honorable Mention: Vi Kakares, for her essay, “Καλή Eπιτυχια”
Judge: Kelcey Parker Ervick
About Williams’ essay, Ervick writes, “I was so moved by Rachel Williams's poignant essay, “Cancer Can't Take It All,’ about the loss of her mother. The essay is not only about Rachel's personal loss. It's also about the impact her mother had on the school where she taught, and how that community expressed their appreciation through numerous displays of support, from turning the whole school pink when they learned of her diagnosis to honoring her at Homecoming. After her death, the community filled the gym with mourners and flowers for her funeral and created a scholarship in her name. This essay captures life at its most heartbreaking and most heartwarming.”
IWU Department of English Essay prize judge Kelcey Parker Ervick is the author of three award-winning books: The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová, a hybrid work of biography, memoir, and art about a Czech fairy tale writer; Liliane's Balcony, a novella set at Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater; and the story collection For Sale By Owner. She is co-editor, with Tom Hart, of the forthcoming Field Guide to Graphic Literature: Artists and Writers on Creating Graphic Narratives, Poetry Comics, and Literary Collage.
Academy of American Poets University & College Poetry Prize
Winner: Yovana Milosevic
Honorable Mention: Bonnie Smith
Judge: David Ebenbach
Of Milosevic’s poems, Ebenbach writes, “Milosevic explores the poetic experience of genuine emotional complexity, of situations where emotions urgently direct the speaker (and also the reader)—but in conflicting directions. This is, of course, life! The work is also unflinching in its intimacies—and I say intimacies, plural, because these poems remind us that there are so many kinds: familial bonds and obligations, sexual closeness (with or without emotional closeness), intimacy and openness with oneself, and frankness with the reader. All of this in language that is focused and evocative. These are wonderful poems.”
Of Smith’s poems, Ebenbach writes, “The work is consistently surprising and fresh; these poems ask big questions and respond to them with a distinctive, particular sensibility that never feels borrowed.”
Academy of American Poets University & College Poetry Prize judge David Ebenbach is the author of seven books of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. His work has been honored with the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, the Juniper Prize, the Patricia Bibby Award, and more. His most recent book is Some Unimaginable Animal, a collection of poems.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s award recipients will be featured in a series of social media posts. Follow IWU English for updates.