Winners announced for 2013 IWU Creative Writing Awards
From left to right: THE ACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETS PRIZE recipient Rob Diehl, BABBITT’S
PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION recipient Janna Strain, and THE KAY NELSON MEMORIAL ESSAY
PRIZE recipient Sydney White.
BABBITT’S PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION
Winner: Janna Strain, for her short story, “All-Natural Ocean Head Lice Treatment”
Judge: Stephanie Reents
About Janna Strain’s work, Reents writes, “This is a poignant and true-to-life story
about the dying days of a romantic relationship, complete with hermit crabs, head
lice, and a big blow out fight over a glass of milk. The dialogue is deep when it
needs to be, but mostly funny, quick, and tender. The characters, a twenty-something
couple trying to be in love, are both likeable, a feat considering that the narrator,
a young man, is in the process of being dumped. I was impressed with the depth of
characterization, the attention to detail, and the quiet and meaningful plot.”
Strain will receive will receive $50 cash and $50 in store credit from Babbitt’s Books
in Normal, Illinois.
Babbitt’s Prize judge Stephanie Reents is the author of The Kissing List (Hogarth, 2012). Her fiction has been included in the O. Henry Prize Stories, noted in Best American Short Stories, and has appeared in numerous journals. Reents has been a Bread Loaf Conference Scholar,
a Stegner Fellow, and a Rhodes Scholar. She is an assistant professor at the College
of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.
THE ACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETS PRIZE
Winner: Rob Diehl, for his collection of poems
Judge: Austin Smith
About Rob Diehl’s poems, Smith writes, “I admire a poet who can write such tender
poems addressed to things as violent and complicated as war, the Atkins diet, and
a serial killer (Elizabeth Bathory) who, it is said, bathed in the blood of virgins,
believing this would halt her aging. It would be easy to strike a sarcastic tone,
or to cast judgments, but Rob Diehl writes towards these difficult subjects with compassion
and directness. He is a poet with a knack for breaking a line, creating strange and
wonderful lines…[in which] the world [feels] strange and a little dangerous again.
Diehl writes that ‘the best things in life are soundless,’ and he is probably right,
but I was very moved by what these poems say."
Honorable Mentions: Colleen O’Connor and Janna Strain
Academy of American Poets Prize judge Austin Smith is the author of three chapbooks,
and his first book of poems, Almanac, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press. A former student of Illinois Wesleyan
University, Smith received his MA in Creative Writing from the University of California-Davis
and his MFA from the University of Virginia. He currently is a Stegner Fellow at Stanford
THE KAY NELSON MEMORIAL ESSAY PRIZE
Winner: Sydney White, for her essay, “Hallways and Home”
The final judge for the Kay Nelson Prize was Diane McPherson.
About Sydney White’s “Hallways and Home,” McPherson writes, “This essay had [such]
a [satisfying] sense of structure. I loved the way the sections moved backwards in
time, from the intriguing moment when she can't remember where she lives (since she's
never been there before and has a bad memory) to the first place she lived…What I
admired the most was the way this writer's language and imagery got simpler as she
moved backwards in time. This takes real skill, and she did it in a graceful and poetic
way…The essay had coherence, that sense of structure, a feeling for language and description
and a simplicity that captured my imagination.”
Honorable Mentions: Savannah Davis and Shane McGowan
Kay Nelson Memorial Essay Prize judge Diane McPherson received an MFA (Fiction) and
a Ph.D. (Women's Literature) from Cornell University. Her publications include fiction
in The Greensboro Review, and creative nonfiction in Mother Journeys (Spinsters Ink) and in a collection of essays about "alternative motherhood" (forthcoming
Spring 2013 from Demeter Press). McPherson has previously served as a juror (creative
nonfiction) for the Saltonstall Foundation.
Award recipients will read from their work on Wednesday, April 10, at 4 p.m. in the
Merwin and Wakeley Gallery. The event is free and open to the public.