2014 Writing Contests

Contact: Mike Theune, 556-3168 

Contests announced for IWU student poets and writers 

Illinois Wesleyan University students are invited to enter annual competitions for the Academy of American Poets University & College Prize, the Babbitt's Prize for Short Fiction, and the Kay Nelson Memorial Essay Prize. The prizes, administered by the English department, are open to all currently enrolled students, including non-English majors and minors.

Founded in 1955, the Academy of American Poets University & College Poetry Prize program has launched the careers of many promising poets, including Sylvia Plath, Tess Gallagher, Mark Strand, and Joy Harjo. The winner from Illinois Wesleyan University receives $100 and a certificate, and is announced in the Academy of American Poets' publications and news releases, with a chance for publication in a future anthology. 

To enter the Academy of American Poets' Prize, students should submit 4-6 poems, single-spaced, with the total length not to exceed 12 pages.

The Babbitt's Prize for Short Fiction (formerly the Clockwatch Review Prize for Short Fiction) began in 1997 as a way to promote and encourage aspiring fiction writers at IWU. The winner receives $50 cash and $50 store credit from Babbitt's Books, in downtown Normal. 

To enter the Babbitt's Prize, students should submit up to 18 double-spaced pages of fiction—either a single short story or a segment from a novel that can stand alone. Any style is acceptable—even genre, if it breaks the mold—but judges will be looking for literary quality, energy, innovation, interesting plots, memorable characters, dialogue that rings true, fresh language, and a sure voice. 

The Kay Nelson Memorial Essay Prize was established in 2013 by Prof. Alison Sainsbury to honor her aunt, Kay Nelson, a prolific writer of short and often humorous essays whose work is a testament to the personal essay’s most essential truth: individual voice and idiosyncratic vision enliven even the most quotidian of experiences.   

To enter the Kay Nelson Memorial Essay Prize, students should submit one essay, double-spaced, of no more than 5,000 words (shorter essays are more than acceptable!). Traditional as well as more experimental forms of the essay are welcomed.  The winner receives a prize of $100.

Students may submit only one entry to each competition.

Members of the English department faculty will serve as preliminary judges, with five manuscripts for each competition passed on to a final off-campus judge who’s an accomplished, published writer. 

The final judge for the Academy of America Poets Prize is Steven Halle. Halle is the author of the poetry collection Map of the Hydrogen World (Cracked Slab Books, 2008) and the chapbook Cessation Covers. In 2006, he founded the online journal Seven Corners, which publishes Chicago and Midwestern poets. His creative and critical writing has been published in numerous journals, including Another Chicago Magazine, Ariel, Cordite Poetry Review, Jacket2, and Moria. Halle holds an MFA in poetry from New England College and a PhD in English studies, specializing in creative writing, from Illinois State University.  Halle is the assistant director of the English Department’s Publications Unit at Illinois State University.

The final judge for the Babbitt’s Prize is Joshua Corey.  Joshua Corey is the author most recently of Severance Songs (Tupelo Press, 2011), which won the Dorset Prize and was named a Notable Book of 2011 by the Academy of American Poets.  His other books are Selah (Barrow Street Press, 2003) and Fourier Series (Spineless Books, 2005). With G.C. Waldrep, he edited The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral (Ahsahta Press, 2012).  

His first novel, Beautiful Soul: An American Elegy, is forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil Press.  He teaches English at Lake Forest College. 

The final judge for the Kay Nelson Prize is Betsy Phillips, a 1996 graduate of IWU with an M.A. from Wake Forest University ('99). Phillips is the Marketing Manager for Vanderbilt University Press, writes for the Nashville Scene, contributes to their political blog, "Pith in the Wind," and does her part to save the world from itself on her own blog, "Tiny Cat Pants." Her book, A City of Ghosts, is a collection of the ghost stories Nashville should have. Her short story "Frank" (Apex Magazine) has been optioned for film. She's currently working on an illustrated novella about an unambitious devil and the werewolf who annoys him. 

All entries should be submitted to Kathie Bradley, English Department Office Coordinator, in the English Department's main office (on the first floor of the English House) by noon on February 21, 2014. 

For additional information, contact Professor Michael Theune at mtheune@iwu.edu or 309-556-3168.