English Department hosts writing contest

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Each academic year, the Department of English hosts creative writing award opportunities that allow students to enter their work into different genres of writing sections. Each contest has a set of guidelines that must be followed in order to enter the contest. Major John J. Dillion First-Year Composition Essay, Literary Essay, Ferlini Nonfiction Essay, Lucy Monro Brooker Poetry Prize: Sarah A. Chavez, Fiction Prize and the Professional Writing Prize are all open to any student who would like to enter their work, while the Udo Natterman Award is only open to graduate students. The deadline to enter these contests was March 4, according to Associate Professor of English Karen Newman. 

Newman said she will be announcing the winners of the prizes at the awards ceremony in April. She said all of the awards are open to anyone who wishes to enter the contest and most of these awards are won by students who are majoring in the fields of creative or professional writing, but anyone can enter the contest, and each award can differ depending on the contest entered. “The awards themselves, some of them are cash prizes, and some of them come in the form of tuition reimbursement. The awards essentially have been established either by alumni or faculty,” Newman said. 

Photo Illustration by Arrianna Gupton

Sophomore and professional writing major Emma Knaack entered two of the contests with writing pieces from classes she was taking. She said she was the winner of the Professional Writing contest and placed second for the Ferlini Nonfiction essay prize. 

“For the professional writing prize, I was actually recommended by my teacher [to enter] after we completed the essay. She was like, ‘Hey, everyone should submit their essays for this professional writing prize,’ so I was like, ‘I’ll go ahead and do it,’” Knaack said. 

Knaack said her major was undecided but had considered an English major until she won the contest, which helped her solidify that English was the best fit for her. She said she plans on entering the contest this semester as well. 

“I plan on entering for the ones this year; I haven’t entered yet because I just want to finalize what all I’m entering, but I plan on doing the literary essay prize, the poetry prize, the fiction prize and then the professional writing prize,” Knaack said.

Newman said each contest is judged by an outside individual, which is known as a blind review where names are not attached, ensuring faculty would not be allowed to give prizes to favorite students.

“I think many, many students as they become writers, there’s a little bit of an intimidation factor of, ‘Is my writing good enough? How can I improve?’” Newman said. “I would certainly encourage any student to apply for this. Because sometimes, not always, sometimes you may get feedback on the piece.” 

Knaack said one thing learned from the Department of English is that people are going to have so many different opinions about your pieces, and writing is just such a subjective thing that you shouldn’t feel bad when some people don’t like it because as long as you feel proud of it and as long as you think that is is something that is worth putting out there, that’s all that really matters. 

“The thing is if you submit to it and you don’t win, nobody has to know except you,” Knaack said. “And then, if you do happen to win, it’s a cool thing to kind of say, ‘Hey, I won an English prize.’ And so either way, there’s no downfall for it. I definitely think people should [enter], and it’s just a good way to get your name out in the English Department, too. Because it’s just a really cool opportunity to have.” 

Newman said if students don’t submit the work then they won’t be able to grow their writing, win an award for their writing or gain a fellowship or scholarship. The awards they offer are preparing students for their future. They might want to choose a certain pathway within the creative arts. Being able to submit work into the awards can ultimately help the writer’s work be recognized. 

“We certainly want to encourage writers, and sometimes receiving an award helps a writer see that their work is valuable,” Newman said. “Their words matter. Their words are worthy of publication. Their words are interesting in their own right.”

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