Students win big at the Literary Awards in the Ecumenical Center

Donald Halsing / THE GATEPOST

Students received recognition for their writing at the Student Creative Writing Awards, hosted by the English department April 18 in the Heineman Ecumenical Center.

Student writers competed in two categories: The Marjorie Sparrow Awards for poetry and The Howard Hirt Awards for fiction and creative nonfiction.

The writers who received awards at the ceremony were Jameson Frederick, Taylor Anderson, Cordelia Stark, Pixie Smolowitz, Damely Estrada, John Malešević, Janella Tibbets, Jesús Ruelas Garcia, and Elizabeth Paulsen.

Samuel Witt, an English professor, said, “We are so incredibly privileged to celebrate the work of our gifted students.”

The Marjorie Sparrow Awards were judged by Chen Chen, a poet known for his debut book, “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities.” He also recently visited FSU, earlier this month, as the Miriam Levine Reader.

Witt said, “Seldom has a first book, or any book, for that matter, taken the literary world nationally, by its neck, scrubbing its neck in a good way.”

Frederick and Anderson received honorable mentions for their pieces, “Little Toy Soldier” and “The Fall of Ebony,” respectively. Stark’s piece, “Love, Your Nomad,” took the third-place prize, and Smolowitz’s piece, “Cherry Pop!,” took second.

Estrada’s winning piece, “Willow Street in July,” received the first-place prize for poetry.

“What a moving poem,” said Chen Chen in his judge’s remarks. “What clear and piercing and expansive vision this poem offers to us, with its particularities and idiosyncrasies and description. … This poem reminds us noticing can be an art.”

Estrada’s poem dealt with subjects of Hispanic culture, as well as the concept of gentrification in vulnerable neighbourhoods, and how that process eliminates cultures.

Witt said, “I think I speak for the department and the community when I say that we are so proud of all this work. I think this work illustrates the diversity in our program for student writing, and I just couldn’t be happier.”

Patricia Horvath, English professor, presented The Howard Hirt Awards for fiction and creative nonfiction awards. The section were judged by Kelly Ford, author of “Cottonmouths.” Ford was the Miriam Levine Reader in April 2018.

Malešević and Tibbets received honorable mentions for their pieces “The Deep Sleep” and “Random Inspiration.” Garcia won third place with “El immigrante” and Paulsen received second place with a Vietnam War-era piece, “Men on the Moon.”

Smolowitz won first place with her piece, “Helping Hand.”

“I am struck by so many things about her writing,” said Horvath. “To begin with, there’s her work ethic. She takes the revision process seriously.”

In Ford’s remarks, she described it as “a wonderful entry that reminds me of some of the great stories being told in the contemporary young adult market.”

“Helping Hand” told the story of Bee, a girl who has a crush on a person named Sam but has difficulties with conveying her feelings. A ghost eventually convinces her to undertake a Herculean task, which turned out to be easier than expected.

Describing her creative process, Smolowitz “wanted to take a scary trope – someone being haunted – and put a more pleasant spin on it. I also wanted to give a happy ending to people who so often don’t get one in fiction.”

Smolowitz added, “The trickiest part was keeping Sam’s gender a secret until the reveal, without making the lack of gendered language suspicious.”

At the end of the ceremony, Witt promoted next week’s launch of The Onyx, also to be hosted in the Ecumenical Center April 25 at 6:30 p.m.

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