Announcing our 2021 Emerging Writer Award Winners

We are honored and excited to announce this year’s recipients of the Emerging Writer Awards, which recognize emerging writers who possess exceptional talent and demonstrate potential for lasting literary careers. The winners will join us in Key West for the 2022 Seminar:

The Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award for a short story goes to Nishanth Injam; the Scotti Merrill Award for poetry goes to Lisa Beech Hartz; and the Marianne Russo Award for a novel-in-progress goes to Aimee LaBrie.

A jury made up of past award winners, KWLS board members, and staff reviewed hundreds of entries this year over the course of multiple rounds. The overall quality of the manuscripts submitted was extremely high, a testament to the fact that artists are survivors — and that we need your voices.

Program coordinator Katrin Schumann sat down via Zoom last week for a brief video interview (below) to introduce our winners and offer a peek into their lives and work. Congratulations to Nishanth, Lisa, and Aimee!

for a short story

Nishanth Injam is a fiction writer from Telangana, India. He has received an MFA from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program where he is currently a Zell fellow. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in VQR and The Georgia Review.

Our judge, Cecelia Johnson, said of Nishanth’s winning story: “The tenuous way they [the protagonists] relate to each other, their individual character and the portrayal of their relationship, becomes intensely and painfully real.”

for poetry—selected by Billy Collins

Lisa Beech Hartz directs and teaches through Seven Cities Writers Project which brings cost-free writing workshops to underserved communities. Her ekphrastic collection, The Goldfish Window (Grayson Books, 2018) explores the lives and work of visual artists. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, The Gettysburg Review, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere.

In picking Lisa as the winner, Billy Collins wrote that he was moved by the almost “devotional” nature of her writing.

for a novel-in-progress

Aimee LaBrie’s short stories have appeared in Minnesota Review, Iron Horse Literary Journal, StoryQuarterly, The Cimarron Review, Pleiades, Beloit Fiction, Permafrost, and others. In 2020, her short story “Rage,” won first place in the Solstice Literary Magazine’s annual fiction contest. In 2007, her short story collection, Wonderful Girl, was awarded the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction and published in a small print run by the University of North Texas Press. Her short fiction has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes. In 2012, she won first place in Zoetrope’s All-Story contest. Aimee works as a senior program administrator and lecturer of creative writing at Rutgers University’s Writers House.

Carol Balick, one of our judges, said of Aimee’s novel-in-progress: “Deceptively funny, the [excerpt] routes us through grievances of social inequalities with language that is uncluttered and powerful.”

Winners of the Emerging Writer Awards receive full tuition to the 2022 Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program (January 6 – 14), round-trip airfare, full lodging support, a $500 honorarium, and the opportunity to appear on stage during the Seminar. We will begin accepting submissions for 2022 next spring.

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