Announcing our 2023 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 2023 Seminar and Workshops.

The Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award for a short story goes to Nayereh Doosti; the Scotti Merrill Award for poetry goes to Amanda Hawkins; and the Marianne Russo Award for a novel-in-progress goes to Lisa Lee.

A jury made up of past award winners, KWLS board members and staff, and trusted readers reviewed hundreds of entries this year over the course of multiple rounds. The quality of the manuscripts submitted was extremely high this year and we had some difficult decisions to make.

Congratulations to Nayereh, Amanda, and Lisa, and thank you to everyone who applied!

for a short story

Nayereh Doosti is a writer and translator from Shiraz and Booshehr, Iran, and elsewhere. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and an MFA degree in fiction from Boston University.

The final judge of this award was Cecelia Joyce Johnson. She wrote: “Skillful prose in which the focal point of the story being about the little one is not lost, while at the same time the author brings to life multiple characters and we are given the opportunity to experience them in their simple, everyday life.

In successive vignettes, the author bridges the gap between what could be considered foreign to some and creates a commonality that we all share. The story of “The Little One” gradually builds to a moving and meaningful denouement, which is quite philosophical, yet satisfyingly direct.”

for poetry—selected by Billy Collins

Amanda Hawkins holds an MFA degree in creative writing from the University of California, Davis, and a master’s degree in theological studies from Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. They are a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, winner of the Editors’ Prize in poetry at the Florida Review, and listed as honorable mention, semi-finalist, and finalist for various other contests and awards.

Hawkins is a Tin House and Bread Loaf Scholar and has been awarded fellowships from Writing by Writers, Kentucky Women Writers Conference, Key West Literary Seminar, and Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in the MothBoston ReviewCincinnati ReviewMassachusetts ReviewOrionTerrain; and Tin House, among others. They live in Northern California.

The final judge, Billy Collins, wrote: “For me, the best of these poems move hypnotically inside a limited vocabulary, weaving words in the repetitive warp-and-woof madness of Gertrude Stein. Both “The Music of the Line” and “Image” are transgressive beauties, each powerful enough to detonate any so-called writing workshop. The serious presence of this poet is to be noted.”

for a novel-in-progress

Lisa Lee was awarded an Emerging Writer Fellowship from the Center for Fiction, and her novel excerpt “Paradise Cove” won a Pushcart Prize. She has received other fellowships and awards from Kundiman, Millay Arts, Hedgebrook, Tin House, Jentel Artist Residency, the Korea Foundation, and elsewhere.

Her work has appeared in PloughsharesVIDA Review, North American ReviewSycamore ReviewGulf CoastTusculum ReviewReed MagazineNew World Writing Quarterly, and elsewhere. Her essay about racial invisibility and erasure in the writing workshop was featured on Bitch Media’s feminism pop culture podcast Popaganda, on the episode “Writing About Race.” Lee holds a doctorate degree in creative writing and literature from the University of Southern California.

The final judges Peyton Evans and Carol Balick wrote: “Reading this was an utter delight. Wonderfully drawn characters. Insight into the Korean-American experience. Relevant to today’s awareness of racism. We want to read this novel when it is completed!”

Winners of the Emerging Writer Awards receive full tuition to the Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program, 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 EWA 2024 in March 2022.

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