Announcing our 2020 Emerging Writer Award Winners

Each year, we review hundreds of manuscript submissions in search of three emerging writers who possess exceptional talent and demonstrate potential for lasting literary careers. This year’s entries for the Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award, the Scotti Merrill Award, and the Marianne Russo Award were especially compelling, and we are proud to announce the recipients of this year’s honors.

Congratulations to our winners. Thank you to all who applied—we encourage you to keep writing and submitting—and to all of our judges (many of whom are past honorees) for reading along with us and offering insightful feedback. To the rest of you, dear readers: keep your eyes out for these gifted and disciplined writers in the months and years to come.

Andrea Rinard (L); Chloe Firetto-Toomey (M); Chase Burke (R)

MARIANNE RUSSO AWARD
for a novel-in-progress

Andrea Rinard (L) is a veteran high school English teacher and emerging writer. Her short works have been published in Jellyfish Review, Spelk, Crack the Spine, and other literary magazines. Writing has been her midlife luxury, and she’s enjoyed being a graduate certificate student in creative writing at the University of South Florida, as well as a two-time participant in the Yale Writers’ Workshop in New Haven, Connecticut.

A native Floridian who wears shoes against her will, Rinard has mastered the art of sunscreen application and hurricane preparation. She lives in Tampa with her three young adult children and her high school prom date. Afterworld is her second novel and, fingers crossed, the first one she’ll see on a bookstore shelf one day.

Our readers found Andrea’s story compelling and moving. “A timely premise that made me want to read more … days later I was still thinking about it.”

SCOTTI MERRILL AWARD
for poetry—selected by Billy Collins

Chloe Firetto-Toomey (M) is an English-American poet and essayist. She received an MFA degree in nonfiction from Florida International University (FIU), where she served as a teaching assistant and poetry editor of Gulf Stream Magazine. She has taught creative writing in elementary schools and currently teaches Introduction to Creative Writing at FIU and nonfiction writing at Everglades Correctional Institution in Miami-Dade County.

Firetto-Toomey is published in all four genres. Two of her lyric essays were finalists in Tupelo Quarterly’s Prose Open Contest, and she was a finalist in Diagram’s chapbook contest and a semifinalist in Honeysuckle Press’s chapbook contest. She is the recipient of the 2017 Christopher F. Kelly Award for Poetry. Her chapbook of poems, Little Cauliflower, was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2019. She lives in Miami Beach with her fiancé and two street cats who became house cats.

In picking Chloe as the winner, Billy Collins wrote, “Masterful, fascinating poems that carry the reader line by line deeper into the theatre of a damaged ecology. First hand experience and the well-placed cultural references give the poems a striking authority.”

CECELIA JOYCE JOHNSON AWARD
for a short story

Chase Burke (R) grew up and lives in northeast Florida. He has an MFA degree from the University of Alabama, where he was fiction editor of Black Warrior Review. His stories can be found in Glimmer Train (as winner of the Very Short Fiction Award), Sycamore Review (as runner-up for the Wabash Prize in fiction), Salt Hill, Western Humanities Review, and Yemassee, among others. His fiction chapbook, Lecture, is forthcoming from Paper Nautilus as a winner of their 2019 Debut Series Chapbook Contest.

One of our readers found Chase’s winning short story “fascinating and full of poignant details.” Another wrote, “I jumped right into this story and never doubted the direction we were going.”

Winners of the Emerging Writer Awards receive full tuition to the 2020 Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program (January 9 – 17), 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 2021 next spring.

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