Meet our 2024 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 Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award for a short story goes to Pritha Bhattacharyya; the Scotti Merrill Award for poetry goes to Veronica Silva; and the Marianne Russo Award for a novel-in-progress goes to Erika Higgins Ross.

This January they will join us for the 2024 Seminar, Florida: The State We’re In, and our Writers’ Workshop Program.

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.

Thank you to everyone who applied — we encourage you to keep writing and submitting — and to all our judges for reading along with us and offering such insightful feedback. To the rest of you: keep your eyes out for these gifted and disciplined writers in the months and years to come!

for a short story

Pritha Bhattacharyya is a Bengali-American writer. She is a doctoral candidate in creative writing and literature and an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor Fellow at the University of Houston.

Bhattacharyya received her MFA degree from Boston University, where she was awarded a Leslie Epstein Global Fellowship in Fiction. She has received support from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Napa Valley and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, among others. She is the recipient of the 2023 Inprint Joan and Stanford Alexander Prize in Fiction and the 2022 Inprint Donald Barthelme Prize in Fiction. Her work appears in the Southern ReviewEcotone, and elsewhere.

The final judge of this award was Cecelia Joyce Johnson. She wrote: “The author depicts the interior motives of the characters’ private lives while giving us an overview of their psychological struggle to survive. The characters’ situations were complex but the author was able to create a satisfying and rewarding denouement.”

for poetry

Veronica Silva is a Cuban poet from Miami. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Hayden’s Ferry ReviewIron Horse Literary ReviewMississippi ReviewPassages NorthPinchPleiades, and elsewhere.

Silva is an alumna of the Kenyon Review‘s writers workshops, and she holds an MFA degree from the University of Central Florida, where she received a provost fellowship in poetry.

The final judge, Billy Collins, wrote: “Here is a capacious, sensitive heart anchored to the grit of everyday life… Sensitive to the hazards of being female in America, the speaker feels always ‘aimed toward collision.’ The poet’s interest in etymology and word sounds (astray/ashtray) shows a mind working next to the heart, which causes the reader to cheer all the more fiercely for her survival and the propagation of these beautiful poems.”

for a novel-in-progress

Erika Higgins Ross is working on her first novel after a long career as a marriage and family therapist. Her work has been published in Funny PearlsJuice, Mommy PoppinsLA.comYour Teen, and Stagebilland was recently featured on the NPR podcast Poetically Yours. She has been awarded writing residencies through the Studios of Key West, Star Island, and Key West Literary Seminar.

Higgins Ross earned her master’s degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles and her bachelor’s Degree in theater as education and political action from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The final judges Peyton Evans and Carol Balick wrote: “This excerpt is brilliant. We are crying. It is emotionally powerful and an important story. Beautifully constructed. Clear, clever descriptions, no fluff, straight on-line description. Evocative.”

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 2025 in March 2024.

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