May 11, 2017 In News & Media
Cornell and Rutgers Students Win 2017 Hurston/Wright Awards for College Writers
The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation’s 2017 Award for College Writers goes to one student from Cornell University and one from Rutgers University-Newark. They win $1,000 each for their entries in the national competition.
Shakarean Hutchinson, an MFA student at Cornell, wins the fiction prize for her story “How to Kill Pigs.”
Cheswayo Gabriel Mphanza, an MFA student at Rutgers, wins the poetry prize for a collection of three poems.
The Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers, given annually to Black college writers for fiction and poetry, for the fourth year will be presented through the sponsorship of Amistad books, a division of Harper Collins Publishers.
The fiction judge was H.G. Carrillo, author of the novel “Loosing My Espanish.” In selecting Hutchinson’s story, Carrillo evoked the artist who, “through an act of alchemy of his or her design, transports readers into a series of previously unimagined realities.” Hutchinson, he said, “hurtles us to a nonspecific part of our collective past–to an undisclosed location–and opens a selective, yet, richly detailed and wholly imagined girl, unearthing Men and Race as she heads towards womanhood.”
The poetry judge was Brian G. Gilmore, a 2015 Legacy Award honoree in poetry for “We Didn’t Know Any Gangsters” and a professor at the Michigan State University College of Law. Gilmore said of Mphanza’s collection: “Demonstrating a great command of language, form and using a syncopated control of its narrative push, ‘3 Poems’ celebrates music and life in a hip manner, playing tribute to music in the abstract (‘On Composing’), in the specific (‘Lester Leaps In,’) but also the real, with ‘Ode to the Unpaid Electric Bill,’ a more subdued offering that further reveals this poet’s skill and range in documenting our triumphs over challenge in our daily lives all the while bolstered by love.”
The award–the longest running program of the Hurston/Wright Foundation– encourages college creative writers with support early in their writing careers. In addition to the cash prize, winners receive a certificate to attend a Hurston/Wright writing workshop. Tracy Sherrod, editorial director of Amistad, said “Amistad and Harper Collins are honored to support the college writing award. It provides us an opportunity to nurture emerging talent and to encourage diverse voices.”
Deborah Heard, executive director of the foundation, said “Recognizing new talent is an essential part of the Hurston/Wright mission and has been since the award was established in 1991.” Former Hurston/Wright college writers who have found publishing success include Brit Bennett, Nate Marshall, Natalie Baszile, Mitchell S. Jackson, Tayari Jones, and David Anthony Durham.
The college winners will be honored at the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Friday October 20th. The evening features the announcement of the winners of the juried awards for debut fiction, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, as well as the presentation of awards for career achievements. More than 200 literary stars and representatives of the publishing industry, media, politics, arts, and academia attend the annual celebration.