WINSTON-SALEM—The Salem College Center for Women Writers has announced the winners of its annual International Literary Awards, celebrating excellence in poetry, nonfiction, and fiction from writers across the globe.
The winner of each of the three genres receives $1,000. An honorarium of $150 will be awarded to honorable mentions of each genre.
All submissions went through two rounds of readers before being sent along to the judges, who had the hard and rewarding task of selecting the final winners and honorable mentions. The process was fair: the readers read anonymously. The judges received the names of the winners only minutes prior to the public receiving the information.
“September was no good” by Annie Virginia, won the 2018 Rita Dove Poetry Award, judged by Lynn Melnick. Virginia is a poet with her BA from Sarah Lawrence College. She is currently transitioning out of her role as a high school English and Creative Writing teacher so she can pursue her MFA. Annie Virginia’s work may be found in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Legendary, The Literary Bohemian, Cactus Heart, and decomP as well as in the anthologies The Queer South and A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault. Her work was nominated by Broad! for a Pushcart prize.
In her comments on the winning entry, Judge Melnick said the sentences within the poem are “deceptively simple.
“They build and build into a testament to how tragically commonplace gun violence against young black men is in this country and they layer themselves in a complex way that mirrors the grieving process,” Melnick said. “This poem reaches big by also reaching small; much of the poem reflects how the world moves on after someone dies, moves on changed. It demands we remember and notice those changes. It is exhilarating to read a poem that holds on with both its heart and its craft in equal measure, and through a significant length without letting up at all. This poem is crucial reading and crucial honoring; a significant achievement.”
An Honorable Mention in Poetry was awarded to “A Cleave for The Women Who Lay in My Mess” by Aurielle Marie, a Black, Atlanta-born, Queer hip-hop scholar, and a community organizer. Through her work as a poet and an activist, she explores the uses of intimacy and ritual in the practice of Black resistance. Aurielle is a 2018 Lambda Literary Writer Retreat fellow, a 2017 Roddenberry Fellowship Finalist, a Voices of Our Nation Fellow-Alum, a 2016 Kopkind Fellow, and a current Queer Emerging Artist-In-Residence at Destiny Art Center. She was chosen by Safiya Sinclair as the 2017 Poetry Prize Winner for Blue Mesa Review. She has been featured as a social-political pundit on CNN. Her essays and poems have been published widely and her work has been featured on a global host of stages, most prestigiously in her grandmother’s kitchen.
The Penelope Niven Creative Nonfiction Award, judged by Seema Reza, was awarded to Eliza Smith for her narrative “An Incomplete History of the Times We Did and Didn’t Leave.”
Smith is an MFA candidate at The Ohio State University, where she serves as the Reviews and Interviews Editor of The Journal. She received her MA from the Missouri School of Journalism. Her work has appeared in The Pinch and Indiana Review.
“In her remarks on the winning entry, Judge Reza said the narrative resonates with “empathy and a sort of urgent, clear-eyed curiosity,” that explores the narrator’s matrilineal inheritance of grief and restlessness, of desire and dread.
“Told through snapshots of her mother’s life, her grandmother’s life, her sister’s, and her own, and The narrative moves deftly through time with skillful, sharp transitions from personal memory to family lore and back again, Reza said. “It is a story about the importance of story, about the burden and blessing of narrative, about being a woman in relation to other women and about loss: of memory and vision and identity. By looking unflinchingly toward the past, the narrator carries us into her future.”
Farnaz Fatemi’s “Sister Tongue” was named an Honorable Mention in the Creative Nonfiction competition. Fatemi’s poetry and prose appears or is forthcoming in Tupelo Quarterly, Catamaran Literary Reader, Delaware Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She has been awarded residencies from PLAYA, Marble House Project, Vermont Studio Center, and I-Park Foundation, and honored by Poets on the Verge (Litquake SF), Best of the Net Nonfiction, and Pushcart. She taught Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz, from 1997-2018.
Kristen Gentry received the Reynolds Price Fiction Award for her lyric story “Mama Said.” This contest was judged by Crystal Wilkinson.
Gentry is from Louisville, Kentucky and received her MFA from Indiana University. She currently lives in Rochester, NY near SUNY Geneseo where she is an associate professor of English and the director of creative writing. Her short stories have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Jabberwock Review, and other journals. She is at work completing Mama Said, a collection of linked stories that explore mother-daughter relationships strained by the mothers’ drug addictions.
Judge Wilkinson described the story as has having a “rhythm of poetry as it invites the reader into grief, mothering, daughtering, and depression.
“A tour-de-force use of second person point of view, this writer lulls the reader with beautiful language inviting us into the deep exploration of these characters and their difficult lives,” Wilkinson said. “This story called to me again and again. I couldn’t just read it once. This writer has control of her craft.”
An Honorable Mention for Fiction was awarded to “Diane, Enchantress” written by Elizabeth Tchoungui, a franco-cameroonian writer and journalist, and translated by Siobhan Marie Meï, a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Judge Wilkinson described the work as “a deftly rendered story of emotion, passion, and femininity rich with imagery, eroticism, and sense of self.”