The winners of the 2013 Literary Arts Awards were announced last Sunday on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall. Any person who has visited Chautauqua Institution throughout the season was eligible to submit previously unpublished poetry or prose for the Young Writer Awards (ages 12 and under), Young Adult Awards (under 18) or the Adult Prose and Poetry awards (ages 18 and older).
The awards are sponsored by the Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends. Fred Zirm, who will serve as the president of the Friends next season, presented the awards along with Friends board member Dave Northrup. This is Zirm’s fourth summer coordinating submissions, communicating with the judges and organizing the prizes: certificates for the adults and writing journals — donated by the Chautauqua Bookstore — for the young writers.
“For the Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends, who support writers and writing, this is one of the most direct ways we do that,” Zirm said. “Writers write, they get their work read by professionals and if they’re lucky — and they’ve written especially well — they get recognition.”
Northrup said the writing contest was one of the ways the Friends reach out to the community, as anyone can submit and be recognized for their work, not just those who have attended workshops at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center.
Although there is often a handful of submissions that are thematically resonant of Chautauqua, Zirm and Northrup agree that the entries are various and diverse. The competition is indeed international, Zirm pointed out, as some of this year’s winners are from London and Hong Kong.
The Young Writer Awards, judged by Zirm, had four winners. In poetry, Suzy Baker earned an honorable mention for her poem “Unlikely.” Thane Breuschke from Hong Kong won first place for “In a Forest,” what Zirm called a “deceptively simple poem about searching for both a cat and the right thing to do.”
In the prose section of the Young Writers Awards, Charlotte Baker won an honorable mention for “Perfect,” and Sophia Wright won for her “fanciful fairy tale” called “Pot of Gold.”
The Young Adult Awards had two winners. In prose, Ben Zuegel won for his “fantastical allegory” called “The Traveling Cloak.” In poetry, Ali Georgescu won for “Betsy,” which Zirm described as a “touching poem about a split family.”
Laura Kasischke, prose writer-in-residence at the Writers’ Center during Week Six of this season, judged the Adult Prose Awards.
“I was astonished by the range of stories submitted, and their level of artistry and sophistication,” Kasischke wrote in an email. “There are so many stories to be told, and this group of writers has the wit, intelligence, and courage to tell them.”
Northrup, who presented the Adult Prose Awards, attested to the quality of the prose submissions this season and said there was a more diverse representation of genre than last year.
“I think there were some really fine examples of short stories, of pure fiction, not necessarily narrated in the first person,” he said. “They were not memoir-like, so that was a change.”
There were two honorable mentions in the Adult Prose Awards: “The Turtle Story” by Carol Newman and “I Heard a Story Today” by Lara Lillibridge. David Diskin won second place for his story “Sweet Stroke.”
The recipient of the Charles Hauser Prize for prose was Sarah Kahrl’s “Something Blue.”
“In prose so fluid that reading it feels like sailing downriver, the story told here is deeply layered,” Kasischke said about the piece. “The impression left behind is one of compassion for the human experience, and surprise at the complexity of that experience. What more can we ask of a short story.”
The Adult Poetry Awards were judged by Gabriel Welsch, who was a poet-in-residence at the Writers’ Center during the 2012 Season. Zirm, who presented the awards, said the submissions this year had remained as strong as in previous years.
There were three honorable mentions in the Adult Poetry Awards: “Contact” by Heidi Thorsen, “Burn” by Jane Pfefferkorn and “The Serpent’s Quest” by Gareth Cadwallader. Kelsey Burritt won second place for her poem “You Are the Last One on the Dock.”
The recipient of the Mary Jean Irion Award for poetry was Carol Jennings, who wrote “Mano Sinistra.” Jennings was recognized during the ceremony for the trio of poems she submitted, which, in addition to “Mano Sinistra,” also included “Playing Debussy” and “Elegy.” Zirm read from “Mano Sinistra,” suggesting the excellence of the poem could speak for itself.