Each year, the Creative Writing Department is pleased to award several prizes to talented student writers. The genre-specific contests are judged by notable writers from around the country, and the Editors’ Choice Award is selected by the staff of the student literary magazine, "The Redlands Review."
Academy of American Poets Jean Burden Prize - Judge: Tiffany Elliott
Winning entry: Spring – Sadie Forkner
Spring juxtaposes memory with striking and evocative imagery. Every line is a surprise, taking the reader on a journey through loss and sadness and leaving readers with the longing the speaker relates so well through the many chosen images.
Honorable Mention: Minnesota, 1973 – Katie Grierson
Minnesota, 1973 uses surrealism to explore the real heaviness of divorce. With multiple short end-stopped lines serving the function of caesuras and bringing a sense of urgency, this poem evokes the weight of absence.
Nonfiction Contest - Judge: Ploi Pirapokin
Winning entry: "Today, 3:14 PM" – Jane Cooper
The punctuated prose, fractured in its structure, relays the shock and disbelief in the lack of action taken to curb school shootings. The specificity of the details provided in the narrator's attempts to fortify themselves in their daily routine, and to numb their anxieties by eating something as sweet and comforting as cake, only heightens the suffocating reality of being a young person today, forced to accept a world where they are not safe--even at school. Yet this pointed address calls us to action not simply to prevent more lives from being lost, but to protect the lives that have every right to be fully realized.
Honorable Mention: "Who Was At Fault" – Getsemani S. Landa Santiago
This nuanced, reflective first-person dissection of the impact of drug addiction through the lens of a child of immigrants is piercing, unwavering, and raw. While I yearned for more specific language to experience each scene, the narrator's political, personal, and economical explanations in a conversational tone for the probable causes of their father's decline and list of accruing 'What Ifs' towards theend—a speculation to a different future so different from their reality—resonated with me long after I put this piece down.
Fiction Contest – Judge: L.I. Henley
Winning Entry: “From the Hands of the Observer” – Jane Cooper
I was immediately struck by the story’s witty, fast-paced dialogue and the writer’s keen sense of humor. I can tell the writer has spent time not only observing the way people talk but how they subtly show emotion via physical gestures. The first-person narrator strikes me as complex and well-developed, and there is a genuine quality about the interactions between characters. Another strength is the story’s dedication to tight, interesting language.
Honorable Mention: “1952” - Jamie Casillas
There are so many ways in which this story is successful. All of the elements of good storytelling are present: setting, characterization, rising action, and an interesting conflict. I really admire the way the writer is able to show the protagonist’s inner turmoil and how that turmoil manifests as an outward act of violence. The writer is also successful in incorporating backstory at key moments.
Editors’ Choice Award – Redlands Review
Winning entry: “Puzzles are Stupid” – Natalie Navarro
Comments from the Redlands Review editorial committee:
Natalie Navarro’s piece intricately portrays a hybridized cultural experience of growing up in Southern California. While exploring a personal narrative, her reflections on losing a sense of belonging are strikingly familiar to many who seek to reconcile their identities during periods of disconnection.
About the judges:
Tiffany Elliott’s Bones Awaiting the Blaze was awarded the 2022 Hillary Gravendyk Prize, and her work has appeared in Typehouse, Spectrum, Inlandia, and other journals. She is an asexual, neuroatypical, and disabled woman and mental health professional who received her MFA from New Mexico State University, where she was awarded the Mercedes De Los Jacob’s Thesis Prize. Her works explore the mythologies we experience, those we create for ourselves, issues of abuse and trauma, and how people can remake themselves.
Ploi Pirapokin is the Nonfiction Editor at Newfound Journal, and sits on the board for Khōréō Magazine, Hivemind: Global Speculative Fiction Magazine, WP NOW, and the Ragdale Foundation. Her work is featured in Tor.com, Pleiades, Ninth Letter, Gulf Stream Magazine, Sycamore Review and more. She has received grants and fellowships from the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Creative Capacity Fund, Headlands Center for the Arts, Djerassi, Kundiman and others. A graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop, she also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She currently teaches at the Writers' Program at UCLA Extension, WritingWorkshops.com, and the University of Hong Kong.
L.I. Henley was born and raised in Joshua Tree, California. An artist and writer, she is the author of many books including Starshine Road, (Perugia Press). Her art, poetry, and prose have appeared in Adroit, Brevity, The Indianapolis Review, Ninth Letter, and Arts & Letters. Her essay, “Drive!” was chosen as the winner of the Arts & Letters/Susan Atefat Prize in 2020. Visit her at www.lihenley.com.
To learn more about the U of R Creative Writing Department click this link.