Winners from the 2014 CWW Awards Banquet

NOTE: The CW News Blog will be on break until the fall. We thought we’d leave you with the results of this year’s Graduate Awards Banquet.

The Joanna Leake Award for Best Fiction Thesis

Winner: Leah Downing, Roadside

The Carol Gelderman Award for Best Nonfiction Thesis

Winner: Josie Scanlan, Fraser Fir

Honorable Mention: Laura McKnight

2014 Awards

A few of the 2014 Award Winners: Lauren Capone (L) Tad Bartlett (C) Lea Downing (R)

The Cassin Prize for Best Poetry Thesis

Winner: Lauren Capone, The Hat Lady Equation

Honorable Mention: Megan McHugh, Friends Is Never Dreary

 

The Svenson Prize in Fiction

Judge:  Lori  Ostlund

Lori Ostlund’s first collection of stories, The Bigness of the World, received the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the California Book Award for First Fiction, and the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award, and was a Lambda finalist. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, The Southern Review, and The Kenyon Review, among other publications. Her first novel, After the Parade, will be published by Scribner in January 2016.

First Place:  Tad Bartlett, “Superpowerless”

Equal Runners  Up: Carin Chapman for “Frank Didiot” and  Dana Glass for “All Together Now”

 

2014 Samuel Mockbee Award in Nonfiction

Judge:  Mac McClelland

Mac McClelland is a CWW  nonfiction alumna (2006) and award-winning journalist (Mother Jones, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone).  Twice finalist for national magazine awards.  Books:  For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question: A Story from Burma’s Never-Ending War (San Francisco: Soft Skull Press, 2010); Irritable Hearts: On PTSD (New York:  Flat Iron Press—Macmillan, 2015)

First Place:  Cameron Todd, “Things That Happened in Crestone, Colorado”

Finalists:  Barry Fitzpatrick, “Shadowland,” Lea L. Downing, “How to Cook Venison”   Lauren Underwood, “To the Lost”

 

The Vassar Miller Poetry Award:

Winner: Megan Riley, “Blue Falsetto”

 

Andrea Saunders Gereighty/Academy of American Poets Award:

Winner: Jennifer Hanks

 

The Fredrick Barton Service Award

Co-Winners:  Robin Baudier and Lauren Capone

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A Moveable Race

CWW alumna Lacar Musgrove’s essay about the excitement of a 19th-century New Orleans bicycle race was recently featured on Storyville, a joint project of the CWW and WWNO national public radio. Take a listen to find out who won.

Lacar Musgrove

Lacar Musgrove

“Canal Street was unusually quiet for a Thursday. Along the broad thoroughfare that divides the city between Downtown and Uptown, Old and New, American and Creole, only a few mule-drawn omnibuses ambled. The offices and fashionable shops were closed. But at the rail stop in the middle of the avenue a crowd had gathered…”

-excerpt “A Moveable Race'” on the Storyville page of NPR affiliate, WWNO.

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The PWW: Alums Create Online Workshop

 By Jamie Amos and Coleen Muir

 In 2012, Coleen Muir  graduated from the CWW and left New Orleans. She missed the community she’d had, writers sharing their work and discussing narrative craft.  In an effort to get some of that community back, she sent out a call to recent graduates who were still actively writing and with whom she’d had passionate discussions about craft.

Top: Coleen Muir, Dave Parker; Middle: April Blevins, Jessica Viada; Bottom: Chrys Darkwater, Lindsay Allen, Jamie Amos

Top: Coleen Muir, Dave Parker; Middle: April Blevins Pejic, Jessica Viada; Bottom: Chrys Darkwater, Lindsay Allen, Jamie Amos

The PWW (Post Writers Workshop) was born.  Our members currently live in New Orleans, Brooklyn, and Charlotte, North Carolina. We teach, bartend, raise families, and work for the MacDowell Colony.  We’re working on short story collections, essays, and novels.  Our common ground: a need for community.

The benefits of an online workshop are many—no scheduling conflicts, time constraints, or need to clean your house for company—but online workshops also pose unique problems.  Early on, we sent stories by email and commented individually, but this didn’t simulate the spontaneous discussion of a traditional workshop.

Jamie Amos (our tech guru) came to the rescue by creating a user-friendly Google Drive format that made our workshops more interactive. Our writers submit two versions of the same story— one clean copy for reading and one for commenting. Since we reply to previous comments, this format feels like an ongoing conversation.

Because we’re all busy with work, family, and other obligations, our original goal of one story per week wasn’t feasible.  We’ve modified the submissions to every two weeks, which gives members more time to read and comment, revise their own writing, and submit more refined work.  Consistency keeps our group sharp.  Having a schedule forces us to constantly return to our writing; we’re accountable to each other.

We’ve kept our workshop small.  Current members are all CWW alums: Lindsay Allen, Jamie Amos, April Blevins, Chrys Darkwater, Coleen Muir, David Parker, and Jessica Viada.  Our format seems to be working as our writers have recently published in Cream City Review, Fourth Genre, Narrative Magazine, storySouth, Cold Mountain Review, and others.

More importantly, we’re challenging each other to find the white-hot center of our stories.  We’ve been together long enough now (over a year) to recognize tics and habits and to point to the smallest paragraph and exclaim, “This! This is where the passion is!”  We’re pushing each other to take risks and fail miserably and keep going—the most essential thing in our writing lives, post-MFA.

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PEAUXDUNQUIANS SAY: FIND YOUR TRIBE

by Caroline Goetze

The Peauxdunque Writers Alliance, a group of writers who meet in New Orleans but who each “hail from their own personal Podunk,” says every writer needs to “find their tribe.” Maybe even more than one. In fact, this talented and successful group of writers, whose membership includes CWW members present and past, Tad Bartlett, April Blevins, Dana Glass, Sarah Paul, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin, says there’s no reason to feel promiscuous if you belong to more than one writer’s group.

At the most recent Louisiana Book Festival, several Peauxdunquians participated in a panel discussion that centered on the type of support writing groups in general, and their group in particular, can provide. Tad Bartlett and Maurice Ruffin stressed that although writing is a solitary endeavor, having an intimate community like Peauxdunque where new pieces can be incubated, and where they feel like part of a family rather than a workshop, makes an enormous difference in their writing.

Peauxdunquians: CWW alum Maurice Ruffin (far left) and current student, Tad Bartlett (center) are among the founders of the group.

Peauxdunquians: CWW alum Maurice Ruffin (far right) and current student, Tad Bartlett (center) are among the founders of the group.

The Peauxdunque Writers Alliance is not currently accepting new members. However, they encouraged attendees at the book festival to form their own groups. The ideal grouping, Maurice Ruffin says, “Comes from a place of mutual respect and chemistry.” He went on to say, “The universe is telling you not to write. Your writing community tells you to write.”

Whatever they’re doing, it seems to be working. You can check out their bonafides on their website.

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Kelly McQuain Wins BLOOM Chapbook Prize

CWL alumnus, Kelly McQuain, recently chatted with first year CWW student, Caroline Goetze, about poetry, lies, and how it felt to win the 2013 BLOOM Poetry Chapbook Prize.

Caroline Goetze: First of all, congratulations on winning the BLOOM Poetry Chapbook Prize.

CWL Alumn Kelly Mcquain

CWL Alumnus Kelly Mcquain

Kelly McQuain: Thank you. It was exciting to learn the news from Charles Flowers, the chief editor of BLOOM. BLOOM’s published out of Los Angeles, and I live in Philadelphia, so it’s nice to know one’s writing strikes a chord with people so far away.

CG: Judge C. Dale Young wrote about your prize-winning chapbook Velvet Rodeo, “These poems understand that to tell the truth, one must lie, play tricks, and even dare to say the unbelievable.” What’s the most blatant lie you’ve ever told?

KM: I think I lie every day. The persona I climb into every morning is a lie and a truth at the same time. I think I’ve lied to myself when I’ve said I haven’t held back at times with people I have loved. On nearly every occasion, there is always a part of me that holds back, that looks on from afar, that steps outside the moment to observe. The “I” in the moment and the “eye” hovering above. It’s useful for a writer to live both inside and outside of a moment. It’s frustrating as a human being, however.

CG: Your poem “Writing Poetry” contains the lines, “… One thing I’ve / learned the slow way: All poems are about / writing poetry.” And later, “…  One / thing I’ve learned the hard way: All life is / writing poetry.” Can you talk a bit about your personal connection to poetry, both as a creator and as a reader/listener?

KM: I like poems that are lively in performance. Sound and meaning need to fuse together into something more than individual parts. From the very beginning, poetry was more than ordinary speech, yet poetry must also strive to be more than rote formula.

Not every poem can come alive on both the page and the stage, but the poems I like best usually do. I like poems that are sensual, instinctual, alive and tinged with hope even at moments of despair. I also like poems that experiment with their appearance on the page, that use white space or word placement to govern vocal performance while enhancing the connotation between ideas. Arranging a poem on a page feels to me like painting a canvas: phrase plays off phrase, sound echoes sound, but an impulse toward unity and order steers you through the poem’s space, down to its final turn. 

CG: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

KM: The earliest thing? A cowboy, which is apropos for a chapbook titled Velvet Rodeo. At six or seven, I had a blue suede cowboy outfit and a mask. I fancied myself the Lone Ranger, whose old TV adventures were on reruns at the time each Saturday afternoon. Soon after, I wanted to be Robin, sidekick to Batman. Always someone in a mask. Growing up gay in West Virginia, I learned at a young age the usefulness of masks.

CG: What are you working on now?

KM: My main project right now is a full-length manuscript tentatively titled  Alien Boy, which I’m currently finishing up. The poem that inspired the title is available online at Bloom, which first published it in their print journal last year.

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Hollerin’ in the Sixth Ward

The CWW’s Woodlief Thomas recently took to the airwaves for the CWW’s project, Storyville. In his essay, he asks Hollerin' a question that has been on everyone’s mind lately: Where have all the hollerers gone?

” [W]hen Rod hollered his “Alright!” you remembered, in case you forgot, that that’s what it all was — alright. You’d be like damn, I’m alright, Rod’s alright… everybody’s alright, and here we are. See, you could do something with that. You could get started from there, do some things.”

-excerpt “Hollerin'” on the Storyville page of NPR affiliate, WWNO.

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Dan Lawton on Storyville

Dan Lawton on Storyville

Dan Lawton’s “Thirty” on Storyville

In a recent installment of Storyville, nonfiction student, Dan Lawton, talked about his summer stint as a crime reporter:

“Claiborne Avenue is my exit. My shocks tremble as I clunk into the neighborhood. I see the bright-yellow police tape in the distance. The final burning fragments of the red sun are seconds from being snuffed out behind the shotgun style houses. I park, grab the notebook and go.

The block is heavy with muffled voices, folks sitting on the stoop swigging from brown-bagged beers. I couldn’t feel more self-conscious: a floppy-haired white boy striding up to a murder scene dressed like he’s about to make communion.”

Read the whole post or listen to it on wwno.org, UNO’s Creative Wrting Workshop radio partner  :  http://wwno.org/post/storyville-thirty

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An Interview with Che Yeun

First year fiction student, Jack Belli, sat down with recent grad, Che Yeun, to ask her about  life, beauty and art. And publishing, of course.

Jack: How did you start publishing?

Che: The first publication came from the study abroad contest with UNO, which also gave you free tuition for the whole month in Scotland. It felt really good and I kept submitting because I was chasing that high.

Fiction Grad Che Yeun

Fiction Grad Che Yeun

Jack: And now you have just recently won the Marguerite McGlinn Prize.

Che: The story I submitted I had been working on for 2 and half years, and had been trying to submit it for a year in various forms. As I kept revising, I started to get better responses, like personalized rejections from editors. I just kept going back to the draft and reworking it and showing it to new people to get new opinions on it.

Jack: What was the theme of your thesis?

Che: There’s a political theme and then a more personal theme. I come from abstract thinking, from my undergraduate study, and I’ve always had bigger things in mind, critiques of race, sexuality, gender, and language.

But when I sit down to write, I like the freedom of inhabiting people who do really bad things and make very bad decisions. We all know people like that, but I never stopped to consider the process. I really wanted to do that, to imagine that I could be a really terrible person… it was easier than I thought.

Jack: It’s difficult using an idea as the foundation for a piece. How do you mitigate philosophy with story?

Che: It’s like being a person, you can’t just be really smart, otherwise people can’t stand you. You also have to be charming. In the beginning, I think I was being too evangelical about my viewpoint. I’ve stopped doing that. Now I start inside a person and let them bleed outward, instead of starting with an idea and trying to shove it into characters.

Jack: What advice would you give to people just entering the program?

Che: Work on an editorial board. They’re always looking for readers. I read submissions working for the Tennessee Williams Festival. When you are on the other side of the gate, you notice dos and don’ts very quickly. You are able to imagine how editors will perceive your work.

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Donna Bachler’s Short Film Featured on ABC

donna-bachler

First Lieutenant Donna Bachler

CWL fiction student, Donna Bachler, was selected to participate in ABC’s creative mentorship program, which pairs U.S. veterans with creative teams from ABC.  Her short film, A Homecoming, tells the story of a young veteran awaiting the return of his best friend. It will premier on abc.com  and will  be available for viewing  after December 13.

“A Homecoming” is part of the channel’s annual  “Home for the Holidays” campaign, which features five short films written, directed, and produced by U.S. Veterans. 

 

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Jonathan Brown Talks Teaching on WWNO’s Storyville

Jonathan Brown

Current student Jonathan Brown (P’14) talks about laughing inappropriately and repaying karmic debt while teaching high school in New Orleans on the CWW’s three-minute storytelling radio series, Storyville. “Teaching is a sort of really loud, chaotic meditation,” Jonathan says in his piece.

Storyville and all the other things you love are broadcast  on our NPR affiliate, WWNO, from studios here on the campus of the University of New Orleans.

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