Winners of the 2011 AWP Award Series

The AWP Award Series in Creative Nonfiction

Winner: Marcia Aldrich
Companion to an Untold Story, University of Georgia Press

Susan Orlean, Judge: Exquisitely sad but painstaking in its clarity, Companion to an Untold Story is an effort to understand a friend’s decision to commit suicide. The author lays out the facts and emotions using the structure of an abecedary, as if the simplicity of a child’s alphabet book could bring logic to the terrible puzzle of loss.  There is no suspense in the outcome, but reading the book draws you in so intimately that you, too, feel an urgent need to understand why an intelligent, likeable man would choose, with great deliberateness, to kill himself. This is a difficult subject, written extraordinarily well: a winner.

Marcia Aldrich teaches creative writing at Michigan State University. She is the author of   Girl Rearing, published by W.W. Norton and part of the Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers Series. She has had essays appear in The Best American Essays, The Beacon Book of Essays by Contemporary American Women, and a wide range of literary magazines such as The North American Review, The Seneca Review, The Gettysburg Review. She has been the editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction. In 2010 she was the recipient of the Distinguished Professor of The Year Award for the state of Michigan.

Creative Nonfiction Finalist: Cole Cohen- Brains

The AWP Award Series in the Novel

Winner: Kirstin Scott
Motherlunge, New Issues Press

Don Lee, Judge: Told with dazzling prose, Motherlunge is a wry, luminous exploration of the legacy of motherhood—here, about the afflictions that may cycle through generations. Thea, the novel’s young narrator, escapes the doldrums of her mother’s manic depression to visit her sister, Pavia, who is pregnant. Yet when Pavia’s behavior begins to echo their mother’s instability, Thea must step in to care for her sister and her baby, and make some decisions about her own burgeoning desire for children. This is a thoroughly engaging novel, with wonderful turns of phrase in every sentence, and its witty humor announces a welcome new voice in American fiction, full of charm and tender wisdom. 

Kirstin Scott won the Original Writing Competition sponsored by the Utah Arts Council, and her stories have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Sonora Review, Western Humanities Review, and elsewhere. She works as a medical writer and lives in Salt Lake City, UT with her husband and two children.

Donald Hall Prize for Poetry

Winner: Laura Read
Instructions for My Mother's Funeral, University of Pittsburgh Press

Dorianne Laux, Judge: “Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral uncovers the mysteries of girlhood in haunting tableaus and synesthesiac encounters with the past and then gradually moves us into the domestic present. The death of a father and re-marriage of a mother, a complicated relationship with a brother, seen through a child’s eyes; a house stoppered like a bottle where she sits alone in the quiet aftermath. Strange in that way all art is strange, light come to light, but always a palpable darkness riding beneath; a mature lyrical voice translating memory’s turbulent, wordless world.”

Laura Read teaches composition, literature, and creative writing courses at Spokane Falls Community College. She has published poems in a variety of journals, most recently in Rattle, the Mississippi Review, Third Wednesday, and the Bellingham Review. Her chapbook, The Chewbacca on Hollywood Boulevard Reminds Me of You, was the 2010 winner of the Floating Bridge Chapbook Award. She lives in Spokane, Washington with her husband, Brad, and their two sons, Benjamin and Matthew.

Poetry Finalist: Tim Skeen- Six Coefficients of Friction

The Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction

Winner: Corinna Vallianatos  
My Escapee, University of Massachusetts Press

Jhumpa Lahiri, Judge: With the spare, definitive strokes of Matisse’s late portraits, the stories in My Escapee hew precisely to the truth, while rendering a series of expressive and particular female lives. The characters are disoriented, vulnerable, at times dependent on others; they are also determined, defiant, passionate. One admires their self-awareness, one forgives them their imperfections, one feels keenly their isolation. The language is lucid, forceful, in turns unassuming and startling. Read together, these stories navigate an intimate landscape of fault lines, of grottoes of emotions, of stark passages and significant crossings. Vivid, whimsical, and restrained, they introduce a mature voice, an affecting and bracing debut.

Corinna Vallianatos’s stories have appeared in Tin House, McSweeney’s, A Public Space, the Gettysburg Review, Epoch, and elsewhere. She was recently awarded a fellowship from The MacDowell Colony. She lives with her husband and son in Claremont, California.

Short Fiction Finalist: Adrianne Harun- Lost in the War of the Beautiful Lads

List of Winners

The Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction are made possible by the generous support of:

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See a list of previous AWP Award Series winners.