Winners of the 2013 AWP Award Series

The AWP Award Series for Creative Nonfiction

Sarah Gorham

Winner: Sarah Gorham
Study in Perfect, University of Georgia Press

Study in Perfect Bernard Cooper, Judge: Study In Perfect is a book that wholeheartedly delves into “ …the many faceted idea of perfection.” Drawing from the realms of science, philosophy, linguistics, social history, and personal reminiscence, the writer uses the abundance of knowledge and intuition at her disposal to define these facets. In doing so, she probes the human capacity to imagine perfection and to seek its illusive promise despite the odds against finding it. In many ways, this is a book about yearning and imperfection as much it is about the ideals we strive for, and the author’s humanizing touch makes Study In Perfect not only informative, but emotionally rewarding as well. It’s not often that I encounter a writer whose prose is this precise and lyrical, and whose imaginative leaps are as articulate, unpredictable, and entertaining.

Sarah Gorham is the author of four collections of poetry: Bad Daughter (2011), The Cure (2003), The Tension Zone (1996), which won the 1994 Four Way Books Award in Poetry, judged by Heather McHugh, and Don’t Go Back to Sleep (1989). She co-edited the anthology Last Call: Poems on Alcoholism, Addiction, and Deliverance, with Jeffrey Skinner, published in 1997 by Sarabande Books. Gorham’s poems have been published widely in Best American Poetry, Poetry, the Nation, American Poetry Review, the Paris Review, and other magazines. Her essays have appeared in the Iowa Review, AGNI, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, Arts & Letters, Quarterly West, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a poetry fellowship from the NEA and grants from the Kentucky, Delaware, and Connecticut Arts Councils.Gorham cofounded Sarabande Books, where she serves as President and Editor-in-Chief.

Finalist: Neil Mathison, Volcano: An A to Z and Other Essays about Geology and Geo-Travel in the American West

The AWP Award Series for the Novel

Matthew Burriesci

Winner: Matthew Burriesci
Nonprofit, New Issues Press

Nonprofit Charles Yu, Judge: The prose is cut with a sharp tool from stone, words and sentences fitting together just right, with nothing seeming to be wasted or out of place. The dry, bleak wit, unrelenting and consistently funny, reminds me more than a little of Helen DeWitt. And, like A.M. Homes, the writer has this amazing ability to generate and sustain forward narrative velocity almost completely from the twin engines of dim hope and awful dread - this sense of rolling forward toward disaster. Above all, though, it's the writer's tone that really floored me. A number of different formal devices and modes are used, always to great effect, and throughout, the novel never loses its nuanced, dark, and funny tone, all of which is tempered by a small kernel of warmth, love and buried optimism at the core of the story. For any novel to have such a dense, layered tone throughout is impressive…

Matthew Burriesci is the author of Dead White Guys: A Father, His Daughter, and the Great Books of the Western World. His fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines. Burriesci served as the Executive Director of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. From 1999-2011, he served in various capacities at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), including the organization’s acting Executive Director. From 1997-1999, he served as the Marketing Manager for the Tony-Award winning Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. He received his BA in English & Rhetoric from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, he studied Shakespeare during an Honors Seminar at Oxford University, and he received his MFA from George Mason University in 2002.

Finalist: Trudy Lewis, The Empire Rolls

The Donald Hall Prize for Poetry

Joan Naviyuk Kane

Winner: Kirsten Kaschock
The Dottery, University of Pittsburgh Press

The Dottery D. A. Powell, Judge: "Inventive & exhilarating, Kirsten Kaschock's The Dottery tells the story of mutters and dotters in fresh, bracingly original language. Dolls, surrogates, goldie (who 'was lock, lock, locked') and mannequins play out this keen allegory of gender in ways that are both astonishing and terrifying. Kaschock is an alchemist—you will be changed."  

Kirsten Kaschock is the author of two previous books of poetry: Unfathoms (Slope Editions) and A Beautiful Name for a Girl (Ahsahta Press). Her debut novel, Sleight, a work of speculative fiction, was published by Coffee House Press. A chapbook WindowBoxing is forthcoming from Bloof Books. She has earned a PhD in English from the University of Georgia and a PhD in dance from Temple University.  Kirsten is the Viebranz Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at St. Lawrence for 2013-14.  She resides in Philadelphia with Dan Marenda and their three children.

Finalist: Leora Fridman, The Riots

The Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction

Carla Panciera

Winner: Carla Panciera
Bewildered, University of Massachusetts Press

Bewildered Pam Houston, Judge: Apart from range in Bewildered, the level of excellence lies in the ways in which the author navigates so many different kinds of territories—first person, second person, third person, the canted realities of childhood, the accumulating losses of middle, and even old age. The writing is always economical without ever being minimal. Each sentence is made, full of suggestion, layered in understory. Attention is paid not only to meaning on every level, but also to rhythm, to cadence: here is a prose writer who, among many other things, cares about the sounds of words. There were many such moments in this manuscript, but the moment that won the Grace Paley Prize for Bewildered is in the title story. I don’t know if you can write a funnier, more poignant, more layered, harder working scene than the one that ends with the word “Bewildered.” It is a scene that the great Grace Paley herself, I believe, would have loved.

Carla Panciera is the author of two collections of poetry, One of the Cimalores (Cider Press) and No Day, No Dusk, No Love (Bordighera). She has published fiction, memoir, and poetry in several journals including the New England Review, Nimrod, the Chattahoochee Review, and Carolina Quarterly. A high school English teacher, Carla lives with her husband and three daughters in in Rowley, Massachusetts.

Finalist: Bradford Tice, Missionaries

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.