Winners of the 2019 AWP Award Series

The AWP Award Series for Creative Nonfiction

Megan Harlan

Winner: Megan Harlane
Mobile Home, The University of Georgia Press

Debra Monroe, Judge: "“Wise, stoic and yet wistful, Mobile Home sidles up to a family story so moving that a traditional memoir would feature it as a harrowing predicament to be overcome. Instead, this book contextualizes sorrow, death, and discontinuity, reminding us that—in terms of human experience—sorrow, death, and discontinuity aren’t rare, that we don’t overcome them as much as incorporate them into a self in which every memory becomes a familiar room or passage, a self that, no matter where we go, is home. Narrated in a deceptively tranquil voice, this book moves deftly through many locales, through architectural history, through poignant family history, fusing research with experience as it ponders a single question: what it means to be rooted while rootless. Individual essays shift between only apparently incongruous ideas and experiences, the links between them creating new meaning, and together the essays build a coherent, climactic book.”

Megan Harlan's essays have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Colorado Review, Hotel Amerika, Alaska Quarterly Review, Arts & Letters, and Cincinnati Review, and have been awarded the Arts & Letters Prize for Creative Nonfiction (2018) and cited as distinguished in Best American Essays 2018. Her first book, Mapmaking (BkMk Press/New Letters), won the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry. She holds a master’s degree from New York University’s Creative Writing Program and works as a writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Finalist: Anne Panning, Walking Backwards

The AWP Award Series for the Novel

Robert Shuster

Winner: Robert Shuster
To Zenzi, New Issues Press

Bonnie Jo Campbell, Judge: “This miraculous coming-of-age novel is set against a backdrop of death and destruction as Berlin falls to the allied forces in 1945, but it manages to be more adventure than war story. Part Billy Pilgrim, part Huckleberry Finn, part Candide, our picaresque protagonist is a fourteen-year-old boy, orphaned and drafted into the disintegrating German army, stoutly enduring the insults of his position, finding a way to survive (at times even thrive) by negotiating the rubble and human ruins of Hitler’s crumbling empire. To Zenzi is a tragic story brilliantly and seamlessly told, full of love, humor, and hope.”

Robert Shuster received a 2011 James Jones First Novel Fellowship for To Zenzi when the book was still in progress. His short fiction has appeared in North American ReviewWitness, The Mississippi Review, and Stone Canoe (among other publications) and in the anthologies Micro Fiction (W.W. Norton) and Yellow Silk II (Warner Books). His short story, “A Solution to the Barber Paradox,” was the 2014 winner of The Winter Anthology contest. In 2005, he was the recipient of a research fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society for his writings on war. For several years, he wrote art reviews for The Village Voice.

Finalists: Leah McCormack, Solve for N & Sharon Harrigan, Half

The Donald Hall Prize for Poetry

Joy Priest

Winner: Joy Priest
Horsepower, University of Pittsburgh Press

Natasha Trethewey, Judge: "Horsepower, Joy Priest’s debut collection, is a captivating display of might and elegance, a language of astonishing sinew through which the backdrop of place and a compelling life come into vivid focus. Undergirding these poems is a restless, resilient spirit: an urgent grappling with the desire to both remember and outrun the past, with history both personal and communal, and the complexities of American racism in its most intimate manifestation—familial love.Throughout this remarkable debut, Priest shows us what it means to clear the stall, break out of the traces, and run unbridled into life."

Joy Priest’s poems and essays appear in numerous publications. Priest is the winner of the 2019 Gearhart Poetry Prize from The Southeast Review; the 2019 Nikki Giovanni Scholar at the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop; the 2018 Gregory Pardlo Scholar at the Frost Place; the winner of the 2016 College Writers’ Award from the Hurston/Wright Foundation; and the recipient of a 2015 Emerging Artist Award from the Kentucky Arts Council. Additionally, she has received support from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the University of South Carolina, where she received her MFA in poetry with a certificate in women & gender studies and served as senior editor for Yemassee Journal. She is a 2019-2020 Fine Arts Work Center Fellow in poetry. 

Finalist: Chelsea DesAutels, Metastasis

The Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction

Cécile Barlier

Winner: Cécile Barlier
A Gypsy's Book of Revelation, Red Hen Press

Dan Chaon, Judge: “This collection has an astonishing range of styles and subject matters—it seems that there’s no character or situation the author is afraid to explore, and the stories are full of surprising experimentation and a balance between realism and the weird that I found deeply compelling.  Readers who, like me, are fans of Jim Shepard and Carmen Machado will find much to admire here: like Shepard, these stories vividly embody surprising and unusual premises and worlds; like Machado, they are fearlessly nontraditional in their structure and approach. But they are also their own unique thing, sui generis, each story imbued with authority and wisdom. I’m super excited about this author’s future work.”

Cécile Barlier was born in France and received her master’s degree from the Sorbonne University in Paris. Three of her short stories, “A Gypsy’s Book of Revelations,” “Forgetting,” and “MRI,” have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. “Forgetting” is featured in Epiphany’s 30th anniversary anthology. Her work is featured or is forthcoming in Amarillo BayBacopa Literary Review (first place for fiction, 2012), Blue Lake ReviewClare Literary JournalCrack the SpineCerise PressDelmarva Review, Euphony JournalThe Emerson ReviewGold Man ReviewGone LawnKnee-JerkThe Lindenwood ReviewThe MeadowNew Delta ReviewPenmen ReviewRed Savina ReviewSaint Ann’s ReviewServing House Journal, Sou’westerStreetLight MagazineSummerset ReviewSweet Tree ReviewThe Tower JournalValparaiso Fiction ReviewThe Wax Paper, and Whistling Shade.

Finalists: Ruthvika Rao, Lady on the Tiger & Angela Buck, Masters and Servants


List of Winners

See a list of previous AWP Award Series winners.