A recent graduate of the University of Arizona’s master of fine arts poetry program is one of three writers who captured top prizes in the 2014 Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards writing competition.

“All of this is pretty fresh,” said Emelia Reuterfors, 27, who won the poetry competition with “Anti-Kill and Other Poems,” a selection of her work. “I’m kind of free-falling right now, and it feels pretty good,” she said. “It’s very validating to win this award.”

Luke Tennis of Baltimore won top prize in fiction and Michelle Chikaonda of Philadelphia was the nonfiction winner.

Each will receive a winner’s prize of $1,000 as well as invitations to take part in a Masters Workshop and in a panel discussion in the Arizona Daily Star Pavilion at the festival, which takes place March 15-16 on the UA campus.

This was the second year the book festival sponsored a writing competition, which expanded the festival’s focus to include writing as well as reading.

Organizers received 310 entries last year. This year’s contest attracted 552 submissions from as far as India, Australia and Scotland, in addition to nearly every state in the country and throughout Arizona.

“Like the Book Festival itself, the writing competition has caught on in a significant way,” said Tucson Festival of Books Chairman John M. Humenik, group publisher for the company that owns the Arizona Daily Star. “The number of entries and the quality of the submissions are pretty amazing.”

Meg Files, chairwoman of the English and journalism department at Pima Community College West Campus, coordinated the competition and said she was impressed by the entries.

“The judges were all blown away by the quality of the submissions,” said Files, who recruited a team of eight local authors to do the preliminary judging. Final judging was done by authors Kevin Canty, Rigoberto Gonzalez and Rae Armantrout, who are also presenters at the book festival.

The UA College of Humanities is a partner in the competition and the workshop.

Armantrout, whose 2009 book, “Versed,” won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle award, said of Reuterfors’ work: “Spare and elegant, these poems are subtle explorations of the vexed borders between self and other, attraction and aggression.”

Reuterfors said she looked forward to meeting Armantrout. “I’m a huge fan of hers,” she said.


Literary Awards are given in three categories: fiction, nonfiction and poetry.  Second-place finishers receive $500, and third-place finishers take home $250. The top 50 entrants are invited to participate in the Masters Workshop.

The top three finishers in each category:


1. Luke Tennis, Baltimore: “Go Long”

2. Jill Rosenberg, Montclair, N.J.: “Everything Nice”

3. Jack Wang, Ithaca, N.Y.: “The Night of Broken Glass”


1. Michelle Chikaonda, Philadelphia: “AIDS: A Family Topology”

2. Melani Martinez, Tucson: “Making a Manda”

3. Claudia Ellquist, Tucson: “When Brown Bats Fall From Safety”


1. Emelia Reuterfors, Tucson: “Anti-Kill and Other Poems”

2. Heidi Johannesen Poon, Charlottesville, Va.: “The Problem of the Forest and Other Poems”

3. Heather Winterer, Medanales, N.M.: “Poems from Zoon”