Kirsten Voris, a Tucsonan who works as a science editor and used to live in Ankara, Turkey, is one of the nine top finishers in the 2018 Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards. The book festival will be held March 10-11 on the University of Arizona campus.
This will be the sixth year the literary competition has been held. It drew a record 620 submissions from throughout the United States and Tucson.
In addition to cash prizes, the nine finalists receive scholarships to the Masters Workshop (March 12-13, 2018) that follows the festival.
Voris took third place in non-fiction writing for her “With Vampires, There Were Rules.” Judge Ron Hogan wrote: “This is a precisely calibrated glimpse inside a young girl’s mind as she paces uncomfortably at the brink of womanhood. It’s a short piece, but that means there’s not a wasted breath.”
POETRY (judged by Mary Jo Bang)
First place: Whitney Kerutis from Boulder, Colo.
“The Auctioneer’s Daughter” and other poems
She is a MFA candidate at The University Of Colorado Boulder where she works on several projects including Timber Journal, Subito Press and Letter Machine Editions. Her work can be seen in journals such as Anamesa Journal, WINDOW Journal and The Thought Erotic
Judge: “The titles of these poems — “The Auctioneer’s Daughter,” “Hell March,” “Body Room” — draw the reader in and create immediate suspense. The poems themselves skirt explanation but instead act as echo chambers where someone is speaking out of a silence, into a silence. The poems invite the reader to tease apart the echoes as a way of entering the speaker’s state of mind.”
Second place: Emily Van Kley from Olympia, Washington
“Houseboat” and other poems
Her work has received the Loraine Williams Prize, the Iowa Review Award, and the Florida Review Editor’s Award. Her collection, The Cold and the Rust, was named winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize and is forthcoming from Persea Press. She has published poetry in a wide range of journals and anthologies, including Prairie Schooner, The Mississippi Review, Best New Poets, and Best American Poetry among others.
Judge: “These profoundly thoughtful poems never reductively state their claims but instead create Emily-Dickinson-like slanted truths that are carefully woven into their sounds and rhythms and subtle associative leaps. Here, as in Dickinson, it’s the poem’s prosodic elements where ‘slantness’ works its subtle magic and fosters a mysterious empathic bond between the speaker and the reader.”
Third place: Heidi Johannesen Poon from Charlottesville, Virginia.
“Chosen” and other poems
She has published a Chapbook with the Poetry Society of America. She has an MFA from Iowa and fellowships from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, MacDowell, Iowa, Brown, Rona Jaffe (Breadloaf) and Carlow University (Patricia Dobler Award).
Judge: “There is a sly daring to these very spare poems. They speak to the sense of estrangement that occurs when one stands at a remove from the world and looks on from a distance. From that ‘outsider’ position, everything is tenuous, excitable (like atoms), and of course more than a bit dangerous.”
NONFICTION (judged by Ron Hogan)
First place: Saloma Miller Furlong from Harrisonburg, Virginia
“Ponce Dee Day Leon”
She has published two books: “Why I Left the Amish: A Memoir (Michigan State University Press, 2011),” a finalist for the 2011 Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award, and “Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds” (Herald Press, 2014). She has appeared in two PBS documentaries, “The Amish” and “The Amish: Shunned” that aired on American Experience. In 1997 her short story “Sarah’s Courtship” was published in Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Woman.
Judge: “This digs into a moment and holds tight. A controlled narrative with a sharply etched perspective, it puts us in this young girl’s life at a critical turning point.”
Second place: David J. Kennedy from New York
“Forever Gnawing at My Chains”
He graduated from Harvard College, where he was a staff writer, editor, and cook at The Harvard Lampoon. At Harvard he became the first American to win both the national and international parliamentary debate championships. He received his law degree from Yale Law School, where he was an executive editor of The Yale Law Journal. He clerked for two federal judges, the Hon. Kimba M. Wood of the Southern District of New York and the Hon. Wilfred Feinberg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. For the past 17 years he has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney specializing in civil rights work in the Southern District of New York, under, among others, Mary Jo White, James Comey, and Preet Bharara. He is also an adjunct professor at NYU Law School.
Judge: “A lively recreation of the inner workings of post-Civil War Washington — the conversations that take place outside the corridors of government that shape a nation’s path. Intriguing AND funny, this nonfiction piece reads with the urgent momentum of a novel.
Third place: Kirsten Voris of Tucson.
“With Vampires, There Were Rules”
She is a science editor who used to live in Ankara, Turkey.
Judge: “This is a precisely calibrated glimpse inside a young girl’s mind as she paces uncomfortably at the brink of womanhood. It’s a short piece, but that means there’s not a wasted breath.”
FICTION (judged by Kevin Canty)
First place: Sarah Harris Wallman of New Haven, Connecticut.
In 2013, she was awarded Prada’s international fiction prize as well as the grand prize from Dogwood Journal. Her stories have appeared in places like Kelly Link’s zine LCRW and the app Great Jones Street. She has an MFA.
Sarah says: “I attended your conference in 2014 as a short-story finalist and I learned so much (and had a fabulous time).”
Judge: “It’s sharply observed and very well-written but what drew me to this story was its unusual narration. This felt almost like a first-person-plural, a story in which the real protagonist was a group of women and not a single consciousness. Also, I loved this story’s open heart. It’s not at all afraid to engage the emotions.”
Second place: David Philip Mullins from Omaha, Nebraska
“The Brightest Place in the World”
He is the author of “Greetings from Below: Stories,” which won both the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and the International Walter Scott Prize for Short Stories. He’s a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and his fiction has appeared in The Yale Review, The Massachusetts Review, New England Review, and elsewhere. He received the Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame, the Dorothy and Granville Hicks Residency in Literature from Yaddo, an Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature from the Nebraska Arts Council, and a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at Creighton University.
Judge: “This story moves skillfully between several characters to tell a story of a larger disaster diffracted through individual lives, felt through individual hearts.”
Third place: Kim Taylor Blakemore from Portland, Oregon.
“The Rabbit Thief”
She is the author of the novels Bowery Girl, a NYPL Best Reads for Teens; and Cissy Funk, a WILLA award-winner for Best YA Novel. She is also the author of two interactive historical romances, “The Very Thought of You” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing.” She teaches Craft of Fiction and Historical Fiction workshops with PDXWriters.
Judge: “This except from a historical novel is told with clarity and grace. The period details seem sharp and accurate and seen in passing, out of the corner of the eye. The research never shows, which is an accomplishment.”