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GREENVILLE—Miriam Herin of Greensboro is the winner of the 2018 Doris Betts Fiction Prize competition for her story “Lucky.” She will receive a prize of $250 from the North Carolina Writers’ Network, and her story will be published in the North Carolina Literary Review’s 2019 print issue.
Miriam Herin’s second novel, A Stone for Bread, published by Livingston Press of West Alabama University, was selected as one of Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2016. The author’s first novel Absolution won the 2007 Novello Press Literary Award, was a Finalist for Foreword Magazine’s 2007 Novel of the Year, and received the Independent Publisher's 2008 Gold Award for Best Fiction, Southeast Region. A native of Miami, Florida, she has lived in the Washington, DC, area and New York City, as well as in South Carolina where she earned a Ph.D in English Literature. She has taught Composition and Literature at Appalachian State University and Greensboro College, among other places. She spent over six years in inner city Charlotte organizing and directing a program for Southeast Asian teenagers, whose families were refugees from the Vietnam War, the genesis for the story “Lucky.”
This year’s final judge, Stephanie Powell Watts, received the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her debut story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need (Ecco Press, 2012), which was also named one of 2013’s Best Summer Reads by O: The Oprah Magazine. Her debut novel, No One Is Coming to Save Us (Ecco Press, 2017), the Inaugural Sarah Jessica Parker Pick for Book Club Central, was described as “a backwoods African-American version of The Great Gatsby” by Janet Maslin in The New York Times Book Review. Born in the foothills of North Carolina and receiving her BA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Watts currently lives with her husband and son in Pennsylvania where she is an associate professor at Lehigh University.
This year’s Betts competition drew 141 submissions. Watts selected Herin’s story from eighteen finalists, saying, “With inventive, deftly rendered scenes ‘Lucky’ tells the story of the protagonist, Sokha’s, epic journey to buy rice and a bottle of cola from a neighborhood store. Sokha is haunted by tragedy, and her memories of the Red Khmer in Cambodia many decades past rise unbidden and unwelcome as she navigates the streets of her American town.” Watts describes “Lucky” as “an intimate, tender story about the loss of community, our mutual fear of our neighbors, and the boundaries of our faith,” and says she will be "thinking about this beautiful story for a long time.”
Watts picked “Corin and Dorinda” by Asheville resident David Brendan Hopes for second place, calling it “a wise story that is, at its heart, a story of disappointment. Despite being an accomplished scholar and teacher, Dorinda watches while her husband gets the ‘real job’ and becomes more and better ensconced in the English department at his small rural college. ‘Corin and Dorinda’ is an emotionally intelligent story about what we are owed and what duty we have to the people in our lives in happy times and especially when we don’t get what we desperately need.” Hopes’s story will be published in NCLR Online 2019, which comes out in January or early February.
David Brendan Hopes is a Professor in the Department of English at UNC-Asheville. His novel, The Falls of the Wyona, won this year's Quill Prize from Red Hen Press; it is scheduled for publication at the end of the year. His plays Uranium 235 and Night Music have recently played at Asheville's Magnetic Theater, and his latest book of poems, Peniel, was published by St. Julian Press in 2017.
Watts also noted the finalists “Life List” by Ray Morrison and “For A Blaze of Sight” by Beth Gilstrap for honorable mention and remarked upon the strong narrative voice of finalists Mamie Potter in “Moving” and Chris Verner in “A Plague on the World.” Other finalists for the 2018 Doris Betts Fiction Prize were Colena Corbett’s “Definition of Perspective,” Fielding Clarke’s “Lost in Translation,” Frederica Morgan Davis’ “You & Me & John & Yoko,” Molly Edmonds’ “The Judge,” Ruben Gonzales’ “Her Red Slippers,” Thomas Johnson’s “End of the Line,” Ronald Jackson’s “Dog Jesus,” Callie Lewis’ “Tapeta Lucida,” Patricia Poteat’s “Pin Curls,” Lynn Sadler’s “Incarnation(s),” Sherry Shaw’s “Hyacinth Drive,” and Jennifer Vogel’s “The Eagle’s Nest.”
The annual Doris Betts Fiction Prize honors the late novelist and short story writer Doris Betts, the first to call North Carolina “the writingest state.” The competition is sponsored by the nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network, the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages of development. Betts’s support of writers, both her UNC students and countless other protégés, is manifested in the Network’s reminder that, particularly in North Carolina, “Nobody Writes Alone.” For additional information about the North Carolina Writers’ Network, visit www.ncwriters.org.
A two-year subscription to NCLR will include the 2018 issue, coming out this summer with the winning story from the 2017 Betts competition, as well as the 2019 issue, featuring Herin’s winning story from this year’s competition and an interview with Stephanie Powell Watts. Subscribe at www.nclr.ecu.edu/subscriptions.
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For the third year in a row, the winning poem came from a record-setting number of entries.
Final judge Lauren Moseley said of Freeman’s poem, “The smell! The sights! The textures! The author of 'Burnt Offerings' makes the reader experience the poem: I felt the flames in my hair, the 'shards of shattered glass' at my feet, and the relief of 'holy water.' I also admired the juxtaposition of the speaker's hair blazing in a Baptist church and the burning 'Viking boat' in the river, bringing us Christian and pagan imagery in a rushing voice that never sounds forced. By the end of this journey (the 'arms of fallen oak' one of my favorite stops along it), we see that the speaker is as ephemeral a vessel as the cardboard boat. I love this poem.”
Sylvia Freeman is a native North Carolinian, a writer, poet, award-winning photographer, and singer/songwriter for fleur-de-lisa, a women’s acapella quartet who use poetry lyrics in their original music. Her poetry has appeared in The Lake, When Women Waken, Carolina Woman, and elsewhere. One of her photographs was featured in a special Best in Show exhibit in Palm Springs, CA, in 2017. Her photos can be found in Dove Tales, Heron’s Nest, and the online gallery Fusion Art.
Moseley named “Dog Pissing on a Statue of the Buddha” by Asheville poet Luke Hankins as Runner-Up.
Hankins is the author of a collection of poems, Weak Devotions, and a collection of essays, The Work of Creation: Selected Prose. He is the editor of Poems of Devotion: An Anthology of Recent Poets, and a collection of his translations from the French of Stella Vinitchi Radulescu, A Cry in the Snow & Other Poems, is forthcoming from Seagull Books. Hankins is the founder and editor of Orison Books, a non-profit literary press focused on the life of the spirit from a broad and inclusive range of perspectives. He also serves as Senior Editor at Asheville Poetry Review.
Moseley selected “Red Mower, Blue Sky” by Charlotte’s Dannye Romine Powell and “Meditation Stone” by Greensboro’s John Thomas York for Honorable Mention. Powell has four collections of poetry, most recently Nobody Calls Me Darling Anymore from Press 53, and is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA, the NC Arts Council, and Yaddo. York won the 2017 Page Crafters Prize from the On the Same Page Festival, as well as the Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize for a memoir, "Seven Years on the Farm," forthcoming from North Carolina Literary Review.
The Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition accepts one-poem submissions and honors poet poet and critic Randall Jarrell, who taught at what is now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for nearly eighteen years. He was a 1996 inductee of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame who left behind nine books of poetry, four books of literary criticism, four children’s books, five anthologies, a bestselling academic novel, a translation of Goethe’s Faust, Part I, and a translation of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, produced on Broadway by The Actors’ Studio.
The competition is administered by Terry L. Kennedy, Associate Director of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. storySouth is an online literary journal dedicated to showcasing the best poetry (and fiction and creative nonfiction) that writers from the "new south" have to offer. Facilitated by the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at UNCG, storySouth aims to prove that "the internet is not just a medium of flash and style; that excellent writing can attract attention without programming gimmicks and hard-to-read fonts." storySouth believes the American South today is a "mix of traditional and new, regional and international."
Final judge Lauren Moseley is the author of Big Windows, named one of "12 Most Anticipated Poetry Collections Hitting Bookstores in 2018" by Bustle. Lauren's poems have appeared in the anthologies Best New Poets and Women Write Resistance and in such magazines as FIELD, Narrative, Copper Nickel, West Branch Wired, and Pleiades. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Lauren has been a fellow at Yaddo and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and a recipient of an artist’s grant from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.
The non-profit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.