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NCWN Members Sweep the 2022 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize

by Deonna Kelli Sayed


NCWN members swept the honors in the North Carolina Literary Review’s 2022 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize, judged by historian David S. Cecelski.

Audrey Jennifer Smith authored the winning essay, with honorable mentions for Angela Belcher Epps, Blaise Kielar, and Ashley Memory.

Audrey’s essay, “In the Summer of Missing Girls,” is part of a book-in-progress centered on the unsolved 2002 murder of Jennifer Short. Audrey will receive $500 and her entry will be published in the NCLR’s 2023 print issue.

“Winning the 2022 Albright Prize was so incredibly affirming,” she said. “Now that I’ve taken some time to celebrate with several impromptu one-person dance parties in my apartment, the pressure’s on to finish the book!”

Audrey completed her MFA from Oregon State University in 2021. She is a producer for WUNC’s Embodied podcast and a bookseller at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro.

Angela Belcher Epps received accolades for her deeply personal essay, “Those Awful Family Trees.” She said, “Having received an honorable mention is a big win for my development as a writer. In the essay, I reveal aspects of my personal history that I’ve generally avoided. The Alex Albright competition coupled with NCLR’s upcoming ‘Writers Who Teach’ issue sparked reflections about the sometimes-fragile hearts of children growing up in nontraditional families. It’s a subject that I really care about.”

Based in Raleigh, Angela is the author of Salt in the Sugar Bowl, published in 2013 by Main Street Rag.

Blaise Kielar of Chapel Hill also received an honorable mention for his essay “Violin Shop: Behind the Velvet Counter.”

His submission resulted from attending the Network’s Fall Conference. “My first prize in a writing competition and placement in a literary journal is particularly sweet since it would not have happened without NCWN,” he explained. “After visiting the NCLR display at the November NCWN conference, I subscribed. Now my writing will join some of NC’s best in their pages. Timing is fortuitous, energizing my search for an agent or publisher for the complete memoir, Be Heard: The Quiet Kid Who Started the World’s Loudest Violin Shop.”

Asheboro’s Ashley Memory, another Honorable Mention, submitted the “Private History of Deviled Eggs.”  She is thrilled to finally place. “I had been trying to break in for years, and this honor proves the value of persistence,” said Ashley. “I’m very grateful to the editors of the NC Literary Review and the final judge for seeing something special in my work, and also to my writing group for graciously reading three drafts of my essay and lending their advice and encouragement throughout the writing.”

Honorable Mention recipients will receive $100, along with their essays being published in the NCLR.

The Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize is an annual competition open to any writer who fits the NCLR definition of a North Carolina writer: anyone who currently lives in North Carolina, has lived in North Carolina, or uses North Carolina as subject matter.

The Network congratulates our members for their excellent writing and commitment to literary community.