Writers read work from Denise Gess Literary Awards

Sharing personal poetry and stories may be difficult or even embarrassing for some, but for certain writers on campus, being open to submitting those pieces won them the 2014 Denise Gess Literary Awards.

Winners of these literary awards were invited to present their selected works to the public on April 10 at 7 p.m. at Rowan’s Barnes & Noble. Students, having submitted writing samples in categories including fiction, non-fiction and poetry, received awards and a rose from the writing arts department for their efforts, and, for the grand prize winners in each category, a $150 award from the Rowan Foundation.

Professor and judge for the creative nonfiction awards Julia Chang said she was proud of the talent showcased during the selection process.

“I’m always thrilled to hear from friends, parents and other students who are basically ‘blown away’ by what we writers do and how we do it,” Chang wrote to the winners in an email.

Junior writing arts major Regina McMenamin Lloyd won both the second place prize for the Edward J. Czwartacki Award for Fiction and third place for the Rowan University Prize for Poetry collections.

“My fiction story that took second place is an excerpt from a novel I have been writing for six months,” McMenamin Lloyd wrote in an email. “It is set in a cult and tells the story of a girl being abused and finding a friend she can trust. My ‘Nostalgia Poetry Collection’ is a grouping of pieces I have worked on [while] at Rowan.”

For the poetry collections, students could have used writing samples from their classes, ones they wrote on their own or a combination thereof.

“I started with the concept last semester in my class ‘Writing the Young Adult Novel,’ with Professor Lisa Jahn Clough,” McMenamin Lloyd wrote. “Most of the poems in the collection are newer work from my poetry class with professor Manda Frederick from the fall, but I read a piece I had written in 2010 when professor Ron Block gave us the assignment of mashing two things up that didn’t belong. I mashed up the beach and the bar — and got the ‘Beachtown Bar.’”

For award winners like graduate student Carol Magrino, who is a Master of Arts in writing student, won the honorable mention in the Pat B. Tweedie Award for Nonfiction, writing brings her joy in more ways than one.

“Being honored at the Literary Awards was very exciting for me,” Magrino said. “I had family and friends there to support me, and I was so happy just to be recognized as part of the Rowan community of writers.”

Apart from the experience of being able to share their own pieces, students also relished hearing their peers’ work.

“I thought they were amazing,” McMenamin Lloyd said. “I was very proud of my classmate Kristina Forest — her story had great dialogue. I was moved by Ojas Patel’s creative fiction story to the point that I gasped and wanted to cry.”

Senior English and secondary education major Ojas Patel won first place in the Pat B. Tweedie Award for Nonfiction for his story “Your New Face” and senior writing arts major Kristina Forest won third place in the Edward J. Czwartacki Award for Fiction for her story “As of Yet…”

Many of the winners plan to continue to pursue their passion and sharing it with others.

“When I graduate Rowan, I plan on getting a [Master of Fine Arts] in creative writing,” McMenamin Lloyd said. “I want to be a novelist and hopefully teach creative writing at the secondary level.”

Some writers have been passionate about their work even since a young age.

“I have been writing stories and poetry since I was child and I have never had any formal training, so it was wonderful to have my passion validated in such a way,” wrote junior history and religion and philosophy double major Katelyn Sullivan, winner of the first place Edward J. Czwartacki Award for Fiction.

Above all, students were thankful for the programs and faculty at Rowan, without whom producing the award-winning pieces would not have been possible.

“I think that the Writing Arts program at Rowan is a jewel in South Jersey that deserves greater recognition,” Magrino said. “The faculty is fantastic, and there is tremendous talent in the students that I have gotten to know in my classes. I feel so fortunate to have found a place where I can hone my craft as a writer.”

Chang is thankful for events like these and the support of the Rowan Foundation’s commitment to the arts.

“The reading wasn’t just a showcase for terrific student writing but also the highlight of our academic year,” Chang said. “It makes all the work that goes into the competition a richly satisfying part of our jobs.”

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