New York University’s Creative Writing Program will host the 2012 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards Reading on Fri., Sept. 21, 7 p.m. at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, located at 58 W. 10th Street (between 5th and 6th Aves.).
The writers featured in this event are: Julia Elliott, Christina Nichol, Lauren Goodwin Slaughter, Rachel Swearingen, Kim Tingley, and Inara Verzemnieks. Bios of the winners are listed below.
The event is free and open to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first served basis. For more information, call 212.998.8816 or visit www.cwp.fas.nyu.edu. Subways: F, L, M (14th Street/6th Avenue); 1 (Christopher Street); A, B, C, D, E, F (West 4th Street).
Julia Elliott’s (fiction) story Regeneration at Mukti received a Pushcart Prize and will appear in the 2013 anthology later this year. Her stories have been published in Tin House, Conjunctions, the Georgia Review, and other journals. Elliott plans to use her Writer’s Award to take time off and pay for child care so she can work on two novel projects. The first novel, The New and Improved Romie Futch, is about a South Carolina taxidermist who, after serving as a research subject and receiving brain downloads of “complex humanities disciplines,” returns to his hometown to confront his failed marriage. Her second novel project is narrated from the perspective of a female primatologist who is observing a troop of baboons and residing at a decadent research institute in the desert, where she encounters scientists of diverse gender identification and sexual orientation.
Christina Nichol (fiction) has just completed her first novel, Waiting for the Electricity, set in the Republic of Georgia. Her nominator writes, “The story involves a young Georgian, Slims Achmed, determined to modernize his eccentric, dysfunctional, absurdly romantic culture. This novel is big-hearted, intelligent, highly comedic, bravely ambitious, and brilliantly written.” With the help of her Writer’s Award, she plans to spend the next year traveling and working on two new book projects: Women Who Love Monks Too Much, a creative nonfiction book based on her experiences teaching English to Buddhist monks in South Korea, and The Best Way to Transport Gods, a novel about a Canadian documentary filmmaker who tries to answer the collaborative, national question of self-identity through Indian mythology.
Lauren Goodwin Slaughter (poetry) is working on her first collection of poems, A Lesson in Smallness. She says of this work, “My poems explore the way our identities can be symbolically expressed in seemingly benign objects and experiences—a trip to the salon, a high-tech mixer, a county fair ribbon, an ultrasound. These poems are particularly interested in taking a sometimes-critical, sometimes-celebratory look at how my own relatively new roles in the domestic sphere coincide with the most esoteric human experiences.” She will also begin a new series of poems responding to the tornadoes that struck her home state of Alabama last year. Her poems have appeared in Blackbird, Chariton Review, Hunger Mountain, among others, and she has received fellowships from Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Vermont Studio Center.
Rachel Swearingen’s (fiction) stories have appeared in Agni, the Missouri Review, and the Mississippi Review, where she also received a 2011 Fiction Prize for her story, “Felina.” Her story, “Mitz’s Theory of Everything Series” will appear in the anthology New Stories from the Midwest (2013). Her nominator writes, “To actually be surprised by a piece of short fiction and get caught up in a world and in a character’s path is a rare and wonderful delight.” Swearingen will be a visiting assistant professor in English at Kalamazoo College this fall. She is working on a novel about St. Paul, Minnesota, and the particular working class and new immigrant neighborhood of Frogtown.
Kim Tingley (nonfiction) is a freelance writer who is interested in science and the environment. Her work has appeared in OnEarth magazine and, most recently, the New York Times Magazine, where she has published pieces about the construction and history of the Second Avenue Subway in Manhattan and the science of soundscape ecology, including one researcher’s quest to record natural sound in the wilderness of Denali National Park. Her nominator writes, “Kim’s writing combines the best of personal essay, naturalism, and science writing. Her careful observation and crackling renderings work to both follow the deep tradition of first person nature writing while pushing the boundaries by wielding the slants and truths of creative nonfiction.” Tingley is working on a creative nonfiction book about the early history of Florida and the work of a young 19th century archaeologist.
Inara Verzemnieks (nonfiction) is completing her M.F.A. in creative nonfiction at the University of Iowa. Prior to that she worked as a reporter for 13 years at The Oregonian, where she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the James Beard Award in feature writing. Her creative writing has appeared in the Atlantic and Creative Nonfiction, and she has recently completed a piece entitled “The Last Days of the Baldock” about a group of homeless people who lived at a rest stop off the interstate near Portland, Oregon. Verzemnieks grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and was raised in part by her grandparents who were Latvian refugees. She is working on a book, part lyrical memoir/part history, about the experiences of Latvian exiles in the aftermath of WWII. She writes, “Tentatively titled, Eternal Exile, it is a work of creative nonfiction that uses the history of my family to reveal the larger history of a country and a people shaped by centuries of war, occupation, and dislocation.”
The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program was created by celebrated writer Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) to identify and support women writers of exceptional talent in the early stages of their writing careers. Grants of $30,000 are given to writers of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry to make writing time available and for such specific purposes as child care, research and related travel costs. Nominations of candidates are solicited from writers, editors, critics, and other literary professionals who are likely to encounter women writers of unusual talent. A selection committee is appointed each year to recommend awards from among the nominees. Direct applications and unsolicited nominations are not accepted by the Foundation. Since the program began in 1995, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 million to emergent women writers.