The Creative Writing Program will host the 2018 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards Reading on Fri., Sept. 14.

The Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House
The Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, which will host the 2018 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards Reading on Fri., Sept. 14.

The New York University Creative Writing Program will host the 2018 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards Reading on Fri., Sept. 14, 7 p.m. at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, located at 58 W. 10th Street (between 5th and 6th Aves.).

This year’s winners are: Chelsea Bieker, Lisa Chen, Lydia Conklin, Gabriela Garcia, Karen Outen, and Alison C. Rollins. Celebrating its 24th year, the Rona Jaffe Foundation provides support to women writers in the early stages of their writing careers. 

The event is free and open to the public, with seating 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, M (West 4th Street).

Biographies of the 2018 Award Winners: 

Chelsea Bieker’s novel, Godshot, follows 14-year-old Lacey May after her mother abandons her in their drought-stricken, raisin-farming town in California’s Central Valley. Lacey seeks guidance and refuge from their cult-like church congregation, but their plan for her destiny is more terrifying than anything she could have imagined. She is also working on a story collection, Cowboys and Angels, and a nonfiction narrative/memoir about loss, motherhood, abuse, and the lives of several women in her family, an excerpt from which, “Why We Must Believe Women: My Family’s Legacy of Violence and Murder,” first appeared in Catapult’s online magazine in 2017. Bieker’s work is published or forthcoming in GrantaMcSweeney’s Quarterly, Joyland, and The Cincinnati Review, among other publications, and she is a recipient of a 2014 MacDowell Colony Fellowship. She received her B.S. from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and her M.F.A. from Portland State University. She is an adjunct writing teacher at Harrisburg Area Community College and freelances as an online dating profile writer. Bieker lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and children.

Lisa Chen is working on an ambitious hybrid nonfiction narrative that combines memoir with cultural criticism and biography. She examines the themes of time and obsolescence, loneliness and kinship, freedom and control through interweaving the life and work of the provocative New York City downtown performance artist Tehching Hsieh with an account of the life and physical and mental decline of her Alabama-born stepfather and her own struggle with “projects.” Chen received her B.A. from UC Berkeley and her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Brick, Ninth Letter, Guernica, StoryQuarterly, The Common, The Threepenny Review, and other publications. Her collection of poems, Mouth, was published by Kaya Press in 2007. She has held fellowships and residencies at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace Program, the Center for Fiction, and Blue Mountain Center. She will be a fellow at the Saltonstall Arts Colony this fall. Her Writer’s Award will allow her to reduce her freelance work as a writer and editor and “give her the momentum and courage to finish this work.” Born in Taipei, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Lydia Conklin’s darkly humorous and incisive fiction captures the full range, texture, and nuance of the quotidian queer experience in all its complexity. She is currently working on a collection of short stories, Rainbow Rainbow; a novel, Cat Monkey Horse; and a graphic novel based on her comic series, Lesbian Cattle Dogs. Conklin received her B.A. from Harvard University and her M.F.A, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work has been widely recognized, including two Pushcart Prizes, and has appeared in Tin House, The Southern Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and The Gettysburg Review, among others. In 2018, her story “Counselor of My Heart” appeared in Love Stories for Turbulent Times, a collection of the best prose of the last twenty-five years of the Pushcart Prize. She has received fellowships and residencies from Hedgebrook, Djerassi, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Yaddo, and MacDowell, and scholarships from Bread Loaf. She plans to use her Writer’s Award to significantly cut back on her freelance work and finish these manuscripts over the next year and submit them for publication. She currently lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Gabriela Garcia is working on a first novel, entitled Of Women and Salt, a complex, multigenerational story that speaks to her own heritage as the daughter of Mexican and Cuban immigrants. She writes, “My characters dismantle the notion that there is a single Latinx or immigrant experience. Jeanette, a recovering addict with a violent past, sets out to meet her maternal grandmother in Cuba against her family’s wishes, and in doing so uncovers a secret that shatters her perceptions of how blood, privilege, and borders shape lives and set them into irreversible collision. The novel spans five generations and four countries to tell the stories of women whose survival hinges on the unexpected bonds between them, and in the process, turns a lens on how privilege, colorism, and immigration inequality shape a community over decades.” Garcia is also working on a collection of short stories, some of which are published or forthcoming in Iowa Review, TriQuarterly, and Indiana Review. She received her B.A. from Fordham University and completed her M.F.A. from Purdue University in 2018. Her Writer’s Award will allow her the space and time to devote herself to these writing projects for the next year as well as fund an important research trip to Cuba. She lives in Lafayette, Indiana.

Karen Outen is working on a first novel, The Life After, about 47-year-old African-American Dixon Bryant who loses his brother on a fateful climb on Mount Everest. After the disaster, an amputee and unmoored, Bryant returns to work as a middle school counselor where he encounters a troubled boy. Their clashes set off a series of events that lead to Bryant’s arrest and threaten to destroy him. Outen is also working on a collection of personal essays about her mother’s youth and her own adolescence. Outen received her B.A. from Drew University and her M.F.A. from the University of Michigan. Her work has appeared in Glimmer Train and The North American Review. Her Writer’s Award will allow her to take a sabbatical from her job at George Washington University Law School to focus her attention on completing her novel. She says, “Time has become the thing I think about most: the time spent trying to make time for my writing, the time spent not being able to make that space, the time I cannot get back. I see this award as my way to stop time and mold it around my writing.” Outen lives in Bowie, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.

Alison C. Rollins is completing her first collection of poems, Library of Small Catastrophes, to be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2019. She is a librarian for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her work both supports and informs her poetry. She says, “In my book, I utilize the concept of the library archive to offer a lyric history of the ways in which human beings struggle to process loss.” Rollins is also working on a second collection, which explores Afro-futurism together with current philosophical examinations of time. She received her B.S. from Howard University and her M.L.I.S. from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, and The Offing, among others. She is a recipient of a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg fellowship and has been awarded support from the Cave Canem Foundation, Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, and Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. She will use her Writer’s Award to focus more on her writing and travel to Mexico, Argentina, and Russia for further research on these projects. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.

ABOUT THE AWARDS PROGRAM: The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program identifies emergent women writers of exceptional promise. The Foundation recognizes that women writers make special contributions to our culture and, through the Writers’ Awards program, tries to address the difficulties that some of the most talented among them have in finding time to write and gaining recognition. Women who write fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry are considered for the program’s grants of $30,000. Awards are given to those in the early stages of their writing careers whose published or unpublished work reveals accomplishment and demonstrates a commitment to writing. Since the program began in 1995, the Foundation has awarded more than $2.5 million to emergent women writers. Nominations of candidates are solicited from writers, editors, critics, and other literary professionals who are likely to encounter women writers of unusual talent. (Direct applications and unsolicited nominations are not accepted by the Foundation.) A selection committee is appointed each year to recommend awards from among the nominees. Nominators and selectors serve anonymously. Beth McCabe directs the Writers’ Awards program. To learn more, visit www.ronajaffefoundation.org.

ABOUT RONA JAFFE: Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) established The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program in 1995. It is the only national literary awards program of its kind dedicated to supporting women writers exclusively. Since the program began, the Foundation has awarded grants to 152 outstanding women. Ms. Jaffe was the author of 16 books, including Class Reunion, Family Secrets, The Road Taken, and The Room-Mating Season (2003). Her 1958 best-selling first novel, The Best of Everything, was reissued by Penguin in 2005. For more, please visit www.ronajaffefoundation.org.