Creative Writing Awards Showcase Talented Student Writers


At the reading, award recipients gathered to share their pieces with faculty and peers. (YUNJIA LI /THE OBSERVER)


Every year the Fordham Creative Writing department honors a handful of students from both the Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campuses who have shown impressive writing ability and have produced outstanding literary works. This year’s winners included Connor Mannion, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’16, Wallis Monday, FCLC ’16, Adam Fales, FCLC ’17, Elizabeth Shew, FCLC ’16, Danni Hu, FCLC ’17, Diana Shao, Fordham College  at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’16, Katherine Sommers, FCRH ’16 and Bo Fisher, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). 

On April 27, a reading was held in the 12th floor lounge of Lowenstein, to showcase the award winners. Each recipient was able to read an excerpt or the entirety of his or her piece for an audience of students, faculty, family and friends.

Students submitting their work for review were asked to do so online, where Amy Benson, writer-in-residence and faculty adviser to The Comma, and Allison Parrish, digital creative writer-in-residence, reviewed the work and decided on this year’s winners. When evaluating submissions, Benson noted that they were searching for “resting language, new subjects and a sophisticated sense of projects.”

Below is a list of this year’s recipients and a few notes about their work.

Connor Mannion is a Communications major. His short story, “Mojave Whiskey Weather,” earned him the Margaret Lamb/Writing to the Right Hand Margin Award. In his story, Mannion gives readers a brief window into the lives of a group of friends who gather every other week to play a drinking game. Although none of the friends seem to be particularly interested in playing the game after a while, they continue to play, as it gives them a feeling of tradition and community.

Wallis Monday, a Comparative Literature and Art History major, is the recipient of both the Academy of American Poets Award for her pieces “Hemingway and John Wayne Walk into a Bar” and “To the Cemetery Voices” and the Ully Hirsch/Robert F. Nettleton Poetry Award for her piece “Mapmaking and Inventory.” All winning pieces were from Monday’s “Mythmaking” series of poems, which is a part of her senior thesis. “It’s about the West, particularly gender in the West—growing up a woman in the state of Texas and how that’s affected me.” In addition to commenting on stereotypical gender roles in the West, Monday references lighter topics in her collection. The series, for example, explains her love for Texas and the reason why she constantly has typical western movie stereotypes in her head. “I always want to be the John Wayne-type, which I’m clearly not.”

Adam Fales, an English Major, is a recipient of the Margaret Lamb/Writing to the Right Hand Margin Award for his piece “Between-ness.” During his freshman year, Fales had an internship at the Poetry Project, where he was exposed to many great poets. When asked what specific poets inspired him, Fales responded, “Douglas Piccinnini. He has this really interesting reading style, where you can’t really tell how it’s supposed to be read. I think it’s mostly improvised when he does it.” When it came to “Between-ness,” however, Fales intends for it to be read rather than performed. “Between-ness” is a nonfiction piece heavily influenced by authors such as Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, Lauren Berlant and Kathleen Stewart. Structured as a list, “Between-ness” explores what actually goes into a piece of writing and how the most banal interactions influence us unconsciously.

Elizabeth Shew is earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance, as well as her Bachelor of Arts in English with a creative writing concentration. Shew had no problem deciding her majors—“I’ve loved writing and dancing since I was really young, so when I came here I knew it was what I wanted to do.” Shew is a recipient of the Margaret Lamb/Writing to the Right Hand Margin Award for her piece “The Distance Between Two Skins.” The story is a non-linear narrative about a young woman who lost her husband and her unborn child in a car crash. “It’s a piece that makes me really uncomfortable, [and] now I feel terrible because it’s so dark. I feel like my view of the world is not that dark. I’m a little bit embarrassed about it,” Shew admitted, in regards to her piece. Shew, a member of the Ailey/Fordham BFA program, was the only award recipient not able to attend the awards and read her piece—she had a prior commitment to dance in the Alvin Ailey senior showcase.

Danni Hu-Yang is majoring in English, with a Creative Writing concentration. Her piece, “Female Perversion,” was awarded the Ully Hirsch/Robert F. Nettleton Poetry Prize. When asked for insight into her piece, a poem with an unusual structure and a gender change a third of the way through, Hu-Yang was more interested in what other people thought of it and how they interpreted it. “I love how people can read it in different ways.” Concerning the inspiration and motivation behind her writing, Hu-Yang said, “I write about my experiences. I think everything [you write] is very revealing of who you are. I like to write about childhood friends and how adults can become children again.”

Katherine Sommers, an English Major with a double minor in Theology and Philosophy, is the recipient of the Reid Family Prize for her piece “Development.” Awarded to any Fordham student, the Reid Family Prize is “given for excellence in the field of creative expression and engaged commitment to social justice.” Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric” served as the main influence for “Development,” according to Sommers. She also took inspiration from the game of chess: “It is actually about using chess and the parallels of a chess board to parallel development in our society right now,” Sommers said.  “[Society] is a bit unequal, and I just wanted to call light to that.”

Diana Shao, a Neuroscience and Philosophy major, is the recipient of the Bernice Kilduff White & John J. White Creative Writing Prize. Shao’s piece, titled “Shadow Play,” was inspired by her mother’s youth in China. “The story was inspired by my mom telling me she had meningitis in China when she was two and so I was a little curious about this case because it was really bad,” Shao said. After looking into the case, even grappling with CIA documentation regarding it, Shao found inspiration. “[The story] deviated from her actual story because I wanted to focus on trying to imagine what it’s like to be a barefoot doctor… this rural doctor who doesn’t have any real resources,” she noted.

Bo Fisher is studying English at GSAS. He is the recipient of the Margaret Lamb/Writing to the Right Hand Margin Prize for his piece “Washing Jean Jackets in West Jeff.” The piece tells the story of washing jean jackets with rocks, a theme Fisher credits to his teenage years. “I got a jean jacket for Christmas back when I was in high school and I told my dad that I would need to find a way to make it more ‘jean,’ you know, dark blue. He jokingly told me a story about him and his friends in the neighborhood that they grew up in, that whenever they would get jean jackets they would take them to the laundromats and put rocks in the washing machine along with them. So I’ve always had that idea in the back of my mind.”