Creative Writing Program Awards celebrates students’ works

Image announcing Awards
Awards card

Dozens of York University undergraduates were recognized for their work in poetry, short fiction, stage writing and screenwriting at the annual Creative Writing Program Awards ceremony, sponsored by the President’s Office and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS).

The online ceremony, conducted via Zoom on April 29, honoured the winners from both 2020 and 2021 (last year’s ceremony was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic). The event was organized by David Goldstein, Creative Writing program co-ordinator and associate professor of English, with support from staff members Kimberly Wilson, Rose Crawford and Divya Love.

The event celebrated multiple awards this year: President’s Prizes and the Lorna Marsden Award for Creative Writing in French. These awards are open to all York undergraduates. The LA&PS Creative Writing Awards honour majors and minors in the Creative Writing program. Most of the awards are supported by donations from York alumni and affiliated community members.

“It’s so wonderful to be able to celebrate student achievement wherever and whenever we can,” Goldstein said. “Bringing together students, family members, donors and judges in one room, even a virtual one, is a rare and lovely opportunity.”

Every year, the program invites a guest speaker who is an alumnus of the program or University. This year the audience heard from Jay Singer, a 1996 York English alum who went on to earn an MFA in fiction from New York University. The former president and CEO of Discount Car and Truck Rentals, Singer talked to the students about the power of a liberal arts education to shape and heighten thinking for business and other life endeavours.

The program also used the occasion to announce two new University-wide prizes for the coming year: the Richard Teleky Short Fiction Prize, donated by Singer to honour a former director of the program; and the Daniel Whittaker-Van Dusen Prize for Emerging Poets, donated by Sheelagh Whittaker and Michael Van Dusen in memory of their son Daniel.

Michele Johnson, associate dean of students in LA&PS, also spoke at the gathering. “Paying tribute to the hard work and creativity of our students,” she said, “helps give them a sense of how important we think their efforts have been – especially where our online world has been so challenging this year.”

Lorna Marsden, former president of York University, donor of the French award and founder of the President’s Prizes, concurred. “The Creative Writing program is crammed with talent,” she said. “It is incredible to see such interesting creative minds win these awards.”

The following is the list of winners of the President’s Prizes in Creative Writing:

Poetry

Winner (2020): Rachel Kearney for Translation of Hadrian’s “ANIMULA, VAGULA, BLANDULA”
Judges: Andy Weaver and Stephen Cain

Winner (2021): Maria Helena Rykov for fire & salt
Honourable Mention (2021): Michael Kayser for Country Drive at 2:00 AM
Judges: David Goldstein and Kenzie Allen

Short Fiction

Winner (2020): Sehaj Brar for And the Sun Burned Our Eyes
Winner (2021): Suhana Rampersad for The Soucouyant
Honourable Mention (2021): Daryl Bruce for Day 9610
Judges: Pasha Malla and Jen Duncan

Stage Play

First Winner (2020): Amanda Monasar for A Walk Through Time
Second Winner (2020): Emily Al-Jbouri for Ramsey
Judges: Rob Fothergill and David Smukler

Winner (2021): Sara Masciotra-Milstein for Jew(ish)
Judges: Patricia Keeney and Rob Fothergill

Screenplay

Winner (2020):  Abbie Henderson for The Word Monster
Honourable Mention (2020): Bernice Danjuma for The Stories Untold
Winner (2021): Abbie Henderson for The Storm Cat
Co-Honourable Mention (2021): Taylor Levy for Warriors of Warsaw
Co-Honourable Mention (2021):  Ivy de Rege-Braga for Self Service
Judges: Caitlin Fisher and Rob Gardiner

The following is the list of winners of the LA&PS Creative Writing Program Awards:

Stanley Fefferman Prize in Creative Writing

The Stanley Fefferman Prize in Creative Writing is awarded to the student who produces the best final class portfolio in an introductory creative writing course.

2020: Moboluwajidide Joseph

2021: Sakeina Syed

Judith Eve Gewurtz Memorial Poetry Award

Awarded for the best poem submitted by a creative writing major who is completing their third year of study (90 credits). The recipient must demonstrate financial need and be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or protected person and an Ontario resident.

2020 Winner: Justin Vanek for Random Number Generant
Judge: Andy Weaver

2021 Winner: Ivy de Rege-Braga for She’ll Be Ok
Judges: David Goldstein and Kenzie Allen

Adrienne Grago Memorial Prize for Short Fiction

The Adrienne Grago Memorial Prize for Short Fiction was established by Barbara Rasha Grago and Jennifer Hann in memory of Barbara’s daughter Adrienne, who graduated from York University with a BA (Honours) in Creative Writing and English in 2007. This prize honours the best short story by a creative writing major who is completing their third year of study.

2020 Winner: Marlee John for For Jaden
Judges: Pasha Malla and Jennifer Duncan

2021 Winner: Matteo Cerilli for More than One Way
Judges: Pasha Malla and Jennifer Duncan

The Lorna Marsden Prize for Creative Writing in French

The Lorna Marsden Prize for Creative Writing in French is to be given to one student from any York campus who writes the most accomplished and persuasive creative French work of poetry, short fiction, short drama or mixed genres in the Fall/Winter semester. The creative work must be inspired, persuasive, original and entirely in French.

2021 Winner: Diana Eve Amiscaray for La Neige
Honourable Mention: Sara Youssef for La Mijoteuse Canadienne
Judges: Hedi Bouraoui and Elizabeth Sabiston

Babs Burggraf Award in Creative Writing

The Babs Burggraf Award in Creative Writing offers financial assistance to a fourth-year student majoring or minoring in creative writing with proven talent and achievement in short story writing. Faculty members in the program will nominate fourth-year students (successful completion of at least 84 credits) who have submitted short stories as part of their academic work for the session. The recipient must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or protected person, an Ontario resident and demonstrate financial need.

2020 Winner: Teya Hollier for About Two Blocks
2021 Winner: Marlee John for Notice of taking Deposition – Supreme Court of Paris

Bp Nichol Award

Bp Nichol’s death in September 1988, before his 44th birthday, was a tragedy for York University and the Canadian literary world. He was a winner of the Governor-General’s Award, a Fellow of Calumet College and taught with the Creative Writing program. This award, in the form of a book certificate, is given to an exceptional undergraduate student writer for accumulative achievement in creating writing. To be eligible, students must be nominated each spring by an instructor in the Creative Writing program.

2020 Winners: Rachel Kearney and Jackson Donnelly
2021 Winner: Laura Bourbonnais

Sorbara Award in Creative Writing

Awarded to students with proven talent and commitment in creative writing. Recipients must be Canadian citizens, permanent residents or protected persons, Ontario residents and demonstrate financial need. This award is made possible by the generous donation of Gregory and Kate Sorbara and their six children, all of whom have strong dedication to the creative arts and music.

2020 Winner: Dante Nieuwold
2021 Winner: Michael Kayser
2021 Co-Honourable Mention: Moboluwajidide Joseph
2021 Co-Honourable Mention: Rachel Kearney