Writers awarded for work

Marlene Lacasse/Daily
English prof. Nicholas Delbanco speaks at the Hopwood Awards Tuesday. Buy this photo

By Danielle Wallick, For the Daily
Published January 29, 2013

Following the likes of Pulitzer Prize winner and University and Daily alum Arthur Miller, 23 students received Hopwood and other writing contest awards in the Rackham Auditorium on Tuesday afternoon.

The Hopwood Underclassmen Awards Ceremony announced and honored the undergraduate winners of the writing contests administered by the LSA Hopwood Awards Program in the fall term. Hopwood categories include fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

The awards are made possible each year by Avery Hopwood, an American dramatist who graduated from the University in 1905. He left one-fifth of his estate to the University with the stipulation that it be used to encourage creative writing by students.

This year, $11,900 was awarded, with prizes ranging from $100 to $3,000. Another contest administered by the Hopwood Program in April awards $16,100 in prizes.

Other awards included four poetry prizes, as well as the Roy and Helen Meador Writing Award and the Roy W. Cowden Memorial Fellowship, given each year to undergraduate students based on financial need and writing talent.

The first Hopwood awards were presented in 1931. Since then, more than 32,000 student writers have received a cumulative total of more than $3.4 million in prizes. The awards were presented by the director of the Hopwood Awards Program, English Prof. Nicholas Delbanco.

“Those who receive (awards) today join a distinguished company,” Delbanco said.

After the presentation of the awards, David Grann, a staff writer for The New Yorker, read excerpts from his works of non-fiction. Gran said he admired the Hopwood program because of its ability to inspire up-and-coming authors.

“In a time where, as a writer, I’m keenly aware of the difficulty and dwindling resources to create an environment where cultural young writers can thrive, I want to pay a particular attribute to the recipients today, and also to this program, which is really a value in this day and age,” Grann said.

LSA sophomore Tessa Wiles won $800 in the Hopwood fiction category for three satire pieces entitled “How to Dominate an Industry,” written from the perspective of John Mayer, “The Danger in Associating with a Blameless Nailfile,” written from the perspective of a nail file and “The Tale of Joan Alexandra Molinksky,” written from the perspective of Joan Rivers.

She said she entered the pieces on a whim, and was excited and shocked upon learning she had won.

“I never expected works about John Mayer and Joan Rivers to win a distinguished writing prize,” Wiles said.

LSA sophomore Yoav Gaffney also won in the fiction category. His piece, “Stories about Jerusalem,” was inspired by the year he spent in Jerusalem. He won $1,000.

“I didn’t think I was going to win,” Gaffney said. “I didn’t think I was going to submit it honestly, but my English teacher told me I should."

For the fiction, nonfiction and poetry Hopwood awards, two judges in each division read the entries and made recommendations. Prizes were awarded to each judge’s first and second-place choices, and the combined score for each contestant determined the amount of the prizes the contestants received. Entries are submitted under pseudonyms to avoid bias.