“I am a writer – this is what I do,” said David Turner, who graduated last winter from the University.

Turner won a $4,000 Hopwood Screenplay Award for “The Free Agent,” a romantic comedy that he compared to “Jerry Maguire.”

The 72nd Annual Graduate and Undergraduate Hopwood Awards Ceremony was held yesterday afternoon in Rackham Auditorium. The Awards are funded by a donation from Avery Hopwood, a 1905 University graduate. A prominent dramatist, Hopwood endowed a fifth of his estate for the encouragement of creative writing.

This year, students received $119,500 in prizes for writing. Categories included drama, screenplay, novel, essay, short fiction and poetry. Thirty-five graduate and undergraduate students were awarded cash prizes ranging from $600 to $7,000.

Students’ works went through two rounds. University faculty and members of the Ann Arbor community judged the first. National judges from each respected field then read the finalists’ work.

Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Howard was the keynote speaker at the event. A graduate of the University, former Hopwood winner and published poet, Howard stressed the importance of reading in his speech titled “The Fatality of Reading.” “There is merely indifference …students in our writing programs do not read,” he said.

Howard expressed great concern for students’ lack of reading, especially in “voluminous works” such as those by Marcel Proust. He left the awards ceremony with a message to writers. “Without reading, writing will perish. We do not write for ourselves, for each other, we write for the great dead,” he said.

Hopwood Award recipients joined the ranks of alumni such as Arthur Miller, Nancy Willard, John Wagner and Naomi Saferstein. “Over 2,600 gifted young writers have received awards and those who receive them today are among distinguished writers,” said English Prof. Laurence Goldstein, who presented the awards.

Rackham student Elizabeth Kostova, a student in the Creative Writing Program, received a $7,600 Hopwood Novel Prize and the Geoffrey James Gosling Prize for her novel “The Historian,” which she described as being “about the historical Dracula and three generations of historians who pursue his legend.”

“Like most writers, I am going to use it (the prize) to pay some debts,” Kostova said. “I also plan to go to Bulgaria to finish some research for the novel.”

LSA junior Tyler Lieberman won prizes for his screenplay “The Good Doctor.”

“I wanted to write a thriller,” Lieberman said. “I hate needles and doctors, so I used my own fear to make the screenplay more chilling,” he said.

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