Winners of 2019 Teppola Creative Writing Prizes

Contact: Scott Nadelson

Nationally recognized judges choose award recipients in poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction

Congratulations to the winners of the third annual Mark and Melody Teppola Prizes in Creative Writing at Willamette University:


Judge: Brian Blanchfield, author of A Several World

First Prize: “i know i must be getting old when i start feeling nostalgic” by Clarissa Lincoln

Judge’s comments: A lyric and agile assessment of a key childhood relationship, then and now. Formally dextrous and inventive, the poem holds in parallel two friends' inseparability years ago and their "stumble over small talk" now. It is impressively evocative ("back then, we were / clementine, watch tan, sunshine kids") and a good example of how a poet's structural decisions can enhance the emotional content and sharpen real, human impact.

Second Prize: “Star Trees” by Morgan Webster

Judge’s comments: A tender, plainspoken narrative of a hidden, erotic companionship, fueled by the obliviousness of crowd that overlooks the pair, and supported by the natural world that seems to sanction their connection. In the rare and perfect place, what the Greeks called the "locus amoenus," circumstances conspire, and "we combine our breaths."

Third Prize: “Persimmon and Fig” by Katherine Castellana

Judge’s comments: A restless reconsideration of a peculiar gift, and what it might have meant, and a longing for the union which was fleeting but which preoccupies the speaker of this breathless rhapsody on the girl "who tucked Aristotle and his secrets / into my purse."


Judge: Kate Carroll de Gutes, author of The Authenticity Experiment

First Prize: “A List for Proof” by Dawn-Hunter Strobel

Judge’s comments: "A List for Proof" is innovative in structure and form. Like a well-trained essayist, the author mines old journals for fragments of content that appear in the main sections of the piece itself or in the footnotes, showing the importance of not presuming to know or remember everything even though the author is writing about his own life. The use of strikethrough is clever because this writing informs the reader just as much as the strikethrough does, forcing the sentences, in essence, to do double duty, while the quoted section heads serve to educate readers unfamiliar with the social constructs of gender. Finally, this essay shows nice symmetry by tying the ending back to the beginning with the image of the psychic.

Second Prize: “The Secret of Tears” by Emma Donoho

Judge’s comments: "The Secret of Tears" is a beautiful example of a braided essay that uses the metaphor of washing the dishes to look at tears, and why the author does and does not cry. The writing is lyric and polished and the author does a fine job of showing us how household chores and tears themselves stand in for the things a family doesn't say.

Third Prize: “the last playlist” by J. Kushinka

Judge’s comments: “the last playlist” gets extra credit for scanning in the envelope the author created to hold a CD of music that was created for a beloved before the relationship even ended--or had a hint of ending. Whether using Spotify or a cassette, every reader can resonate with a mixed tape and its metaphorical as well as emotional significance.


Judge: Asali Solomon, author of Disgruntled

First Prize: Flowers of Unusual Origin by Claire Alongi

Judge’s comments: This is beautifully written; the voice of the young person through whom its focalized is sensitive and authentic. I enjoyed the the science project overlay.

Second Prize: Identification by Crystal Zamora

Judge’s comments: This had a lively compelling voice with a surprising, dramatic and tragic ending. I felt drawn in to the story and enraged by its events.

Third Prize: Uncharted Waters by Shelby Weisburg

Judge’s comments: This story was upsettingly and absorbingly realistic as far as child wrangling was concerned, but the disaster that has befallen the main character is a well-rendered dreamy nightmare. The writer takes a light touch to what could be melodramatic material. Very well done.

Future event and thanks

Please congratulate our winners, and look for an announcement about an event to celebrate their achievements toward the end of the semester.

We are grateful to Mark and Melody Teppola for the generous gift that makes these prizes possible.

Willamette University

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