Writing contests announced for IWU poets and writers

Alessia Girardin, News Editor

Next Friday, March 11 at 4 p.m. is the deadline to enter the writing contests Illinois Wesleyan hosts annually. All students of any major have the opportunity to enter poetry, short fiction and essay contests administered by the English department. 

“I like to tell my students: you’ve done the work of writing; now, do just a little more work (like submitting to a contest) to let the work possibly work for you,” Professor Michael Theune said. Theune, who is head of the English department, said the extra resumé line is worth the effort to press “send.”

The first contest that students can enter is the Academy of American Poets University & College Poetry Prize. Founded in 1955, Academy of American Poets has launched the careers of many promising poets including Sylvia Plath, Tess Gallagher, Mark Strand and Joy Harjo. To enter, students should submit 4-6 poems, single-spaced and the total length must not exceed 12 pages. 

Yovana Milosevic, who won the poetry award in 2020, shared the benefit in her professional experience she received from this award in 2020. 

“When I was hired, my company googled me and found my poem posted on the Academy of American Poets website, which was a key talking point for me in my interview,”  Milosevic said. 

Students who write short fiction can submit their work for the Illinois Wesleyan University Department of English Essay Prize for Short Fiction. The award was founded in 1997 as a way to promote and encourage aspiring fiction writers at Illinois Wesleyan. To enter, students should submit up to 18 pages of fiction. This can either be a single short story or a segment from a novel that is able to stand alone. 

“I figured it wouldn’t hurt to submit one of my stories. I wasn’t expecting to come out of it, so I was so excited when I got the congratulatory email stating that I had won,” Holly Brill said, who won the award in 2021. 

For students who prefer personal essays, there is also the Illinois Wesleyan University Department of English Essay Prize. It was established to promote and encourage practioners of the art of the personal essay. To enter students should submit a one-essay, double-spaced, or no more than 5,000 words. 

“I had a piece that I really liked and figured why not. After winning, it was the moment where I felt I was being told: ‘Yes, this is good, moving writing. Keep going.” 2020 essay award winner, Rachel Williams said. 

Theune agreed with Williams, and said that the takeaway of the award is the encouragement: someone you don’t know has really connected with your work, enough to give it an award.

Milosevic also gave incoming applicants advice about not limiting your submissions necessarily to a collection, but different kinds of pieces that might not relate to each other. 

“Because they have such high caliber judges, I found that demonstrating a sense of range in my writing capabilities was what they were looking for,” Milosevic said. 

The winners of any of the contests will receive $100, and a certificate. Incoming applicants will gain recognition of their writing getting beyond the IWU “bubble” that might benefit them down the road. 

“​​We talk about getting beyond the IWU ‘bubble.’ One very easy way to get beyond the bubble is to have one’s work considered and assessed by someone from outside of the campus community,” Theune said.