46th Creative Writing Awards puts student talent in spotlight

Mathom Fiction Award-winner Ethan Gormley adresses the ceremony’s audience.  (Photo provided by Taisha Laird)
Mathom Fiction Award-winner Ethan Gormley adresses the ceremony’s audience. (Photo provided by Taisha Laird)

On Quest Day, the English and creative writing departments honored its best and brightest at the 46th annual Charles F. and Miriam B. Davis Creative Writing Awards.

After professor Leigh Wilson’s characteristically charming anecdote about reading pretentious literature with a dead squirrel, the ceremony began. Student writers were recognized in eight different categories, including the newly introduced “Literary Citizenship Award for Most Influential Student,” which went to Marian Holmes. did not even know she had been tapped for the award.

“It was a mix of both shock and honor,” Holmes said. “It was kept as a surprise from me, but when I first opened the program and saw it written there, I felt warm.”

The Rosalie Battles Creative Nonfiction Award for best nonfiction piece went to Samuel DiSalvo for his essay “What It’s Not Worth.” Holmes and Christianna Miller received honorable mentions.

Ethan Gormley’s “Learning the Language” won the Mathom Fiction Award for best short story.

For poets, there were two separate awards: the Lewis Turco Formal Poetry Award for best sonnet, and The Academy for American Poets Award for best poem. These awards went to Phoebe LaMont for “When He Sleeps” and Lena Gluck for “Breath,” respectively. Winners of all categories typically read a portion of their piece and, for Gluck, this was an especially emotional moment.

“It was actually one that I hadn’t shown too many people,” Gluck said. “I’d been working on it for months, but it was so personal. When I first heard the poem had won and that I would be reading it in front of everyone, I was incredibly nervous, but so many people came up to me afterwards to say how much it meant to them. I was so glad and relieved to know that they felt those emotions I tried to express.”

Phoebe LaMont also received honorable mention for the Academy of American Poets Award.

The St. John Kincaid Screenwriting Award for best first 10 Pages of a full length screenplay went to Tarin Bonvino’s “Balance.” There was also The Alex Madigan-Yorkin Short Script Award for best short film script, which went to Brian Liberty’s “Deciduous.” For many in the audience, the highlight of the ceremony was seeing the reading of Liberty’s script, which cast father and daughter in the roles of the Tooth Fairy and his sociopathic, third-grade girl-scout torturer. The honorable mention for best short film script went to Aaron Golish.

The final award was the Norma Jean Yembrick Playwriting Award for best one-act play, awarded to Jingru Zhang for her play “Lovers’ Talk.” Molly Giller and Dylan Woods received honorable mentions.

There was a laid-back, positive atmosphere throughout the awards. The audience was very receptive to the readings and moved between pathos to laughter. Senior Taisha Laird, a graphic design major came out to support her friends and found the ceremony to be a great experience.

“All of the faculty speakers were fantastic, as well as the student readings,” Laird said. “I just wish it was longer so I could have heard readings from the honorable mentions.”

The awards represented a large and thriving community of writers. Holmes, a senior, was nothing but appreciative.

“The creative writing program here at SUNY Oswego means so much to me,” Holmes said. “It has done so much for me, and I truly can’t think where I’d be today if I had never taken my first screenwriting course.”

On a day devoted to recognizing excellence, Oswego State’s creative writers stood out and had a great time too.