The rona jaffe foundation



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2015 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards – page




Contact:
Beth McCabe

The Rona Jaffe Foundation

www.ronajaffefoundation.org



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


THE RONA JAFFE FOUNDATION

CELEBRATES 21st ANNUAL WRITERS’ AWARDS
Six outstanding emerging women writers will receive

Grants of $30,000 each, at a New York City reception
Pulitzer Prize Winner Tracy K. Smith will be Guest Speaker
New York City (September 2015) – The Rona Jaffe Foundation will honor its annual Writers’ Awards winners at a private ceremony on September 17th in New York City. Six emerging women writers have been singled out for excellence by the Foundation and will receive awards of $30,000 each. The 2015 winners are Meehan Crist, Vanessa Hua, Ashley M. Jones, Britteney Black Rose Kapri, Amanda Rea, and Natalie Haney Tilghman. The program – the only national literary awards program of its kind devoted exclusively to women – was created by celebrated novelist Rona Jaffe to identify and support women writers of unusual talent and promise in the early stages of their writing careers. Ms. Jaffe passed away in 2005.
The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards are given to writers of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Since the program began in 1995, the Foundation has awarded over $2 million to emergent women writers. Past recipients of the Writers’ Awards, such as Rachel Aviv, Elif Batuman, Eula Biss, Sarah Braunstein, Lan Samantha Chang, Rivka Galchen, Aryn Kyle, Rebecca Lee, ZZ Packer, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Namwali Serpell, Tracy K. Smith, Mary Syzbist, and Tiphanie Yanique have since received wider critical recognition, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award, the Caine Prize for African Writing, and the Whiting Writer’s Award.
On Friday, September 18 at 7 p.m. the winners will read in New York University’s Creative Writing Program Reading Series at the Vernon Writers House (58 West 10th Street).

Biographies of the 2015 Award Winners:


Meehan Crist (Nonfiction) is working on a book entitled The Silent Injury. Weaving together memoir and neuroscience, it focuses on her mother’s traumatic brain injury—sustained while ice skating—and the rich history and current scientific study of the brain. Ms. Crist received a B.A. from Barnard College and an M.F.A. from Columbia University, where she is writer-in-residence in Biological Sciences. Currently, she is editor-at-large at Nautilus and previously she was reviews editor at The Believer. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Bookforum, and Lapham’s Quarterly, among others, and reflects her interest in the intersection of science, politics, and medicine. She is currently working on a piece about the practice of shark-feeding to entice thrill-seeking scuba divers and its effects on coral reef ecology, as well as a piece about the burgeoning veterans’ art movement, an outgrowth from the interviews she conducted with veterans for her memoir. Ms. Crist plans to use her Writer’s Award to reduce her work obligations so she can focus on finishing her book. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Vanessa Hua (Fiction) is working on a novel, A River of Stars, about a pregnant Chinese factory clerk whose lover sends her to America to deliver the baby, giving his heir U.S. citizenship. After he betrays her, she flees the maternity center, setting off a hunt for her and the baby. Her collection of short stories, The Responsibility of Deceit, received the 2015 Willow Books Grand Prize Literature Award for Prose and will be published next year. Ms. Hua received her B.A. and M.A. from Stanford University and an M.F.A. from UC Riverside. Her stories have appeared in Guernica, ZYZZYVA, and The Atlantic. She was an Aspen Summer Words Emerging Writer Fellow, a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University, and a recipient of a 2014 James D. Phelan Literary Award and scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Prior to being a freelance journalist, she worked for the San Francisco Chronicle reporting about Asia and the diaspora. Ms. Hua blogs about living with her husband, their preschool twins, and her widowed mother at threeunderone.blogspot.com. Her Writer’s Award will allow her to reduce her freelance work, pay for child care, and devote more time to completing her novel. She lives in Orinda, California.
Ashley M. Jones (Poetry) is working on her first collection, Magic City Gospel, an examination of history, identity, religion, race, and gender. She says, “It actively engages current social issues, difficult social truths, and my own identity as a Black female poet from Alabama.” Ms. Jones received her B.A. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and her M.F.A. from Florida International University. Her poems have appeared in pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture and PMS poemmemoirstory, among others. Ms. Jones is currently working as a Creative Writing faculty member at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She will use her Writer’s Award to devote her attention to finishing her first book and engaging in creative writing outreach in the Birmingham community. “My poems are deeply rooted in my own experience, but they are also heavily influenced by the community in which I live. I am devoted to the manuscript I’ve created and extremely passionate about what I think it can do in the world. I want to be a model for young writers of color and show them that their writing can be political and it can tell important stories without compromising literary merit.” Ms. Jones lives in Birmingham, Alabama.


Britteney Black Rose Kapri’s (Poetry) first chapbook, Winona and Winthrop (New School Poetics, 2014), explores race, gang membership, family dynamics, and violence in Chicago. Her poems have also appeared in Poetry, The Huffington Post, and BreakBeat Poets, an anthology published by Haymarket Books (2015). Ms. Kapri received her B.A. from Grand Valley State University and has been working at the nonprofit Young Chicago Authors since 2011, where she is currently a teaching artist. She intends to use her Writer’s Award to take time off from her work to create a national book tour for her chapbook and explore and document the issue of race and violence across the country. She says, “In order to start writing more honestly about Black violence I need to explore Black identity outside of my own. I am a writer who wants to enact change. I am in the process of figuring out how to make art that outlives the moment, the movement, and me. How do I make work that not only puts a spotlight on injustice but also creates an accessible conversation?” Ms. Kapri also hopes through the tour to raise funds to form an anthology called Unapologetically Black—in an effort to “create a national conversation.” She lives in Chicago, Illinois.


Amanda Rea’s (Fiction) stories have appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, and The Sun, among others. Her piece, “A Dead Man in Nashville” won a Pushcart Prize in 2011. She has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Jentel Artist Residency, and elsewhere. She explores the underbelly of the West—the poor and disenfranchised—in her work. Ms. Rea is working on a novel set in the Four Corners region during World War II. She says, “It is the story of two headstrong friends who grow up on the dryland farms in a remote corner of Colorado. As I envision it, the novel is about love, loyalty and the incredible strength of women, as well as the complicated history of whites and Native Americans in the desert Southwest.” She received her B.A. from the University of Denver and her M.F.A. from UC Irvine. Ms. Rea will use her Writer’s Award for child care and to take time off from freelance work so she can focus completely on her novel for the next year. She lives in Denver, Colorado.
Natalie Haney Tilghman (Fiction) is working on a novel, Home Remedies, rooted in her Italian-American family history and based in part on her great-grandfather, who was a goldsmith. She says of her work, “During World War II, my great aunt foraged for food in the Apennine Mountains—shoeless—for weeks before being displaced as a refugee. My grandmother’s house in a sleepy Abruzzo village was occupied by Germans. These stories inspired my current work.” Ms. Tilghman received her B.A. from Boston College and her M.F.A. from The Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. She is an adjunct instructor at The University of Chicago Writer’s Studio. Her work has appeared in Crab Creek Review, TriQuarterly, and The Red Clay Review, among others. In 2010, she won first prize for fiction in The Atlantic’s Student Writing Contest. She plans to use her Writer’s Award to pay for child care for her two young boys, and to travel to Abruzzo for a short trip to refamiliarize herself with the setting of much of her novel. She lives in Glenview, Illinois.

The six women will gather at the September 17th Writers’ Awards ceremony in Manhattan. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and 2004 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award winner Tracy K. Smith will speak at the celebration. Ms. Smith is the author of the memoir Ordinary Light and three books of poetry: Life on Mars, which received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize; Duende, recipient of the 2006 James Laughlin Award; and The Body's Question, which won the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Among Smith's other honors are the Academy of American Poets Fellowship and a Whiting Writer’s Award. She directs the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University.


The awards celebration provides the Foundation with an ideal opportunity to introduce its honorees to friends and colleagues in the publishing industry. Some recipients have been introduced to their future agents and editors through the awards.
“All our winners this year are writing out of profoundly personal histories yet creating the vital and meaningful connection between their stories and poems and the larger, more public world that we all share,” says Beth McCabe, Director of the Writers’ Awards program. “Their work is unflinching, fierce, and honest—all essential qualities as they grow as writers and continue to tackle important and interesting ideas. Since the program began in 1995, the Foundation has awarded more than $2 million to emergent women writers. The grants have grown to $30,000 each and now provide substantial support allowing some of our most talented, emerging women writers to devote themselves exclusively to their craft for at least a few months, and in some cases for a year or more. Now in our twenty-first year, we are seeing the impact of Rona’s vision and generosity. We have been able to recognize well over a 100 women and allow them to pursue their literary ambitions by offering encouragement and financial support at a critical time in their careers.”

ABOUT THE AWARDS PROGRAM: The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program identifies emergent women writers of exceptional promise. The Foundation recognizes that women writers make special contributions to our culture and, through the Writers’ Awards program, tries to address the difficulties that some of the most talented among them have in finding time to write and gaining recognition. Women who write fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry are considered for the program’s grants of $30,000. Awards are given to those in the early stages of their writing careers whose published or unpublished work reveals accomplishment and demonstrates a commitment to writing. Nominations of candidates are solicited from writers, editors, critics, and other literary professionals who are likely to encounter women writers of unusual talent. (Direct applications and unsolicited nominations are not accepted by the Foundation.) A selection committee is appointed each year to recommend awards from among the nominees. Nominators and selectors serve anonymously. Beth McCabe directs the Writers’ Awards program. To learn more, visit www.ronajaffefoundation.org.
ABOUT RONA JAFFE: Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) established The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program in 1995. It is the only national literary awards program of its kind dedicated to supporting women writers exclusively. Since the program began, the Foundation has awarded grants to over 100 women. Ms. Jaffe was the author of sixteen books, including Class Reunion, Family Secrets, The Road Taken, and The Room-Mating Season (2003). Her 1958 best-selling first novel, The Best of Everything, was reissued by Penguin in 2005.
NOTE: Photographs of the recipients of the 2015 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards are available upon request.

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