On Thursday, April 19, the Grady Awards for Creative Writing were held in Barrows Hall. Four undergraduate students and four graduate students showcased their work. Separated into two undergraduate winners for poetry and two graduate winners for poetry, as well as two undergraduate winners for fiction and two graduate winners for fiction, this year’s eight winners read their winning pieces for a nearly full Hill Auditorium.
Catherine Gottwalt, the undergraduate runner-up for fiction, led things off with a piece titled “Bodies of Goodbye.” The piece captured a native Midwesterner’s fixation with the ocean, both its good and bad, and its ability to give a “taste of freedom and a love long lost.”
Micah Valliere, the undergraduate fiction winner, read an excerpt from his story “Perishables.” Valliere started writing fiction because he “was tired of writing about himself,” and “Perishables” centered on a bakery in New York City called The Wolf’s Den.
“We all write from what we know in our lives and our experiences,” Valliere said of the fiction-writing process. “There’s my feelings in there even if there’s not my life.”
Valliere said his process for writing the piece was almost like a puzzle.
“This was kind of a mess in its composition. I didn’t really know how I was going to get everything from point A to point B. So it was sort of like patching it together to make sure I got all the right things,” Valliere said. “I went through a bunch of different drafts on it.”
Next came the undergraduate runner-up in poetry, Colleen Lucy, who read a series of her poems, the first about her 99-year-old great-great uncle Alex.
Cara Morgan, the undergraduate winner in poetry, read two poems. The first, called “Rewinding,” followed a long-distance military relationship. If we could rewind, she read, “they would shave your hair back on.”
Morgan’s second piece was deeply personal as it was about the loss of a close friend to suicide. Though it was a slam poem and Morgan encouraged the audience to snap when they heard something they liked, the room fell largely silent as Morgan powerfully read lines like “I was scrolling Facebook and saw his name for the first time in a year.”
After the undergraduate winners came the graduate runner-up in poetry, Kat Dubois, who read multiple poems including one called “Manspreading.” In her poem “Flagship,” Dubois read, “I’ve seen pearls like yours and I won’t believe your saltwater stories anymore.”
The graduate winner in the same category, Kristyn Gerow, focuses her work on the body as foreign and distinct. She explores chronically ill bodies, as well as how illness and other outside factors interact with the body. Her piece followed a woman’s desire to have a baby but not under the circumstances presented and included evocative imagery such as “rotting womb.”
The graduate runner-up in fiction, Morghen Tidd, wrote of a girl who’s always dreaming but who is also sad. “She doesn’t want to be sad anymore but she doesn’t want to fix it,” she read. The story then followed the girl’s love for a “beautiful, bashful boy” who “reminds her of a baby deer. A hot, bashful baby deer.” When he breaks her heart, however, “her love feels like a puppy that’s been dragged from here to California.”
“It feels good to be a part of the Gradys because it’s part of a bigger community,” Tidd said. “I would come to all the readings anyway and being able to hear the writing from undergrads and my fellow grad students is always nice.”
Tidd says her writing process is a slow one.
“I’m really unproductive honestly. I write like one thing a year,” Tidd said. “I’ve been writing on the glory of that story for a long time and I edit by reading out loud and listening to the sounds of the words.”
Lastly came the graduate winner for fiction, Paul Eaton. The judges noted Eaton’s bold use of form, distinctive tones and reverence for language. It showed in his passionate reading of a hectic piece that followed a puzzle needing to be completed or a code needing to be cracked. It was the perfect ending to the event as Eaton captivated the audience with his natural yet humble showmanship.