Another year, another bounty of impressive awards for graduates of Converse’s Creative and Professional Writing Program.
A poem by Converse II graduate Martha Miller ’08 was recognized as among the top eight of 419 entries to earn a national 2008 Association of Writers & Writing Program’s (AWP) Intro Award for Poetry. Martha was the only winner from South Carolina in all three genres of the AWP contest.
In October, Kathryn Brackett ’03 garnered second-place honors in the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award for her original short fiction story at the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop in Myrtle Beach.
Both Miller and Brackett are continuing a heralded tradition of award-winning writers developing their craft at Converse. Though the college has a long history of producing award-winning writers, including Julia Peterkin, the only South Carolina Writer to win the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, current students and recent alumnae have also distinguished themselves with a few of the following honors and awards in writing including
• X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize;
• Stony Brook Short Fiction Prize (Finalist);
• Hub City Writing Awards (poetry and fiction);
• Finalist for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award.
For her award-winning poem, “Duffy’s Inferno,” Miller drew upon true stories of her father. “My father quit school after the second grade to work as a mill worker so that he could help support his family,” said the Greer, South Carolina resident. “I was always fascinated by the stories he told me about his work, and ‘Duffy’s Inferno’ is based upon people who lived around the mill.”
The prominence of the AWP Intro Awards becomes clear when one considers that only about fifteen students nationwide from more than 700 undergraduate and graduate creative writing programs in the United States are selected for recognition, which comes with a cash prize and–in Miller’s case–publication of the work in Colorado Review.
The AWP Intro award represents quite a turn in the path for Miller, who only recently discovered her talents and skills for writing. “I was actually attending a different college with the plan to study painting and photography. During the first 100-level English course, I realized that I enjoyed writing more than painting,” she explained. “One of the adjunct professors was a retired English professor from Converse, and talked to me about its Creative and Professional Writing Program. I had such low expectations of myself as a writer. I believed that someone would teach me how to put a bunch of chapters together to make a book and that I’d spend the rest of my life writing dime store fiction. And I was OK with that–back then. But the professors raised the bar for me. Nobody said, ‘Martha, aim higher,’ but that’s what I caught from them anyway. Sometimes more is caught than taught. The great thing is they lead like shepherds instead of drive like cattlemen.”
Miller went on to describe her new found passion for poetry. “That the professors were able to completely change my paradigms about literature and writing is the real accomplishment.”