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Lena Todd 2010 Award winners announced

December 6, 2010

UNM’s creative writing program congratulates the winners of the 2010 Lena Todd Awards:

FICTION: judged by Laurel Coffey
1st place: “Independence Day” by Johanna Byrn-Orand
2nd place: “The Birds of Italy” by Jean-Louise Zancanella
Honorable Mention: “Pink Elephants” by Matthew Skeets

Laurel wrote that first place “should be awarded to
‘Independence Day’ and its author. Hands down. I found
this story sophisticated, thoughtful, and funny in a witty
and quirky way. From the very start, I completely trusted
the capabilities of this narrator (and author) to take me
through the story. It was carefully plotted. Its
characterizations were unique and engaging. The author
wisely chose each detail to further his/her plot and never
distract from it. This is the type of short story that
deals with the intricacies of familial rites of passage I
would personally elect to purchase and read in a
collection or journal.”

About “The Birds of Italy,” she wrote, “I commend the
author’s ambitiousness in writing a short story that spans
close to the entire lifetime of a character. A pleasant
read, ‘The Birds of Italy’ is stocked with historically
and culturally appropriate details.”

Laurel also offered praise to “Pink Elephants” by Matthew
Skeets.

POETRY: judged by Bonnie Altamirano
1. “The Ringmaster’s Apology” by Johanna Byrn-Orand
2. “Letter 30” by Annie Seigel

Bonnie wrote, “My pick for first prize is the poem, ‘The
Ringmaster’s Apology.’ I was struck by the overall
tightness of form and vibrant content. Upon explication
one finds wonderfully executed line breaks such as ‘We
understand that these average limbs, these/ smooth
chins…'(13-14); and delicate manipulations of craft,
such as the rephrasing that occurs on lines 36-37, ‘Like
all things hover and rise, like you hover/and rise at our
shoulders.’ This poem is full of fresh and memorable
images: ‘lilac wives’,’mustache wax,/the sour kissing
smack of hard candy’, and my favorite, the alliterative
punch, ‘Our bearded lady vanished,/muttering murder, into
the moonlit trainyard'(11-12). I remembered this poem long
after it was read and consider it something I would expect
to see in a graduate-level workshop.
“My pick for second prize is the poem ‘Letter 30.’ I
love the idea of a poem posed as a letter to a person
whose identity is unknown; and then furthering the mystery
by defining and redefining the subject in lyric lines that
gracefully side-step the intellect. The strong and playful
tone is sustained throughout the piece and can be
characterized by humorous lines such as ‘King N has built
as his own monument,/a temple of limestone/to his father,
the God X, in the town of Y'(3-5). Lyric lines of
mysterious beauty propel tension and keep the reader
intrigued. My favorite line ‘The image of limbs make
love/in a field'(19-20).” She added that she found the
poem “wonderfully paced and intoned.”

NONFICTION: judged by Ty Bannerman
1. “Nor Cruel and Unusual Punishments Inflicted” by
Michael Gay
2. “In Passing” by Jaclyn McAlester

Ty wrote of “Nor Cruel and Unusual Punishments Inflicted,” “The author does an excellent job of balancing a discussion of societal and legal treatment of mental illness with a moving account of his own brother’s experience with schizophrenia. The piece is informative, deeply personal and very well written.”

Of “In Passing,” he wrote, “This piece offers a meditation on the meaning of death in a compartmentalized society, illustrated by the author’s experience as worker in a nursing home. The essay effectively communicates the tension between the needs for a nursing home staff to emotionally detach from their clients in order to efficiently perform their duties, and the author’s need to make a personal connection with a woman with dementia who is undergoing a difficult and frightening ordeal as she nears death.”

I’d like to congratulate the winners and thank all the writers and their teachers who contributed to the contest and to recognize the judges for their work as well. I’ll be working with Works in Progress coordinator Melanie Unruh to arrange a reading next semester for the winners. Winners, you’ll be hearing from me about this! Congratulations again!

Marisa P. Clark

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