The Winona State University English department announced that Sajda Omar, Charlie Utzman and Danielle Eberhard are the winners of this year’s Winona Prize.
Omar’s story “Ruby” won in the fiction category, with Eberhard earning honorable mention for her story “Rupture.” Eberhard’s essay “Here’s to the Bitch Faced Girls” won within the creative nonfiction category, with an honorable mention going to Madeline Milliren for her essay, “A Leaf Falling.” Utzman’s poem“How Not to Be a Poet” was the winner of the poetry category, with an honorable mention finish by Nasro Abbas’ poem, “English.”
Judged by Sheila O’Connor, “Ruby” tells the story of a young girl who suffers through psychological damage by her peers. O’Connor said she was immersed in Omar’s story as she was reading.
“‘Ruby’ draws the reader into a complex, psychological portrait of a young girl ostracized by peers,” O’Connor commented. “Well written, impressively original, and emotional potent, this is a powerful fiction that matters.”
Eberhard’s winning essay was judged by Kent Cowgill, who commented on her compelling ability to combine personal experience with scientific research to examine the way society judges facial expressions of people of different genders. As someone who identifies as a man, Cowgill said Eberhard’s essay made him question his own reactions to facial expressions, guiding him to a self-analysis.
Mark Wunderlich judged Utzman’s poem, calling it a “strong, memorable poem.” Wunderlich was impressed with Utzman’s use of images to move between personal and public figures, while leaving the reader with questions about the poet’s convictions.
“’How Not to Be a Poet’ by Charlie Utzman stands out for its striking rhetorical use of the imperative voice which drives the poem forward and makes for a dynamic active poem that instructs, badgers, and aims to persuade,” Wunderlich said.
All three of the winners were awarded a $1,500 prize for their pieces, which will appear in the 2017 edition of “Satori.”
Eberhard and Omar are also from Winona County.
The Winona Prize in creative writing is made possible by a generous donation from an alumnus of the English department. Three prizes of $1,500 are awarded to three students whose work literary judges decide are the most well written in the categories of fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. The gift is intended to encourage WSU students in their writing and literary pursuits, while helping them financially reach their educational goals.