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Awards Presented

May 25, 2017

Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award

Poet Brian Evans-Jones is a familiar name here at the Maine Arts Commission (MAC). He is member of the Teaching Artist roster and this past year he traveled to Washington county to provide workshops for students and teachers as part of MACs Poetry Out Loud rural school initiative. We learned this week that Brian and Maine fiction writer Joan Dempsey are recipients of the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. Congratulations to both of them! The prize includes an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City, meetings with publishing professional, and a month-long residency.

The prestigious award, which aims to provide promising writers a network for professional advancement, has helped to launch the careers of Sue Monk Kidd (The Invention of Wings,The Secret Life of Bees), Elaine Beale (Another Life Altogether), Sandra Beasley (Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl), David Mura (Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei), Fae Myenne Ng(Bone), Mona Simpson (My Hollywood), and others.
Each year, Poets & Writers selects one state (or Washington, D.C.), and invites writers from that jurisdiction to apply for the Writers Exchange Award (WEX). For 2017, the state of Maine was chosen. This year’s judges were Tania James for fiction and Cynthia Cruz for poetry. Excerpts from the winning manuscripts can be found at at.pw.org/wexaward.
The Writers Exchange Award offers winners an unusual opportunity. Poets & Writers will ask Ms. Dempsey and Mr. Evans-Jones to identify agents, editors, authors, and others in the literary field that they would like to meet. Then, over the next several months, staff will work to arrange appointments with as many of these individuals as possible. In October, the two winners will travel to New York City, all expenses paid, and and representatives of Poets & Writers will accompany them on a round of visits to gain insight and advice and to establish professional contacts.

As a direct result of these meetings, past WEX winners have had their books published, received fellowships, secured teaching positions, and laid the groundwork for their professional lives as writers. To date, ninety-nine writers from thirty-nine states have participated.

Joan Dempsey – Photo credit: Greta Rybus

New England native Joan Dempsey received an MFA and teaching certificate in creative writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles. Her writing has been published in the Adirondack ReviewAlligator JuniperObsidian: Literature of the African Diaspora, and Plenitude Magazine, and aired on National Public Radio. Dempsey was the recipient of a significant research grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation for work on her novel, This Is How It Begins. She lives in Maine with her partner and their family of animals. Find her online at www.joandempsey.com.

Brian Evans-Jones – Photo credit: Michael Powers

Brian Evans-Jones immigrated to southern Maine from Hampshire, England, in 2014. He received his BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Warwick, U.K., and was poet laureate of Hampshire, U.K., in 2013-2014. He received his MFA from the University of New Hampshire in 2016. He is a juried teaching artist in both Maine and New Hampshire, and teaches poetry and creative writing in schools, colleges, and community venues in both states. Learn more about Brian at his website http://www.brianevansjones.com.

The judges also cited first runners-up Flavian Mark Lupinettifrom Orono (in fiction) and Julie Poitras Santos from Portland (in poetry), and second runners-up Kathleen Donkin from Gardiner (in fiction) and Judith Grey from Nobleboro (in poetry).

Poets & Writers will sponsor a reading and reception for Ms. Dempsey and Mr. Evans-Jones during their visit to New York. In addition, the winners will be offered a one-month residency at the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Wyoming. A complete list of past winners can be found at at.pw.org/wexaward. The Writers Exchange Award is generously supported by Maureen Mahon Egen, a member of the Poets & Writers Board of Directors.  
If interested to learn more about Poets & Writers go to pw.org.

2 comments

  1. Thanks for the shout out, Argy! I know we’re both excited about all this award can offer, and I’m delighted to represent Maine writers during our time in New York, and at the Jentel Artists Residency Program. 🙂


  2. You’re quite welcome. Please send info, if you’d like, after your experiences in New York and with the residency!
    Have fun and thanks so much! ~ Argy



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