The Friends of the Chautauqua Writers’ Center gathered last Sunday in the Hall of Philosophy for one of the group’s beloved traditions: the awarding of the annual Writing Contest awards.
Ten awards were given Sunday, to writers of all ages. But this year, the ceremony held a somber focus on last Friday, and the attack on Salman Rushdie, a lauded writer himself. The contest coordinators shared remarks on the attack from both winners, and from guest judges Kristin Kovacic and Jim Daniels.
“Everything that happens in Chautauqua affirms our right and our human need to express ourselves. As Salman Rushdie has written, ‘Free speech is the whole thing. The whole ball game. Free speech is life itself,’ ” Kovacic and Daniels wrote. “Every piece of writing produced in Writers’ Center workshops and elsewhere on these grounds affirms this right. Every book read by members of the (Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle) affirms this need.”
Kovacic and Daniels, who were writers-in-residence during Week Six at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center, noted that the “world turns to writers when there are no words to express our shock and grief in the face of horrible events, and we are challenged again today to find the words to console, to offer insight, and to reflect on the greater purpose of our endeavors.”
It’s a little uncomfortable, they wrote, to think about ranking contest entries, and they applauded all applicants’ attempts to “tell their truths courageously and to share them with others. Today, in honor of Salman Rushdie, bravely fighting for his life and for life itself — our freedom to speak — may we all be at least as brave. We must continue to exercise our rights here in a place where those rights have always been nurtured and honored.”
The awards include two endowed first place, cash prizes: the Mary Jean Irion Poetry Prize and the Charles McCorkle Hauser Prose Prize.
The 2022 winners of the Friends of Chautauqua Writers’ Center Writing Contests for prose included an honorable mention to Heather McGann for “The Djinn of Ras Al Khaimah” and to Wally Rees for “Ars Poetica Prose.” Second place went to Michael Field for “Ruminations on my First Self-editing Class” and the first place Charles McCorkle Hauser Prize went to Jennifer Sauers for “Somebody Said.”
In poetry, honorable mentions went to Ann Wallace for “Standing in a Different Place;” Richard Sipe for “Running Errands with my Cat;” Janay Cosner for “The Ladies of Dotage Drive” and again to Wally Rees for the poem version of “Ars Poetica.” Second place was awarded to Sandee Gertz for “Transplanting the Rose Bush, Pennsylvania to Nashville,” and the first place Mary Jean Irion Prize was given to Jamie Brian for “Postcard from the Living, for Uvalde, Texas Victims.”
The ceremony concluded with winning poetry readings. Video of the event can be retrieved on the FCWC webpage, and on YouTube.