Friends of Chautauqua Writers’ Center celebrate annual poetry, prose awards

Jane Pfefferkorn, second place winner in the Adult Poetry category, reads her piece “Early Easter Morning” during the 2023 Friends of Chautauqua Writers’ Center Writing Contest awards ceremony Sunday in the Hall of Philosophy. Jess Kszos/Staff Photographer

Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff writer

In an afternoon celebrating poetry and prose, the Friends of Chautauqua Writers’ Center honored the winners of the group’s annual Writing Contests Sunday in the Hall of Philosophy.

The awards were firstcoordinated by Chautauqua Women’s Club solely as a poetry contest, and fell under the reins of the Friends in 1988.

Prizes are awarded to both young adult and adult categories, with some endowed awards. Judges for the contest were Week Four’s prose writer-in-residence Randon Billings Noble and Week Five’s poet-in-residence Mary Biddinger.

The young adult prose award went to rising Buffalo high school senior Maddy Northman for her piece, “What I Wish I Could Forget.”

“She says that writing is her form of self-expression and that being able to leave it all on the paper is truly free,” Bethanne Snodgrass, Friends of Chautauqua Writers’ Center literary contests coordinator, said at the ceremony. 

For the adult prose category, there was a two-way tie for second place between David Blackmore’s “Lake Perfidy, 1976” and Beth MacDonald’s “Blood, Honey and the Radio Tower.”

Maddy Northman, first place winner in the Young Adult Prose category, reads her piece “What I Wish I Could Forget” during Sunday’s awards ceremony. Jess Kszos/Staff Photographer

“David lives in Pittsburgh and is an associate professor of English and writing coordinator at Chatham University,” Snodgrass said. “He has come to Chautauqua on and off since the 1970s, and as a college student worked for the St. Elmo and Athenaeum hotels.”

MacDonald is from South Dakota, but currently splits her time between Minneapolis and South Carolina, which inspired her first novel.

“She first came to Chautauqua in 2022 after having been invited by friends,” Snodgrass said. “She says that after one week on the grounds, she was hooked.”

First place for adult prose, the endowed Charles McCorkle Hauser Prize, went to Kristopher Armstrong’s “A Held Breath Spends.”

Armstrong is a professor of legal writing at Capital University, who writes fiction and performs improv.

“He believes the seemingly solitary acts of writing and reading art truly acts of joyful human connection,” Snodgrass said. 

There was a three-way tie for honorable mentions in the adult poetry category. The winners include Tina Barry’s “More News from the Chautauqua Institution, Summer 2023;” Megan Park’s “On Writing in First Person Again, After Years of You, You, You and Suzanne Watters’ “CHQ Snapshots.”

Second place for adult poetry was awarded to Jane Pfefferkorn’s “Early Easter Morning.”

“Jane managed the arts programs and the summer enrichment programs for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System,” Snodgrass said. “In retirement, Jane and (her husband) Bill have spent many summers at Chautauqua, where she says she took up the difficult and maddening practice of poetry.”

First place for poetry, the endowed Mary Jean Irion Prize, went to Sandee Gertz’s “The Leavings.” 

“Sandy is originally from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and says that Chautauqua has been one of the biggest influences on her writing career,” Snodgrass said.

The event concluded with readings from Northman, Barry, Watters, Park, Pfefferkorn and Gertz’s submissions.


The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn Finchler is a journalism and public relations graduate from Kent State University as of May. This will be her second summer at Chautauqua where she will cover literary arts, serving previously as the Interfaith Lecture Series preview reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking or flipping between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl.” She’s most excited to see how many times she can slip the word “plethora” into her stories before Sara makes her stop again.