Two Michener Center Fellows Win Top Fiction Prizes

Two MFA fellows in the Michener Center for Writers have won prizes for their short fiction: Rachel Engelman won the 2018 Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize for “Joan of Arc Sits Naked in Her Dorm Room,” and Desiree Evans won the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation’s 2018 Award for College Writers for “Belly.”

Rachel Engelman

The Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize is awarded annually by Selected Shorts— a weekly public radio show broadcast on over 150 stations to about 300,000 listeners. Engelman’s story was chosen for the prize by author and guest judge Jess Walter.

Engelman will receive $1,000, a 10-week writing course with Gotham Writers Workshop and publication in Electric Literature. Additionally, Engelman’s story will be performed live on Selected Shorts at Symphony Space in Manhattan on June 6, 2018.

“Selected Shorts is one of the country’s most esteemed venues for short fiction,” said Bret Johnston, director of the Michener Center. “Rachel’s story is a knockout—stunning in its power, concision and originality—and I’m thrilled that so many listeners will soon be introduced to her inimitable voice. This is a win for all of us—Rachel, UT, the Michener Center and everyone who loves first-rate fiction.”

Engelman is a current fiction fellow at the Michener Center for Writers, where she is at work on a collection of short stories about witches, renegade nuns, vengeful female martyrs and Joan of Arc in the 1970s. Her work has been published in Crazyhorse, The Master’s Review Volume VI Anthology selected by Roxane Gay, Clarín Diario and elsewhere.

Desiree Evans

The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation’s Award for College Writers was started in 1991 to encourage college creative writers with support early in their writing careers. As the winner, Evans will receive a $1,000 cash prize, sponsored by Amistad Press, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.

Almost 60 students from 50 colleges and universities submitted their work for the 2018 competition. This year’s fiction judge was novelist David Anthony Durham.

“From the first lines of ‘Belly’ I knew I was in the hands of a brilliant storyteller,” Durham said. “I was impressed by the confidence of the author’s voice, the vivid evocation of place, the careful rendering of complex relationships, and the backdrop of a community struggling against unrelenting forces steadily eroding the land and history and culture they so cherish. … Clearly, this story heralds a writer of tremendous talent and promise.”

Evans will be honored at the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. More than 200 literary stars and representatives of the publishing industry, media, politics, arts and academia attend the annual ceremony. 

Originally from South Louisiana, Evans is an fiction fellow at the Michener Center for Writers. She has received fellowships from the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop and Kimbilio Fiction. She is currently at work on a short story collection and a novel.

About the Michener Center for Writers

The Michener Center for Writers is a three-year, full-time residency program, unique in its interdisciplinary focus. While writers apply and are admitted in a primary field of concentration—chosen from fiction, poetry, playwriting or screenwriting—they have the opportunity to develop work in a second field during their program of study. The 54-hour degree plan includes workshops and reading/studies courses in both chosen fields, flexible supporting coursework and a thesis in the primary field of concentration.

May 30, 2018