Poets & Writers announced today that fiction writer Joan Dempsey and poet Brian Evans-Jones are the winners of the 2017 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. 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 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.
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 Review, Alligator Juniper, Obsidian: 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 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.
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.