2009 Winners

Krista Bremer (Nonfiction)

Krista Bremer is an essayist who lives in Carrboro, North Carolina, where she is the Associate Publisher of The Sun. She holds a B.A. from UC - San Diego and an M.A. in Journalism from UNC - Chapel Hill. Her essays have appeared in The Sun; Utne; Brain, Child; Hip Mama; and other publications. Her essay “My Accidental Jihad” won a Pushcart Prize in 2008 and was cited as notable spiritual writing in the Best American Spiritual Writing series. Her nominator states, “Krista writes with a keen eye for the beauty—and absurdities—of contemporary American culture. Her personal essays explore the dynamics of her marriage to a Libyan-born Muslim man, unearthing the difficulties, triumphs, and transcendence of love in a bicultural family.” Ms. Bremer plans to use her grant to take a one-month sabbatical to travel to North Africa to explore and write about family life with a focus on concepts of femininity and freedom for women in Muslim and western cultures. Upon her return, she plans to cut back her work hours so that she can concentrate on this book project.

Photo by Khalid el-Hakim

Vievee Francis (Poetry)

Vievee Francis lives in Detroit, Michigan, where for 15 years she has been instrumental in fostering a literary community for youth and young-adult poets. She received her B.A. from Fisk University and will receive her M.F.A. from the University of Michigan in 2009, where she is the Alice Lloyd Hall Scholars Program Poet-in-Residence. Her first collection of poems, Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State University Press, 2006), is described by her nominator as a “remarkably compassionate and clear-eyed debut that is a masterly poetic sequence rooted in mid-19th-century American voices and history. It is confident and utterly compelling.” Her poems have also appeared in Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Rattle, and in the forthcoming Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poets. She was a Cave Canem Fellow in 2005 and 2007. Next year with the help of her Rona Jaffe Award, she will complete the research for her new collection of poems on the Wendish region of Texas, where her family has lived since the 1800s when the slave holding region was settled by German immigrants seeking religious freedom.

Photo by Jon Dessen-Illini Studio

Janice N. Harrington (Poetry)

Janice N. Harrington’s first book of poems, Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone (2007), received the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize in 2006 and the 2008 Kate Tufts Discovery Award.  Educated at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and The University of Iowa, she worked as a librarian for many years and is now an assistant professor of English at the University of Illinois. Ms. Harrington has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Cave Canem, and the NEA. Her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Field, Harvard Review, and many other journals. Her Writer’s Award will allow her to take valuable time off from teaching to finish a collection of poems, Night Shift, based on her experience as a student working summers and weekends on the night shift as a nurse’s aide in a county nursing home. Her nominator says of her work, “Despite the difficulty of the lives she writes about, Harrington is a poet full of joy, delight, and faith in the world. This rather unfamiliar ‘upbeat’ message is masterfully integrated into the poems and only adds to their resonance and staying power.” Ms. Harrington lives in Champaign, Illinois.

Lori Ostlund (Fiction)

Lori Ostlund's first collection of stories, The Bigness of the World (University of Georgia Press, fall 2009), won the 2008 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She has a B.A. from Minnesota State University Moorhead and an M.A. in English from the University of New Mexico. Her stories have appeared in the New England Review, Bellingham Review, The Georgia Review, and The Kenyon Review. Ms. Ostlund plans to take significant time off from teaching in the next year to complete a draft of her first novel and finish her second short story collection. “My novel, After the Parade, traces the life of Aaron Englund from small-town Minnesota to San Francisco as he deals with the unexpected death of his father, his mother’s breakdown and eventual abandonment of him, and his long-term relationship with an older man and his growing need to leave him. Along the way, he is drawn to a host of eccentric characters who find in him an interested and sympathetic audience.” Ms. Ostlund lives in San Francisco and teaches developmental English and creative writing at The Art Institute of California.

Helen Phillips (Fiction)

Helen Phillips received her B.A. from Yale University in 2004 and her M.F.A. from Brooklyn College in 2007, where she is an adjunct lecturer and administrator in the creative writing program. She is the recipient of the 2008 Italo Calvino Prize for Fabulist Fiction, the 2009 Meridian Editor’s Award, and a Ucross Foundation residency. Her work has appeared in Salt Hill Journal, The Mississippi Review, and Faultline, and will be included in American Fiction: The Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers (2010). And Yet They Were Happy, which she describes as “a book composed of 175 one-page linked stories that hovers somewhere between fable and fiction, poetry and myth, autobiography and fairy tale,” will be published by Leapfrog Press in 2011. She will use her Writer's Award to take time off from teaching for a full year so she can devote herself to working on a collection of short stories and a novel, The Beautiful Bureaucrat, about a woman who starts to see mystical patterns in the databases she works with every day. Ms. Phillips lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Heidy Steidlymayer (Poetry)

Heidy Steidlmayer lives in Vacaville, California, and has recently completed her first manuscript of poems entitled Fowling Piece. Her nominator says, “Heidy uses language with great precision and with a compelling and uncompromising music. Somehow she manages both to compress and to expand language at the same time so that although a poem might be only thirty-five words long, it seems to resonate with great force through your next few hours. She's brilliant, unconventional, fierce.” Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, and Triquarterly, and she received the 2007 J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize from Poetry magazine. She received her B.A. from Northwestern University and her M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College. Her Writer’s Award will allow her to focus on her second collection of poems, Gloss. She says of her project, “These poems grow from my passion for etymology and for roots so deep in time that their recovery to poetry is itself a gloss, but in poetry’s language which both provides and defeats explanation.”