2015 Winners

Meehan Crist (Nonfiction)

Meehan Crist is working on a book entitled The Silent Injury. Weaving together memoir and neuroscience, it focuses on her mother’s traumatic brain injury—sustained while ice skating—and the rich history and current scientific study of the brain. Her nominator writes: “Her ambition is to understand what happened to her mother by coming to know the brain itself, and she has gradually become an expert in its complexities. To read her work is to see an artist pushing the boundary that separates the hard, physical realities of science from the more ephemeral ones of poetry and spirituality—forcing us to question how disparate they really are.” Ms. Crist received a B.A. from Barnard College and an M.F.A. from Columbia University, where she is writer-in-residence in Biological Sciences. Currently, she is editor-at-large at Nautilus and previously she was reviews editor at The Believer. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Bookforum, and Lapham’s Quarterly, among others, and reflects her interest in the intersection of science, politics, and medicine. She is currently working on a piece about the practice of shark-feeding to entice thrill-seeking scuba divers and its effects on coral reef ecology, as well as a piece about the burgeoning veterans’ art movement, an outgrowth from the interviews she conducted with veterans for her memoir. Ms. Crist plans to use her Writer’s Award to reduce her work obligations so she can focus on finishing her book. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Vanessa Hua (Fiction)

Vanessa Hua is working on a novel, A River of Stars, about a pregnant Chinese factory clerk whose lover sends her to America to deliver the baby, giving his heir U.S. citizenship. After he betrays her, she flees the maternity center, setting off a hunt for her and the baby. Ms. Hua says, “The novel explores the intersecting lives of Chinese immigrants and the American-born who straddle the Pacific, who lead a transnational existence and hold a complicated relationship to their ancestral and adopted homelands—the clash between self and society, tradition and change.” Her collection of short stories, The Responsibility of Deceit, received the 2015 Willow Books Grand Prize Literature Award for Prose and will be published next year. Ms. Hua received her B.A. and M.A. from Stanford University and an M.F.A. from UC Riverside. Her stories have appeared in Guernica, ZYZZYVA, and The Atlantic. She was an Aspen Summer Words Emerging Writer Fellow, a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University, and a recipient of a 2014 James D. Phelan Literary Award and scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Prior to being a freelance journalist, she worked for the San Francisco Chronicle reporting about Asia and the diaspora. Ms. Hua blogs about living with her husband, their preschool twins, and her widowed mother at threeunderone.blogspot.com. Her Writer’s Award will allow her to reduce her freelance work, pay for child care, and devote more time to completing her novel. She lives in Orinda, California.

Ashley M. Jones (Poetry)

Ashley M. Jones is working on her first collection, Magic City Gospel, an examination of history, identity, religion, race, and gender. She says, “It actively engages current social issues, difficult social truths, and my own identity as a Black female poet from Alabama.” Ms. Jones received her B.A. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and her M.F.A. from Florida International University. Her poems have appeared in pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture and PMS poemmemoirstory, among others. Her nominator writes, “She confronts race and identity through pop culture, history, and her own personal experiences—but there is something new and exciting going on. Her poems approach the complicated racial and national identity of the author with heartache and humor in a voice that also speaks to her generation.” Ms. Jones is currently working as a Creative Writing faculty member at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She will use her Writer’s Award to devote her attention to finishing her first book and engaging in creative writing outreach in the Birmingham community. “My poems are deeply rooted in my own experience, but they are also heavily influenced by the community in which I live. I am devoted to the manuscript I’ve created and extremely passionate about what I think it can do in the world. I want to be a model for young writers of color and show them that their writing can be political and it can tell important stories without compromising literary merit.” Ms. Jones lives in Birmingham, Alabama.


Britteney Black Rose Kapri (Poetry)

Britteney Black Rose Kapri’s first chapbook, Winona and Winthrop (New School Poetics, 2014), explores race, gang membership, family dynamics, and violence in Chicago. Her poems have also appeared in Poetry, The Huffington Post, and BreakBeat Poets, an anthology published by Haymarket Books (2015). Her nominator writes, “The first thing you’ll notice about Britteney is her intelligence. Sharp, original in her thinking, academically and emotionally, and street smart—she’s a rare combo.” Ms. Kapri received her B.A. from Grand Valley State University and has been working at the nonprofit Young Chicago Authors since 2011, where she is currently a teaching artist. She intends to use her Writer’s Award to take time off from her work to create a national book tour for her chapbook and explore and document the issue of race and violence across the country. She says, “In order to start writing more honestly about Black violence I need to explore Black identity outside of my own. I am a writer who wants to enact change. I am in the process of figuring out how to make art that outlives the moment, the movement, and me. How do I make work that not only puts a spotlight on injustice but also creates an accessible conversation?” Ms. Kapri also hopes through the tour to raise funds to form an anthology called Unapologetically Black—in an effort to “create a national conversation.” She lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Amanda Rea (Fiction)

Amanda Rea’s stories have appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, and The Sun, among others. Her piece, “A Dead Man in Nashville” won a Pushcart Prize in 2011. She has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Jentel Artist Residency, and elsewhere. She explores the underbelly of the West—the poor and disenfranchised—in her work. Her nominator writes, “The best reading experiences are often the ones that take you by surprise and Amanda’s stories wouldn’t let go. I read them in one swallow. I knew immediately that I’d chanced upon a terrific and ambitious young writer, one who wrote with feeling and deep seriousness borne of her particular experiences in life.” Ms. Rea is working on a novel set in the Four Corners region during World War II. She says, “It is the story of two headstrong friends who grow up on the dryland farms in a remote corner of Colorado. As I envision it, the novel is about love, loyalty and the incredible strength of women, as well as the complicated history of whites and Native Americans in the desert Southwest.” She received her B.A. from the University of Denver and her M.F.A. from UC Irvine. Ms. Rea will use her Writer’s Award for child care and to take time off from freelance work so she can focus completely on her novel for the next year. She lives in Denver, Colorado. Hear her interview on Colorado Public Radio.

Natalie Haney Tilghman (Fiction)

Natalie Haney Tilghman is working on a novel, Home Remedies, rooted in her Italian-American family history and based in part on her great-grandfather, who was a goldsmith. She says of her work, “During World War II, my great aunt foraged for food in the Apennine Mountains—shoeless—for weeks before being displaced as a refugee. My grandmother’s house in a sleepy Abruzzo village was occupied by Germans. These stories inspired my current work.” Her nominator writes, “What I find most striking is the sureness of the narration. Natalie is fully in control of her omniscient narrator, able to commiserate with, condemn and redeem her characters—and find them absurd and tragic, admirable and dishonorable, sometimes in the space of a page—but above all to show us who they are in relation to the increasingly chaotic world around them.” Ms. Tilghman received her B.A. from Boston College and her M.F.A. from The Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. She is an adjunct instructor at The University of Chicago Writer’s Studio. Her work has appeared in Crab Creek Review, TriQuarterly, and The Red Clay Review, among others. In 2010, she won first prize for fiction in The Atlantic’s Student Writing Contest.  She plans to use her Writer’s Award to pay for child care for her two young boys, and to travel to Abruzzo for a short trip to refamiliarize herself with the setting of much of her novel. She lives in Glenview, Illinois.