On Monday, November 9th, the Writers’ Program celebrated the 18th year of its annual James Kirkwood Literary Prize in Creative Writing, by honoring the winners with a luncheon that took place at the UCLA Faculty Center on campus. Andrew Morse, the benefactor of the award, flew in from New York to present the first, second, and third place winners with a monetary award and a copy of Kirkwood’s novel, There Must be a Pony. The luncheon was also attended by the three winners and their guests, nominating instructors David Borofka and Les Plesko, a final round judge Edan Lepucki, and Writers’ Program staff.

This year’s judges had the tough job of narrowing 32 talented nominees down to only six semi-finalists.

First round judges included Writers’ Program instructors Ronald Alexander, Billy Lombardo, Victoria Patterson, and Annie Reid. The final round judges were Edan Lepucki, Robert Monroe, and benefactor of the award, Andrew Morse.

Lisa Alexander was nominated by instructor David Borofka and won first place for her short story, “Lemonade.” Final round judge Edan Lepucki said about Lisa’s work, “The prose in ‘Lemonade’ is crisp and fluid, and I was immediately absorbed into this narrative of wealthy Southern Californians at the edge of a wilderness they believe they can control. Its satire is razor sharp, and I felt very much connected to Louise, the story’s main character, as she negotiates this community–its mothers and its lions.”

Michele Piazza, who was a part of Les Plesko’s Master Class in Novel Writing (for which students are automatically entered into the competition), won second place for her novel excerpt Pictures of Birds. Final round judge Robert Monroe said, “This writing is full of moments that are startlingly fresh. With turns that surprise yet seem inevitable, and images as delicate as origami, it explores the need to make a human connection despite daunting circumstances. I won’t soon forget the image of paper boats collecting in the same pool in a wintry stream. Moving, sadly funny, and fresh.”

Lastly, third place was awarded to Jamie Schaffner, who was nominated by Les Plesko for her novel excerpt Get the Girl. About her work, Robert Monroe said, “This work is exemplary in so many ways. Its protagonist makes a long journey in a single night, moving through intense desire to a place of compassion, self-understanding, and courage. Every gesture follows from the one before it, and complex situations are explored through the truth of small simple gestures. We move from fear to epiphanies of love in a story that is warmly witty, inspiring and wise.”

Congratulations to all of the nominees, semi-finalists, and winners for this literary achievement!

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Mae Respicio is the Program Representative in Creative Writing (Onsite) and Screenwriting (Online).

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