The Writers’ Program is thrilled to announce Hillary Georgaris as the winner of the 2020 Allegra Johnson Prize. The final judge panel included Writers’ Program instructors Maria Amparo Escandon, Saritza Hernandez, and Monica Holloway. From our semifinalists, the panel selected Hillary Georgaris’s novel Sylvia’s Story, Brian Piech’s novel The Worldbuilder Guide 9th Edition, and Griffin Dellaverson’s memoir A Measure Of Uncertainty as the competition finalists. Award benefactors Roberta J.

Allegra Johnson

M. Olson and Alexander B.V. Johnson selected Hillary Georgaris’s Sylvia’s Story as the recipient of this year’s prize, with Brian Piech and Griffin Dellaverson as runners-up.

The Allegra Johnson Prize in Memoir and Novel Writing was created in 2014 by Roberta J.M. Olson and Alexander B.V. Johnson to honor their daughter, a prolific and talented young writer who was working on a memoir and a novel through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program when her life was tragically cut short. This merit-based and instructor-nominated award was created by her parents in the spirit of making a difference in the lives of promising Writers’ Program students in memoir and novel writing.

Of Hillary’s piece, the judges wrote, “We were immediately caught up in the story of Sylvia’s adventures in New York. We love that this is about older women reinventing themselves and the humorous tone coupled with the poignant moments of reflection were big hits with the three of us. This ‘story about friendship, love, family and fabulous shoes for arthritic feet’ did not disappoint.”

Of Brian Piech’s The Worldbuilder Guide 9th Edition, the judges wrote, “The attention to detail in this riveting read, along with a first-person point of view of the protagonist instantly connected with us and we found ourselves wanting to read more at the end of the sample. We found that interspersing each chapter with the guide and the missing brother’s narrative to be unique and engrossing. This is the Artemis Fowl meets The Martian for the YA science fiction space we need!”

Of Griffin Dellaverson’s A Measure Of Uncertainty, the judges wrote, “Writing a memoir is a brave undertaking, but writing a memoir about one’s mental illness is orders of magnitude braver. The honest, genuine, and difficult depiction of the author’s struggle with a difficult diagnosis is enthralling. Although the work deals with a difficult subject, there is a thread of dark humor interspersed that made the reading poignant and relatable. Beautifully written, self-aware, and true, this tender and smart memoir made us understand what trying to live the ‘typical college student’ life is to a person with bipolar disorder; like trying to set up a tent in the middle of a hurricane.”

Traditionally, a luncheon is held to honor the prize awardees and let them connect with the nominating instructors, prize benefactors, and each other. Unfortunately the pandemic will postpone this celebration until 2021, but we look forward to celebrating the winners in person when it is safe for all to do so!

Click here for more information about the Allegra Johnson Prize and other scholarship and prize opportunities.

To read excerpts from the manuscripts of the three finalists, go here:

Georgaris – Sylvia’s Story

Piech – The World Builder Guide

Dellaverson – A Measure of Uncertainty

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