The Writers’ Program is thrilled to announce Maggie Morris as the winner of the 2021 Allegra Johnson Prize. The final judge panel included Writers’ Program instructors Alison Singh Gee, Paul Guest, and Eduardo Santiago. From our semifinalists, the panel selected Maggie Morris’s memoir Stone, Lucretia Williams’s memoir The Boa, and Pathrinathan Pathmanathan’s novel Walking in the Path of the Palmyras as the competition finalists. Award benefactors Roberta J. M. Olson and Alexander B.V. Johnson selected Maggie Morris’s memoir Stone as the recipient of this year’s prize. The full list of nominees can be found below.

Allegra Johnson

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 Maggie’s piece, the judges wrote, “The opening of Stone is fittingly disconcerting — the syntax is as messy as memory and the struggle to make sense of harm is powerful. Inventive and intriguing.”

Of Lucretia’s memoir, the judges wrote, ““Hypnotic tale of growing up in Panama seen through the eyes of a young girl, Lucretia. It is full of wonderful images of the jungle and the towns, absurd superstitions and charming, timeless folk tales that serve as warning to (potentially) wayward children.”

Of Pathrinathan’s novel, the judges wrote, “The story reads like a parable that embraces both ancient and modern customs and explores caste and racial hypocrisy. It also addresses what might happen to people who return to the land they left behind. The torturous journey is well-written and the challenges, twists, and turns are inventive.”

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 2022, 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.

Here are selections from the winning manuscripts:

Maggie Morris

Lucretia Williams

Full list of nominees:

Maggie Morris, nominated by Shawna Kenney

Lucretia Williams, nominated by Mieke Eerkens
Pathrinathan Pathmanathan, nominated by Jessica Barksdale Inclan

Kayla Al-Shamma-Jones, nominated by Caroline Leavitt
Andrea Bitunjac, nominated by Gordon Grice
Kimberly Bridson, nominated by Alison Singh Gee
Samantha Colicchio, nominated by Elizabeth Silver
Gilly Combe, nominated by Barbara Abercrombie
Ben Cooper, nominated by Adam McOmber
Max Cunningham, nominated by Liska Jacobs
Ben Decter, nominated by Barbara Abercrombie
Brandon Dickerson, nominated by Amy Friedman
Cynthia Doss, nominated by Shawna Kenney
George Dutton, nominated by Beth Ann Bauman
Meghan Gaynor, nominated by Yelizaveta Renfro
Jenny Griffin, nominated by Caroline Leavitt
Brian Hooper, nominated by Liska Jacobs
*Gabriela Kruschewsky, nominated by Antonia Crane
*Zachary Liebhaber, nominated by Jessica Barksdale Inclan
Carolina Machado, nominated by Jeanne De Vita
Anne Maxwell, nominated by Chris Terry
Laray Mayfield, nominated by Antonia Crane
Colleen McAllister, nominated by Tempany Deckert
Ty McLeod, nominated by Lynn Hightower
*Taigh O’Donnel Young, nominated by Tempany Deckert
Godfrey Onime, nominated by Mieke Eerkens
*Joshua Rivas, nominated by Wally Rudolph
Ebony Roberts, nominated by Wally Rudolph
Samira Shakib-Bregeth, nominated by Robert Eversz
Amie Steir, nominated by Robert Eversz
Jacqui Swedberg, nominated by Chris Terry
Kristen Tallon, nominated by Lynn Hightower
Corey Triplett, nominated by Yelizaveta Renfro
Richard Turner, nominated by Alison Singh Gee
Silvia Vasquez-Lavado, nominated by Elizabeth Silver
Issac Withrow, nominated by Gordon Grice
Eric Yarber, nominated by Adam McOmber
Serach Shaily Yashar, nominated by Beth Ann Bauman

*indicates semifinalists

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