The Kurt Brown Prizes

AWP offers three annual scholarships of $500 each to emerging writers who wish to attend a writers’ conference, center, retreat, festival, or residency. The scholarships are applied to fees for winners who attend one of the member programs in AWP’s Directory of Conferences & Centers. Winners and six finalists also receive a one-year individual membership in AWP. The goal of the contest is to spread the word about the incredible work being done at local writing centers, conferences, festivals, retreats, and residencies.

Submissions to the Kurt Brown Prizes are welcome online via Submittable each year between December 1 and March 30. Download full guidelines at right.

In 1990, Kurt Brown founded Writers’ Conferences and Centers (WC&C), a coalition of writers’ conferences and festivals, to help these groups support one another and thrive. Kurt was a friend and mentor to many writers, a poet, editor, memoirist, essayist, teacher, and administrator. Today, the group he founded is an important part of AWP, which hosts more than 120 member programs. We hope you will take the time to visit our directory and explore them all. There is an excellent chance you will find one that meets in your local area that can help you connect with a community of writers and friends.

Congratulations to Our 2020 Winners

Claire Agnes

Creative Nonfiction

Claire Agnes, By the Hour

Claire Agnes is a professor, visual artist, and Pushcart-nominated writer. Originally from West Chester, Pennsylvania, the daughter of a veterinarian and a blacksmith, she received an MFA from New York University in 2019. Claire was a 2019 Denis Johnson Scholar at Disquiet, writer-in-residence at Stone Court, Global Research Fellow in Prague, curator for the KGB Emerging Writers Reading Series in Manhattan, and assistant fiction editor for Washington Square Review. Her work has been published in The Rumpus, Entropy, and No Tokens. Claire is a contributing editor for Driftwood Press and the current James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches undergraduate creative writing.

Suzanne Farrell Smith

Of Claire Agnes‘s submission, judge Suzanne Farrell Smith shared: 

By the Hour is the kind of essay you want to read fast, eager to see what happens, but also slow, so as not to miss all of its brilliant locutions. The narrator’s internal upheaval is painstakingly hooked to the external action, which is at once commonplace and charged. The writer tells us early on, “I can feel the angle of our potential widen.” And we feel it too. We move into the space that has been created and hope it widens more. By the end, the narrator, rather than claiming a false transformation, notes, quietly, “that slight space warping, its angle irreparable.” We too feel squeezed as it closes. Each choice—words, sentence order and complexity, use of space on the page—is thoughtful, even loving. “By the Hour” is a beautiful small look into what the human heart must endure.

Runners-Up in Creative Nonfiction
Mary Pan, Where No Storms Come
Maya Osman-Krinsky, Mishpacha Meshuga

Emily Flouton

Fiction

Emily Flouton, Exonerated

Emily Flouton's writing has appeared in Tin House, Gay Magazine, The Atlantic, Subtropics, Passages North, Hobart, SmokeLong Quaterly, Flyway, and Quarterly West. She has an MFA from Portland State University and lives in Denver, Colorado.

Angie Kim

Of Emily Flouton's piece, judge Angie Kim shared the following:

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for a couple of hours, trying to think of a coolly analytical, restrained way to describe why I’ve chosen Exonerated as the winning fiction submission—but it’s impossible. I could blame it on quarantine brain, but it’s not that. I simply can’t write in a restrained way about a story that’s so unabashedly unrestrained. So many elements of the story’s craft delighted me: the assuredness of the voice, the rhythm of the prose, and the full range of humor—subtly satiric to laugh-out-loud outrageous, sometimes in the same paragraph. But what ultimately won me over is its magic trick of an ending. On its surface, Exonerated is a funny story about a couple of Manhattan mixologists working an over-the-top adult diaper party (!) in the Hamptons. The story’s last sentence, however, delivers a transformative blow that made me see the story in an entirely different light—as an exploration of how we see and interpret our own lives, determine who we want to be, and of storytelling itself.

Runners-Up in Fiction
Rita Chang-Eppig, The Dinner Party
Amanda Minoff, I Convinced Myself of a Plague

Leigh Lucas

Poetry

Leigh Lucas, Splashed Things

Leigh Lucas is a poet and writer who received her MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson and her BA from Stanford University. Her poems appear in sPARKLEe & bLINK, A Women’s Thing, and others. She was a panelist at the 2019 AWP Conference session “Give a Good Reading” and was a finalist for The Los Gatos-Listowel Poetry Contest and the Urmy/Hardy Poetry Prize. She is the creator and host of Frida Art Show, a live video interview series showcasing contemporary artists. She lives in San Francisco. More can be found at leighlucas.com.

Shikha Malaviya

Of Leigh Lucas’s submission, judge Shikha Malaviya wrote the following:

Splashed Things is a devastating narrative poem that dances between love, loss, and grief. In language that is immediate, elegant, visceral, and almost sculptural, we find out how The man I love / Jumped off a bridge on September 30th at 3 in the afternoon and in the aftermath, follow the speaker opening drawer after drawer / Hoping to find something, anything that belongs to him. Line after line of this poem cradles memory with an elegiac gentleness, yet pirouettes vigorously through mourning and remembrance, giving voice to all that has been displaced by this tragedy. I was stunned when I read this poem—by its courage, beauty, clarity, and unique form, in which Words for the negative spaces / Around him / Are the only ones I can say. It is my absolute pleasure to award this entry as the 2020 Kurt Brown poetry winner.

Runners-Up in Poetry
Ae Hee Lee, 7 Poems
Laurel Nakanishi, ‘Soledad, Before You’ and Other Poems

Previous Award Recipients

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List of Winners

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