John BrandonFlorida has just surrendered in the Civil War and twelve-year-old Gussie has just buried his mother, one of the "working ladies" at the local saloon. When he tries to collect her last wages, the bartender tells him, "Money come in. It come thisaway. Don’t go thataway.” John Brandon's novel-in-progress, Ivory Shoals, riveted us with its gorgeous language ("Whenever a gust kicked up outside, the limbs [of the verbena] would whump their burdensome blossoms against the glass panes.") and fantastic dialog. We're eager to follow Gussie on his journey across Northern Florida as he looks for the father he's never met.
The author of three novels and a collection of short stories (all published by McSweeney’s Press), John teaches creative writing in Minnesota, where he lives with his wife and two sons.
Gabe BrownGabe Brown's paintings cleverly blend abstract and figurative elements and, most strikingly, soft textures and strong graphic elements. The multiple forms of mark-making create a layered effect that gives the works incredible depth. They are both quiet and sharp— a delight to the senses! She lives and teaches painting in the Hudson Valley with her son.
Susan GrahamWe are blown away by the intricacy of Susan Graham's sculptures; her fine porcelain work is a treat. We love how the pieces operate at multiple scales: they are compositionally strong, socially and politically challenging, and their delicacy rewards close inspection. Her woodblock print collages bring a similar aesthetic— this is an artist who moves fluidly across mediums. She lives in New York City with her two children.
Kate LearyJohanna is a 15-year-old girl living in rural Vermont, circa 1992; her dad's a famous record producer who has invited rocker Dean Callahan to the farm to record a new album, a chance for the washed-up star to become relevant again. She's into Nirvana, but still studies Callahan's old Rolling Stone cover—the one where he's naked but for a strategically-placed Fender guitar—for hours. We read the opening scenes of Kate Leary's terrific novel-in-progress, Opening Act, which promises to follow Johanna and her family for twenty years. We can't wait to see how this story unfolds. Kate lives with her husband and two sons in Massachusetts.
Maggie Smith"It’s only technically morning. Not even the birds // believe it." It only took two lines for us to fall for Maggie Smith's poems. From the toddler in her crib singing "Weep up!" in the dark light of morning, to the parent naming everything to her child as they walk, realizing, "I'm desperate for you // to love the world because I brought you here," the voices in Maggie's poems are familiar and poignant; they speak to our experience as parents today, their wry tone keeping the work from ever getting maudlin. "Face it," the narrator of one poem says, reminiscing about long-ago teenage kisses; "your life // is not what it was."
The author of two books of poetry, Maggie lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.
Skye AniccaIn Skye Anicca's short fiction we meet K King, a young woman and former ward of the state who works at the New Horizons Home for the Elderly; we meet Clara May, one of K's fragile charges, who won't bathe because of the trauma of nearly drowning in Hurricane Katrina; we meet a young woman who's haunted by her deceased nephew: "He hung around as if we had an appointment and I was standing him up. Eventually I taught him to play gin." This collection of linked short stories, tentatively titled Skins of Fortune, offers a mosaic of voices whose stories are so compelling, and yet so rarely heard; we look forward to more.
Skye teaches writing and lives with her husband and daughter in Arizona.
Brandon LingleBrandon Lingle is, to the best of our knowledge, the foundation's first active-duty award winner. A major in the U.S. Air Force, husband, and father of five, he is currently serving in Afghanistan, while his family holds down the fort in California.
Right now, Brandon is working on a collection of essays, A Fair Fight, in which he explores fatherhood, war, illness, and military life. Our favorite, Keeping Pace, interweaves the history of the treadmill with the story of his son, who was born with half a heart; it makes for gripping and intelligent reading.
Kathleen McGookeyKathleen McGookey knows that "just looking at a poem can make a reader wary, worried she might have to explain the meaning." So she writes short, chunky, prose poems about some everyday things (noisy kids; first grade homework; the woods in October) and some fantastic things (a fat baby hauled in with the day's catch; a dying star found in a second-hand store). The poems look sneakily "unassuming," she wrote in her application; "Kind of regular. A reader could pick up one of my prose poems and not realize she should be on guard, ready to figure it out. By the time she realizes it isn’t an article on organizing your mudroom, I hope she’s hooked. Or at least interested enough to keep on reading."
We're hooked. Our mudroom is a mess, but Kathleen's poetry took our breath away; it offers an insight into our days that will last longer and give us more satisfaction than any clean house.
The author of several books and chapbooks, Kathleen lives with her family in Michigan.
Thorpe Moeckel"Ola, the more outgoing of our just-turned three year old twins, yells from her place on the deck, 'Papa, is the house still moldy?'"
Thorpe Moeckel's Appalachian house is very moldy—so moldy that his wife is deathly ill and his family has moved out, into a cabin he and their older daughter built on their homestead. His memoir of their life—a story of public health, food, family, illness, fatherhood, rural life and material space—is as compelling as any we've ever read.
Moeckel, who has published several collections of poetry, teaches at Hollins University and lives with his wife and three children in West Virginia.
Susan MontgomerySusan Montgomery's work is hugely inventive; we were especially taken by a series called The Conversion of Pope Joan. Beautiful sculpture of wire and fabric is infused with smart commentary on art history and how our prevailing views are typically shaped by those in power. Her imaginative works blend fact with fiction, truth with rumor, and embrace those contradictions through a unique lens. She lives and teaches in Western Massachusetts with her husband and children.
Liz Garton ScanlonWe have been fans of Liz Garton Scanlon's work since our kids introduced us to All The World and are happy to learn that she's writing middle grade fiction now, too; The Great Good Summer comes out from Simon & Schuster this spring.
She comments that she writes for young people because it "allows me to celebrate that time and place where possibility ruled and imagination was a valid use of time. And, it offers up hard-won clarity about some of the tough stuff -- the disempowerment that came with being small and voiceless and not in charge of anything." We are so glad she does.
Liz lives in Austin with her husband and two teenage daughters.
Sylvie Baumgartel, Poetry
Matthew Ferrence, Nonfiction
Bethany Hays, Painting
Ann Hudson, Poetry
Sara Rockinger, Installation
Rebecca Rutstein, Painting and Sculpture
Laura Stanfill, Fiction
Arlaina Tibensky, Fiction
Laura Van Prooyen, Poetry
Sara Zak, Painting
Learn more about our previous awardees.