Friends of Writers is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Larry Levis Post-Graduate Stipend: 

Andres Reconco (fiction 18) for Crisálida. The judge in fiction was Patricia Elam.

Jennifer Funk (poetry 16) for Again, Again. The judge in poetry was Dorienne Laux.

Each winner receives $5000.

Congratulations to Andres and Jennifer, and many thanks to everyone who submitted their fine work. Our judges reported that selecting a winner in each category was a challenge due to the many outstanding submissions. 

Finalists in poetry were Megan Gillespie (’05) for This One Time, Kellam Ayres (’10) for In the Cathedral of My Undoing, and Megan Pinto (’18) for Saints of Little Faith. Finalists in Fiction were Sonya Larson (’18) for What If Won’t, Corey Campbell (’12) for Everybody’s Good, and Somayeh Shams (’14) for Tombak.

In 2020 there will again be two awards, one in poetry and one in fiction. Submission guidelines will be available and the amount of the 2020 awards announced on or around August 1, 2020, with submissions opening in September.


In response to his award, Andres says:

Warren Wilson taught me that writing requires kindness, community, and sacrifice. I learned this through the thoroughness of my supervisors’ notes, conversations, and letters. I experienced it through the unwavering support of my peers and through the kind patience of my family. I imagine that without these lessons I would still be the type of writer who does not respect the craft, who waits for inspiration to strike, and who thinks writing is “fun”. Through the Larry Levis Post-Graduate Stipend, Warren Wilson continues to teach me about the positive impact of a kind, tight-knit community. I am grateful and thankful for Friends of Writers, for the important work they do, and for their incredible dedication to our craft. Thank you for believing in my work.

About Crisalda, Patricia Elam says: 

This story collection leapt to the top of the pile because of it’s heart-wrenching beauty and distinctive voice.  I cared deeply about the well-drawn characters and their layered lives.  When I thought I knew where a story was going, it would twist itself in a different, unpredictable direction. The writing is clean, crisp and devastating.  I love that the writer has created a convincingly young character yet there is also wisdom and complexity within the tale. In addition, the other characters are equally well crafted to the point that I can see, smell and almost taste them.

In response to her award, Jennifer says:

A romantic and foolish creature, I got into poetry because it seemed more noble than acting and less futile than directing.  Oh, Bald Naiveté, how grateful I am for you, how you so often deliver me into the very work I most need to be doing.  I applied to Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers as a moonshot, never expecting they’d let ungainly and unskilled me up the hill.  But that is the thing about this tremendous program: they play, as Adrienne Perry noted in her acceptance for the Levis Prize in fiction last year, the long game.  My time in the program was the very making of me, not only as a writer but as a human in the world, and I am bowled over with glee and gratitude at receiving this prize.  Writing is a lonely, lonely endeavor, and I would not have survived this medium without the support and wisdom and affection and sheer pushing of the teachers and friends I have come to know through Warren Wilson.  Ms. Laux’s words inspire a furious blush in this corner, and it is a rare pleasure to have a writer you so admire name your intentions and ambitions better than you could possibly name them yourself.  I will endeavor to make good on this offer, dear community of mine. 

About Again, Again, Dorianne Laux says:

 I was immediately struck by the first poem, “August Song of Flight” which opens with the line, “You unshuckable masterpiece of conviction and collapse, I shiver…”  and continues to uphold its addiction to sensuality and language throughout this wholly original love poem to a “madman”, stopping for a moment only to declare in stark, clipped lines, “I am a foolish animal.  I should burn/ for this.  I do.”This poet is addicted to sound, to the hushed lushness and lustiness of both the body and the mind, desire, the loveliness of loneliness…

Here’s more encouragement from winners of the Levis Prize:

When I applied for the Levis Prize, I did so at a time when I was at a cross-roads with my work and writing career. I had just received my MFA from Warren Wilson a few months prior, and my manuscript was on the cusp of becoming a full-length. One of my issues, however, was that in all my time as a writer in the program I was never afforded the opportunity of a true writing retreat to focus on my writing and nothing else. Certainly, we had the residencies at the start of each semester, but we all know those are filled more with lessons and preparation for the oncoming work, rather than a time to settle into yourself in with your literary offspring. I used the Levis Prize for a few things, but my greatest outcome from it was to take a writing retreat abroad in order to sit with my work and push the manuscript over the top. Sometimes the greatest gift we can offer our work is our presence with it, unburdened by financial woes that distract us from the work.

Additionally, winning the prize was a powerful moment in itself. Obviously, to win anything in the publishing world can be a challenge given how it sometimes takes the right people viewing the right work at the right time. That said, it was reaffirming to what I’d been doing as a writer to not only have the wherewithal to travel for my writing, but to also receive a distinction that invigorated me to push forward with the craft in ways I may not have been able to do so otherwise. 

–Tariq Luthun

I applied for the Levis with only one publication under my belt, a short story that hadn’t even come out yet but was due to be published in Waxwing the following summer. I was less than a year out of my MFA and didn’t know if my book project had any legs, or if I had what was needed to make writing my life. At that point in time, I could have gone back to full-time paid work but was reluctant to, because I knew it would take away my writing time. But there was also a voice in my head that said maybe I should just go back to doing what I knew I was good at, and earned me money, rather than spending my time on writing these stories that might never go anywhere. 

When I received the phone call and was told that Peter Ho Davies had selected stories from my collection-in-progress for the Levis Prize, my whole world changed. I sat at my desk and wept with relief. I knew that I had to take this as an opportunity to not return to full-time work, and the money made that possible. But it did more than that – it gave me confidence in my work that I did not at that time have. I remember waking up early in the morning (it was winter in northern Scotland) before it was light, and telling myself that even if I didn’t want to get up and write, that someone I admired had decided my work was good enough to take a chance on. It propelled me forwards. 

That book project is now Homescar, and more of those stories have since been written and published. It is still a collection-in-progress but it is so much further along than it would have been if I had not won the Levis. I am so grateful for what it gave me – financial support, community, visibility and confidence – and would urge anyone at any stage in their writing career to apply for it. 

–Rose Skelton


Please pull out your phones, your calendars (I know we have some analog folks, myself included), a spare napkin/post-it/receipt or whatever you have on hand as these are a few dates and details you’re going to want to notate.  

Alumni Conference.  2020.  July 11 – 18 (short stay 14 -18).  Mount Holyoke College. 

Once and yet again, we shall have the precious pleasure of convening ourselves under the large shade trees and within those crisp brick buildings to workshop, review manuscripts, convene for classes and panels and readings.  There will be ample opportunity, too, to revel in the superlative company of those who know just where you are coming from, not to mention company that will affectionately ignore you as much as you have need if you want to skip it all in favor of taking time to write.

If you’ve already been, I hardly need continue this pitch. 

If you’ve not yet been, the above should be proof enough, but here are a few testimonials: 

“A conference is not a residency without faculty and it’s not a reunion. It’s a small summer oasis filled with peers who will amaze and encourage you, with laughter, with as much or as little work as you’d like. But the very best part of the conferences is meeting Wallys who were in the program at different times over many years – creating a lovely confusion of dates and faces…So come. You’ll be happy. You’ll be surprised.”  

–Nancy Koerbel

“Each [conference] is a revelation, a tremendous gift of time to work and a community in which to celebrate that gift.  It maintains the very best of the residencies at Warren Wilson and jettisons all the rest.  It revitalizes and inspires every time.  I can’t remember a single moment at an alumni conference when I did not feel like the luckiest person on the planet.”  

–Michael Jarmer

As someone who attended their first alumni conference shortly after graduating from the program, may I also offer that there is a specific thrill in meeting your compatriots out of context in part.  Yes?  Marvelous.  The conference reminds you of the other great legacy you are a part of (aside from the whole writing tradition thing), which is to say this magnificent and enduring program of study.  The conference also called to mind the reassurance that a writing life really is long-term endeavor, is the work of a whole life.  I left both eager to work and yet no longer in a rush to merely fix the problems in my work, but to engage with them, to understand them. 

  –accidental testimonial of Jennifer Funk, this year’s coordinator

Information about fees and scholarships and other business bits forthcoming. 

The Levis Prize deadline approaches. Here’s some encouragement to apply from two former winners:

“The Levis Prize served as valuable reinforcement at a critical moment. When I received word that Edward Hirsch had selected an excerpt from my manuscript-in-process, 

it gave me a tremendous boost towards completing the book. The prize money also funded a few more rounds of submissions at a time when I had just decided to leave 

my full-time job to focus on writing for a while– I was on the verge of retiring my first manuscript due to lack of funds, despite the fact that it had been a semi-finalist 

or finalist numerous times in the years prior to the award. That book ended up winning the Sexton Prize and will be out in 2020. I couldn’t be more grateful to 

Friends of Writers for that shot in the arm.”  

~ Ross White

“I was blown away when I got the call that I had won the Levis Stipend.  It was a terrific boost to my confidence to receive that tangible (and generous) form of feedback. That year we relocated from DC to Kansas City and so had all kinds of big, one-time expenses.  Without the Levis, I would not have been able to send out work (fees) nor been able to attend the Bread Loaf conference (expenses). And while the funds are extremely valuable, I want to be sure to also underscore the value I found in having my work singled out specifically within the Warren Wilson community—folks who I respect, admire, and look up to.” 
—Noah Stetzer

The Deadline is December 1. Apply Here:

DEADLINE EXTENSION: The Levis Prize submission period has been extended to December 1, 2019.

What do you need to jump that final hurdle to complete your first full-length manuscript? Travel money to attend a conference or workshop? The chance to work with a trusted editor? Childcare? 

Two generous stipends of $5,000 will be awarded, one in fiction and one in poetry, in support of Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers alumni who have yet to publish a full-length collection. 

Please submit via Submittable no later than December 1, 2019

Address any questions you may have to:
Ashley Nissler
Levis Fellowship Administrator
[email protected]

Two 2019 Levis Prizes of $5,000 for a First Book of Poetry and First Book of Fiction  

Two Larry Levis Post-Graduate Stipends, one in fiction and one in poetry, are given to support graduates of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers who are completing first books. Each 2019 award will be made to a writer in the amount of $5,000. Judges will be announced with the winning manuscripts.   The Levis Stipends are open only to alumni who have not yet published a full-length collection in the selected genre in a standard edition.

Submissions will be accepted between September 2 and November 18, 2019, and must be made via Submittable:

Larry Levis (1946-1996) was an award-winning poet who wrote six books of poetry during his lifetime. His collection, Elegy, was published posthumously. A Selected Poems was published in 2000. The Darkening Trapeze, a collection of last poems, was published in 2016. Levis was a much-beloved member of the faculty at the MFA Program for Writers, cherished as much for his incisive mind as for the care and attention he gave to his students.  

Any queries or requests for more information should be addressed to:  

Ashley Nissler  

Levis Fellowship Administrator 

[email protected] 

There are two $500 dollar conference scholarships available for recent graduates from the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Visit the 2019 Alumni Conference pages for more information.

David Lanier (Poetry ’94) is a retired family physician and the author of the chapbook Lost & Found, winner of the Robert Phillips Poetry Prize from the Texas Review Press.  In 2015 he established the Rodney Jack Scholarship for LGBTQ students in the Warren Wilson MFA Program, and has recently augmented his contribution so that the fund can now support two qualified candidates each semester.  The following is David’s remembrance of the late Warren Wilson MFA alum for whom the scholarship is named.  David and his husband currently live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Remembering Rodney Jack

I never got to know Rodney Jack as well as I would have liked to.  And for reasons I’ll explain later, I’ve thus far been able to read only about a dozen or so of the poems he wrote in his relatively short lifetime.  But that, for me, has been enough to convince me that he was an extraordinary person and poet.  His work first gained wide recognitionin 1999, around the time of his graduation from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, when five of his poems were published as a group in Poetry.  The magazine further honored this set of poems by awarding Rodney the prestigious Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize later that year.  Here is one of those poems, written soon after he found out that he was HIV positive:

After The Diagnosis

They erected a chainlink fence around

                                    Peachtree Mortgage & Loan,

                                    the building I once climbed

                                    by way of a drainpipe and a tree-of-heaven

                                    to the hot tar top, closer to a box maple’s

                                    topmost bejeweled branches — laden with samaras.

                                    Stomping through a plush rug

                                    of creeper and fallen sourwood flowers, I know

                                    that I’m alive — as Darwin described it:

                                    greedily hungry, fit to survive —

                                    not the least bit concerned with fences.

                                    I scale the chainlink, then the building,

                                    sit on the roof dreaming

                                    of my future house:  vaulted ceilings,

                                    walls mostly windows looking out to a yard

                                    lush with royal paulownia, black locust,

                                    angel hair also known as mimosa —

                                    those trees like weeds that grow where they can,

                                    beside a dumpster, gutter, punched through

                                    a sidewalk crack, whose numbers

                                    are legion and whose flowers are proud,

                                    like the sourwood lilies I tread on my way home.

I keep coming back to this poem because it captures so well the essence of the Rodney Jack I knew.  Two things in particular haunt me about this poem.  The first is the poet’s remarkable restraint.  Since the title tells us that the poem’s narrator has recently received some unfortunate, if not devastating, news about his health, we might expect the reaction to be somewhere between despair, agitation and hysterical wailing. Instead, he chooses to describe for us, in a calm, contained way, a day of boy-like climbing over vines and chainlink fence, up a drainpipe, to a rooftop retreat for a moment’s reverie among the lushness of nature.  The only indication we get that strong emotion may be pent up or smoldering beneath the poem’s smooth surface comes in the second stanza when the familiar feel of nature beneath his feet assures the narrator that he is not only alive but “fit to survive.”  With that thought in mind, the following third and fourth stanzas — all one sentence — seem to come rushing out of him like a controlled sigh or a song:  intake of breath before the colon, followed by an extended exhalation that’s syntactically complex and saturated with detail.  It sounds to me almost like a wishful prayer or a sung ode to survival.  The other haunting characteristic of the poem is its pervasive sense of, not loneliness, but aloneness, separateness.  The narrator has literally been fenced out, and although he claims to be “not the least bit concerned with fences,” he’s nonetheless forced to see the world from the other side.  At what must be a very difficult time in his life, the narrator has escaped to an out-of-way place where he chooses to look neither inward nor to others for solace.  Instead, he looks outat the comforting beauty of the natural world that alone feels welcoming.

Read more

Dear Poet: An Anthology of Essays on the Letters Between Poets and Mentors 

Dear Community of Writers:

We have received a group of excellent proposals and we are eager to see more! We’d like to have any new project ideas by April 15, and then to set a date to receive the essays. Please consider making a proposal. Everyone welcome! See below for a ideas.

Friends of Writers seeks essays, short craft memoirs, and excerpts of letters for a new anthology that will explore the central and unique teaching tool of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College: the exchange of letters between students and their faculty mentors. We are looking for edited exchanges, essays, and other writings that capture a lively, moving portrait of the program. Unlike prior anthologies, this one will be the first to include work by poetry alumni about their apprenticeship.

We are inviting poets to submit a proposal describing the way in which a set of letters between you and a faculty mentor illuminated your work, changed your process, or otherwise affected the making of a poem. We have already received a group of proposals that were wonderful. And we’d like to see more. If possible, make reference to any supporting material pertinent to sections of letters between you and a faculty member.

The anthology will comprise a collection of essays. These will include letter excerpts demonstrating how the exchange of letters and evolving drafts helped you to understand and develop yourwork as a poet. The range of topics may be capacious:  from, for instance, “how my poem evolved,” with examples from exchanges as well as portions of the revised poem, to “advice from my mentor,” commenting on larger aesthetic issues and the work of the imagination. If you considered but rejected a mentor’s advice, we’d like to know about that as well. A possible essay might include selections from two or three teachers with differing views and mention of how those perspectives changed your process. Another might be how the correspondence about reading poems affected your understanding of your own poetic process.

The proposal should be between one and three pages; the finished essays between 10 and 25 pp. double-spaced, roughly 4000 to 12000 words, inclusive of quoted material.

We welcome facsimiles of annotated manuscript pages. If your example includes a published poem, we will be asking you to secure the permissions necessary to reprint, as well as permission from your prior supervisor/s to publish excerpts from the letters. As with Friends of Writers’ previous anthologies, we will ask contributors to allocate all royalties to the scholarship funds. We hope the anthology will comprise 15 to 17 pieces. However, the publishing house will make all the final decisions regarding acceptance of essays. Alums Ellen McCulloch-Lovell ’12 and Abigail Wender ’08 will serve as Managing Editors of the anthology, with editorial help from Maeve Kinkead, Joy Manesiotis, and others from the Friends of Writers community. (Look for periodic announcements about who’s joined the editorial board). We anticipate an introduction by one or more poetry faculty members, who will serve as Executive Editors.

We are confident that this anthology, like the others, will serve as an important resource to writers and teachers and that it will become a text to return to, again and again–in much the same way that you return to your seminal trove of letters. And like the other anthologies, this collection will be an important asset to potential students who are considering application to MFA Programs.

We are very excited to launch this new anthology. There is really nothing out there like it!! Please submit your project to [email protected]

With appreciation and thanks,

Ellen Bryant Voigt

Friends of Writers

Friends of Writers is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Larry Levis Post-Graduate Stipend:  Adrienne Perry in Fiction for See Through Girls  and Tariq Luthun in Poetry for How the Water Holds Me. Each winner receives $5000. The judge in fiction was Paul Lisicky. The judge in poetry was Rigoberto González.

Congratulations to Adrienne and Tariq and many thanks to everyone who submitted their fine work. Both judges report that choosing just one winner in each category was a very difficult decision, as there were so many high-quality entries. Finalists in poetry were Rosemary Kitchen for Field Notes for the Magician and Robin Rosen Chang for Bleeding into the Garden. Finalists in Fiction were Taryn Tilton for Night Crane and Hadley Moore for Not Dead Yet and Other Stories.

In 2019 there will again be two awards, one in poetry and one in fiction. Submission guidelines will be available and the amount of the 2019 awards announced as of August 1, 2019, with submissions accepted beginning September 1.