For the past few weeks, we have been featuring narrative accounts “from the horse’s mouth,” so to speak—former winners in essay, fiction, and poetry of our Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize. All of our winners have different backgrounds, experiences, publication records, and responses to achieving this esteemed prize and honor. Today we hear from Melissa Yancy, 2013’s fiction winner; George Looney, 2010’s poetry winner; and Christina Hutchins, 2009’s poetry winner. Here is what they have to say:
“First, there’s the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize weekend. Writing is such a lonely occupation: I crave the social and I’ll admit I like a stage (years of performing arts). I take workshops for the same reasons—I need that energy—but in the celebratory context of a prize weekend, it is so much more fun. We winners were spoiled and this prize has ruined me for other prizes (she says presumptuously–ha!). And it’s not often you get to meet a prize donor. I’m a fundraiser by profession, so meeting Jeffrey Smith and hearing about his commitment to The Missouri Review was a treat.
Second, I learned that people actually read The Missouri Review. I’ve never had so many readers reach out to me personally after reading a story. Winning has also led to increased interest from agents, but the support and encouragement of The Missouri Review staff and the strangers across the country who read the story—that’s golden.
It’s heartening and hard to believe (in our fleeting times) how long Speer and the crew have been at this, fighting the good fight. It reminds you that this is a long game. And that’s a reminder I need daily.”
“I am deeply grateful to the editors of The Missouri Review who have been so gracious and ‘accepting’ of my work over the years. Once, almost in another life it seems, the editors of TMR accepted several of my poems and that was, for me, a very significant event. There are a handful of literary journals that, both because of whose work they publish and because of the look of the journal, I have always wanted my work to appear in. Most of them by now I have made it into, but TMR was one of the first I was able to see my work in, followed quickly by The Ohio Review and Quarterly West and, finally, The Southern Review and The Georgia Review. So that first acceptance seemed to get things rolling, in terms of my work getting to an audience. The fact that I have won the Editors’ Prize in Poetry twice in this century (the first time it was still called the Levis Prize) I consider to be an achievement equivalent to the fact that this year my seventh book of poetry was published. That the editors of this major literary journal would so appreciate my work and not only share it with their readers but award it their prize, and twice, has helped convince me I made the right choice years ago when, rather than going for my MFA in Art, I decided to go for an MFA in Poetry. It’s nice to be validated every now and then.”
“Like Roy Kesey, winner of The Missouri Review Editors’ Prize for Fiction in 2008, I remember the hotel bathtub and the penthouse, its many windows surrounded by a snowy Columbia late at night, and a great happiness, fully felt in solitude but lived, for that weekend’s visit and reading, among the editors and staff of The Missouri Review. I’m a poet, and in 2010 I had the chance to meet beautiful poets and writers who since have become my friends, to be met by them from the inside of my poems. The editorial staff of TMR had lived and dialogued within and between the poems, and they stepped forth from that place to greet me. It is lavish and profoundly moving to be met that way.
I’d long been an appreciative reader and especially glad to have two previous groups of poems featured (from earlier Editors’ Prize submissions), partly because TMR doesn’t publish individual poems. Rather, little families of poems appear together, and so what poet and reader get to do is to listen for conversations among the poems, to explore the small silences between them. Winning the Editors’ Prize, I experienced being discovered and heard in that rarely perceived, interstitial, and holy space from which I make my poems. The timing of the $5000, the utterly generous celebration, meals, being in the physical spaces of a working literary journal, all belong to a pivotal moment in my emerging as poet in the world. Since then, I had my first full-length book, The Stranger Dissolves, published. But it was the joy in Marc McKee’s notifying words, received on Christmas Eve, it was learning why the apostrophe of Editors’ is plural—TMR is fostered by an editorial community—and, it was being welcomed from my work, met at a moving place I had thought lived only within me.”
Want to join them? You can submit to our 2014 Editors’ Prize Contest here. The deadline is October 1st–7 days remaining!