Poets & Writers

Winners on Winning

WE ASKED six writers who recently won contests—from single-piece awards to book-publication prizes to life-changing fellowships and grants—to discuss how winning (and losing) has affected their careers and to offer advice for writers thinking of entering contests.

AMA CODJOE of the Bronx, New York, winner of a 2019 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, 2019 DISQUIET Literary Prize, 2019 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize, 2018 Georgia Review Loraine Williams Poetry Prize, and 2017 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award.

Any time I’ve won an award, whether for an individual poem or as an emerging writer, it has felt like the poetry gods were conferring a blessing on me. And though the money has materially changed my life, it’s the affirmation that is the true gift. It has also changed my ability to carve out spaces that serve my work. For example, the support from the Rona Jaffe award allowed me to pursue

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