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Meet the finalists for the Wilson Writing Award

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November 01, 2013

Owen ClarkOwen Clark

Owen Clark 

The senior English major spent most of his life playing hockey.

A career ending injury led him from the ice to back to writing, something he enjoyed when he was younger.

“Since my hockey playing time ended, I realized academically the thing I was best at was writing,” he said. “

This poem “Rime Dreams” was selected as a finalist in for the Margaret Harvin Wilson 2013 Writing Award.

He didn’t choose the topic of this work, instead it grew out of a dream and then developed from there.

“This is a newer piece I wrote for a poetry workshop. It’s based on a dream I had and focuses on the speaker’s relationship with his father,” said Owen.

He enjoys the works of authors Bret Easton Ellis and Flannery O’Connor.

After graduation, he hopes to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing and see where his career might take him.

“I’m humbled to be in this pool of finalists that really shows the high level of our undergraduate writers,” said Owen. “I’m really grateful for the creative writing faculty that are great teachers and really have a way of getting us excited about writing.”


Rachel EstridgeRachel Estridge

Rachel Estridge 

Rachel has never understood how some women can have their main focus in life be on marriage and having children. That frustration led her to write “Dogs on the Porch,” a story about a girl who gets stuck in a small town.

“This story developed out of frustration at seeing women I knew who were in college pursuing a degree and only had the goal of being a stay at home mom, like they are throwing away their education,” she said. “My goal is to show that there’s more to the world than the place or situation you are in.”

Growing up a military brat, her family moved all over the world allowing her to see life as a "chain of human connections."

“It’s those connections and day-to-day interactions that make life interesting,” she said.

In her work, Rachel imitates her idol, author Amy Bender, because “her use of language is so beautiful and she breaks all the conventional rules of writing.”

Being named a finalist for this award is exciting because it serves as “a validation of what I believe in, others can see as good.”

Rachel graduates in May and has several options for her future ranging from teaching abroad in South Korea to joining the Marine Corps or pursuing a publishing internship.


Kasey GayKasey GayKasey Gay 

Finalist Kasey Gay writes because he has to.

“I do it against my will sometimes,” he said. “It’s like a game a Tetris in my head. The lines are stuck with me until I get them out and the only way to do that is to write.”

His work “Fragile Things” came from an idea he had been thinking about developing for a while. Then a conversation with a friend helped move it forward. The short story hits an emotional note with its focus on abortion.

Earlier this year, Kasey made a goal to make money by publishing his writing. He hoped to make $1,000, and soon after he set that objective, he found out about the Margaret Harvin Wilson Writing competition, which awards the winner that same amount out money.

He only found the art of writing in the last few years after an athletic injury led him to “pick up a pen as a new avenue.”

Grateful for the environment present in the creative writing program, he believes it’s good for positive criticism, growing and developing.”

Honored to be chosen as a finalist, he said it’s both “a compliment and humbling to be recognized with this group of students.”

“It’s nice to feel a sense that others recognize that you’ve got something good,” said Kasey.”


Grayson MaxwellGrayson MaxwellGrayson Maxwell 

For many fiction writers, attention to sensual detail is an important component of their art.

Whether it’s the intricacies of a flower or the many hues and textures of a forest, the ability to translate the natural world in all of its sights, sounds and scents is one way a writer can express larger meanings.

For Grayson, the challenge of his writing is to create a world that lends itself more to the fantastic than the realistic.

He cited magical realism as a good description for his writing, in which “the details are not always important,” but the goal is to provide the reader with “a more serious message than one would expect from what was on the page.”

Maxwell subscribes to the ancient adage that art must both delight and instruct. He believes that the magical realism genre allows him to entertain his readers while providing them with an understanding of important truths.

“My work,” he said, “tries to express human nature in its best sense.”

When asked about his hopes regarding the Wilson prize and his short story, “Forgotten Mail,” Maxwell said he is honored to be considered for the prize, but he is equally excited that he is able to share his art with others.

“I write with a sense of urgency and I hope my readers are able to feel a bit hopeful as a result of my writing," he said.  


Nia McRayNia McRayNia McRay 

Nia first began writing poetry in middle school. That soon developed into a way for her to work through things, to better understand herself and the world.

“I see writing as a very special art form where I have the power to somewhat force people to see things from my view,” she said. “They don’t have to accept my views, but they are at least exposed to them.”

Her short story “Beneath a Sun” has been in the works since her freshman year. It focuses on family and the impact one’s family can have on their lives.

“I’m hoping to one day make this into a novel,” she said. “I included a selection of several scenes for this competition.”

Since her December graduation is quickly approaching, Nia has plans to be a substitute teacher in the foreseeable future, then possibly work with Teach for America while writing on the side.

“I have loved being a part of the English and rhetoric department because of the faculty and students,” she said. “I’ve been able to not only grow as a writer, but also be a part of a very special group, a family that helps each other, provides feedback and educational opportunities.”

 She credits the great teachers from middle school to now for helping her get to this point with her writing. 

Find out more about the Margaret Harvin Wilson Writing Award here.


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