MSMS students dominate this year’s Ephemera Prize


Nora Courtney

Ephemera Prize winners pose with awards at recognition ceremony. From left to right are junior Ava Noe, senior Chloe Dobbins, senior Makenzie Brannon and senior Nathane George.

Helena Munoz, Staff Writer

Four of the five winning entries in this year’s Ephemera Prize were submmited by MSMS students: junior Ava Noe and seniors Makenzie Brannon, Nathané George and Chloe Dobbins. Junior Maryann Dang also received an honorable mention for her work.

The Ephemera Prize is named in honor of famous writer Eudora and the Mississippi University for Women’s early creative writing journals. Students from across Mississippi are invited to respond to the competition with either a poem, essay or short fiction story. A $200 prize is awarded to the top five entries, which will be later honored at the Eudora Welty Writer’s Symposium. At this event, the winners read their work and go to lunch with symposium authors.

This year’s prompt was “Telling Stories, Charting a Future: ‘Coming to the end of the road… the jumping off place.'” Students were also allowed to respond to Welty’s short story “No Place For You, My Love.” This year the judges were Chantal James and Jacqueline Trimble, who are also featured at this year’s Welty Symposium.

“I read the prompt and I saw it as an easy way to express myself,” Brannon said. “I don’t know I thought it was a pretty open prompt so there was a lot of room for expression.”

Both George and Dang said they initially didn’t submit any of their work to the competition until Thomas Richardson, former creative writing teacher who was in charge of sending out the submissions, reached out to them and asked for their permission to submit their work.

“Richardson emailed me and said that I should submit my college essay, and so I did,” George said. “I know a lot of people didn’t do that, but I just wrote my essay for myself, and then it happened to fit the competition’s prompt.”

“I actually hadn’t read the prompt when I summited it. Richardson reached out to me and asked if he could submit my first submission of creative writing when I was in the class,” Dang said. “I didn’t have much hope for it … and then I won an honorable mention, so that was very surprising to me.”

Brannon said she wrote her poem “The Side of the Road in Columbus, MS” simply because she wanted to share with other people how beautiful the side of the road was.

She also said she has never summited her work but is now inspired to do so.

“I haven’t done any competitions before this, but now I am going to get into it,” Brannon said. “I’ve always written just because I loved reading, and so I was like, I’m going to try writing, and then I just loved it. Writing is just a way to get ideas out of my brain.”

Dang said she wrote her poem “Stir fry of tradition,” thinking about the very strict gender roles women in her culture must endure.

“On a surface level, it’s the narrative of a girl helping her mom cook and having her mom teach her how to cook,” Dang said. “And having the girl get emotional about it because the teaching on how to cook is the tip of an iceberg of a bigger thing over how people in my culture, especially women, are pushed to very strict gender roles in which they women have to cook and clean while the men go out and work. It’s about this girl having this experience with her mother but also having this turmoil inside which she knows she has to conform to in the future.”

George said they ultimately decided to submit their essay “Dirty” to the conquest because they wanted to inspire other people to talk about their struggles in life.

“I submitted the essay because if I won, I want people to be encouraged to write more about the struggles they’ve had in life,” George said. “Because writing like that was very therapeutic, writing about my struggles is a little breath of air, and I want more people to share their stories.”

When asked if he was surprised by the overwhelming domination MSMS students had on this year’s Ephemera Prize, Richardson said surprised was not the right word.

“I don’t think surprised is an accurate description because I know how talented these students are. I think proud is more of an accurate word because I’ve seen how hard these students worked,” Richardson said. “Sometimes we forget people just don’t roll out of bed with talent. It takes practice and a commitment to revision and reimagining. I’m proud of the hard work these students put in.”