Awards Background


Annual prizes for the best student writing in drama, poetry, prose fiction, non-fictional prose, and critical essays analyzing literature

English Department Awards

Each spring, the department of English judges and presents annual prizes for the best student writing in drama, poetry, prose fiction, non-fictional prose, and critical essays analyzing literature. Prizes include monetary awards drawn from the gifts of generous donors and are available to students at all levels, from first-year undergraduates to advanced MFA and PhD candidates. In distinction, the Miriam Bailin Prize, first presented in 2019, recognizes excellent teaching by English faculty members.

The Submissions Portal for Spring 2024 is now CLOSED. For further details, including submission guidelines, please see the appropriate links further down the page. Questions about our contests can be emailed to ENGLISH@WUSTL.EDU.

*Entries that do not adhere to the rules may not be considered. Please read all entry rules, listed at the bottom of this page, prior to submitting your entry.*


The Adeline T.M. Graber Poetry Prize/Academy of American Poets Prize:  The Adeline T.M. Graber Poetry Prize was established in 1975 by Dr. T.M. Graber in honor of his mother and is supported by the Graber Family Foundation. The Academy of American Poets Prize is awarded in honor of Adeline Graber as well. In 1995, Dr. T.M. Graber gifted the university a lifetime membership in the Academy of American Poets to honor his mother.  The prizes are awarded in conjunction each spring in the amount of $1,000 to each winner, one graduate and one undergraduate, for a piece of outstanding poetry.

The Miriam Bailin Prize for Faculty Teaching:  Established by the English department in 2018, the Miriam Bailin Prize honors excellent teaching by English faculty members. This annual prize carries an award of $500. It is named after an English professor known for her exemplary pedagogy while leading classes in Victorian and modern British literatures at Washington University. Tenured, tenure-track, and full-time non-tenure track faculty employed in the English department are all eligible. Students as well as fellow teachers may nominate one candidate per year. 

The Leanna Boysko Prize:  This award, established in 1990 by Professor Emerita Bernetta Jackson in memory of former graduate student and English department secretary Leanna Boysko, will be given annually for both the best essay of creative non-fiction and the best essay of literary-critical prose written by a junior or senior for an English composition or an English literature class. The contest grants an award of $100 to each of the two winners.

The Cornelison English Prize:  This prize is awarded annually to two English department graduate students for excellence demonstrated by an essay in literary criticism written for course work at Washington University. Essays may be nominated by professors or by student authors themselves; in the latter case, submissions must be accompanied by a brief message of support from the instructor of the course in which they originated. The first-place winner receives a cash award of $2,500, and the second-place winner $1,500.

The F. Ward Denys Prize:  In 1921, Washington University established this prize to be awarded by the English department annually “to that student in the sophomore class who shows the greatest degree of general excellence in the required work in English” based on a single piece of critical prose. It carries a cash award of $250.

The Dramatics Club of St. Louis Prize:  In 1929, this prize was established to encourage creative work in the study of dramatic literature. The competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students and awards two $1,000 prizes.

Carrie Scott Galt Writer's Award:  This award is sponsored by the Wednesday Club of St. Louis. It was established in memory of Carrie S. Galt, a writer and graduate of Washington University, by two of her grandchildren. The contest, open only to graduate students, awards $300 for a short work of fiction.

The MFA Prize for Creative Nonfiction:  This prize, established by the MFA program, is to be awarded to an MFA graduate student for excellence demonstrated by an essay or piece of literary journalism or memoir, including chapter-length excerpts from longer works. The award carries a prize of $300.

The Andrea Goff Memorial Prize for Poetry:  This prize was established by a former teacher of Andrea Goff, to honor her memory. The competition, open only to seniors, carries a $250 award.

The Roger Conant Hatch Prize:  Mr. Hatch received his Master’s degree from Washington University in 1902. Under the terms of his will, money was designated for a university fund. A prize of $800 from the interest is to be awarded to the best undergraduate writer of lyric poetry.

The Norma Lowry Memorial Prize:  This award was established by Mrs. Lowry’s friends in 1963 to encourage student writing in poetry at Washington University. Mrs. Lowry, herself a poet, took a sustained and lively interest in poetry as practiced on the campus. The competition awards $150 to one undergraduate winner and $150 to one graduate winner.

The Julia Viola McNeely Prize for Poetry:  This award was established by Ms. McNeely’s family to encourage poetry writing by the undergraduates of Washington University. Ms. McNeely, a Howard Nemerov writing scholar at Washington University, wrote lyric poetry with a spiritual dimension. The prize carries an award of $300 and is open to all undergraduates.

The James Merrill Prize for Poetry:  This award was established in 1995 by the English department to honor the memory of the poet James Merrill. Mr. Merrill, whose accolades include two National Book Awards, the Bollingen Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize, was a good friend to the English department and to Washington University in general, whose library holds a large collection of his papers. The Merrill competition, open to undergraduates, carries a $250 award.

The MFA Alumni Prize for a Novel-in-Progress:  This prize, established by faculty and alumni of the MFA program and judged by the fiction faculty, is to be awarded to an MFA graduate student for excellence demonstrated by a novel in progress written while enrolled in the program. The award carries a prize of $250.

The Dorothy Negri Prize:  This prize is awarded to the best writing in any mode or genre that advances our understanding of the relationship between humans and other animals. Appropriate subjects for that writing include but are not limited to explorations of companion animal relationships, questions of animal rights and protections against endangerment or extinction, and analyses of textual representations of animals. Competition is open to both undergraduate and graduate writers and carries a $100 award.

The Howard Nemerov Prize in Poetry:  This prize was established in 2013 by Professor Vincent Sherry.  It recognizes the legacy of Howard Nemerov within the English department, as reflected in the ongoing work of composing poems of superior quality at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The competition awards $250 to the undergraduate winner and $250 to the graduate winner.

The Kathy Schneider Prize for Graduate Work:  The prize honors Kathy Schneider, Advising and Student Record Coordinator for the Washington University English department from 2001 to 2014. Because Kathy fostered a healthy and supportive graduate student community, the prize is awarded to literature graduate students by literature​ graduate students for promising scholarly work that sparks lively and productive discussion in a workshop setting. Competition is open to participants in the PhD Dissertation Workshop and carries a $300 award.  

The Harriet Schwenk Kluver Prize:  As an encouragement to excellence in writing, Mrs. Kluver, a Washington University alumna, established prizes of $1,000 to be awarded to each of two first-year undergraduate winners for a single piece of fiction, creative non-fiction, or critical prose composed in any of his or her classes, not simply in Freshman Composition or Writing 1.

The Washington University Prize for Undergraduate Fiction:  This award is sponsored by the graduate fiction workshop of Washington University’s Writing Program to celebrate the work of undergraduate fiction writers. The contest, carrying a prize of $100, is open to any current undergraduate who submits a work of short fiction.

The Washington University Prize for Undergraduate Nonfiction:  This award is sponsored by the graduate nonfiction workshop of Washington University’s Writing Program to celebrate the work of undergraduate nonfiction writers. The contest, carrying a prize of $100, is open to any current undergraduate who submits a work of short creative nonfiction.

Departmental Award Rules

  1. All currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students in any division at Washington University may enter. Keep in mind work composed at the end of the previous Spring semester is eligible on the following terms: for example, work composed, and not previously submitted, by a Junior in a Spring 2023 class may be submitted for 2024 prizes that include or are limited to Juniors. 
  2. The deadline for entries is Wednesday, March 20, 2024.
  3. Submit using the online entry form.  If you are unable to do so, bring entries to the English Department Office, Duncker Hall, Room 116.
  4. One entry per contest per person – do not use same piece of writing for more than one contest.
    Use the title of your entry as the document file name. DO NOT INCLUDE YOUR NAME.
    Use separate entry form for each contest.
    Do not put your name on the entry. (To ensure confidentiality, each entry is assigned a number)
  5. Poems and stories published in periodicals other than student periodicals are ineligible. Poems and stories under consideration for publication are eligible.
  6. Winners will be notified via email.
  7. Email with any questions.

    Ready to Apply?

    The window for Submissions is now CLOSED.

    Please read the award rules before submitting your work.