From Our Authors | September 21, 2018

Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize winners each receive $5000, publication in the Missouri Review, and a paid trip to the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize reading and reception held in their honor. Even though members of the TMR Staff could imagine what they might do with $5000, no one could speak to the feeling of winning the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize. So, we thought we’d ask three writers who would would have a pretty good idea.

Last year, we were so honored to be able to publish the work of Tamara Titus, Rose Smith & Meghann Plunkett, our 2017 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize winners. Below, they each offer a glimpse into how it felt to get the news and what the prize continues to mean for them.

Tamara Titus for “Exit Seekers” (Fiction):

“When I craft a story, I’m searching for connections—gossamer that links characters in unexpected ways. My goal is to strengthen those delicate ties, allowing them to form the substrate of the text. For me, this work is its own reward.

Pursuing publication involves an entirely different set of goals. When I won the 2017 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ prize for fiction, it had been ten years since I’d published a short story, and winning was the last thing on my mind. Instead, I was looking for encouragement, for a reason to dust off the novel manuscript I’ve been tinkering with for almost a decade. ‘Exit Seekers’ had already been rejected two dozen times, and while I felt the story was close, I knew it was still missing something crucial in the final scene. When I revised the ending and the story was as good as I could possibly make it, I sent it in, hoping to be named a finalist.

Winning stunned me. I had no contacts at the Missouri Review, no ‘in,’ and when I learned my story had taken first place in a field of more than 1,500 fiction entries, I found the courage to revisit my novel manuscript, disassemble the structure, and start over. With help from the curator of the National Hansen’s Disease Museum in Carville, Louisiana, where my book is set, I’ve been filling in gaps in my research. Next month, I’ll be traveling to Carville for a long overdue visit to the former National Leprosarium, and I expect to come home with fresh eyes for my story. Thanks to the generosity of Jeffrey E. Smith and encouragement from the staff at The Missouri Review, I’m confident I can turn gossamer into steel.”

Rose Smith for “Rachel’s Wedding” (Nonfiction):

“I am a longtime reader of the Missouri Review; it is in fact how I have discovered many of my favorite writers over the years. Speer Morgan and the editorial staff have a long tradition of publishing wonderful debut authors. To say that I was thrilled when ‘Rachel’s Wedding’ won the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize would be an understatement.  I’m deeply honored. This was my first publication and I was so excited to see the piece in print, and to know that TMR readers are reading my work.  I’m currently working on a novel, and I am happy to report that the award has galvanized me in ways I didn’t expect; to be recognized in this manner makes sitting down at my desk just a little bit easier.”

Meghann Plunkett for “In the Fist of the Blade Holder”; “Boston, 1992”; “South County, Matunuck, RI”; “1996”; “To My Assailant, 15 Years Later”; “Awaiting the Elegy” and “The Dove” (Poetry):

“I think it’s easy to forget how lonely the writing process can be. And it’s not a ‘no plans for the holidays’ kind of lonely or a ‘my partner is away for the week’ lonely. A writerly loneliness is the kind of thing that accumulates like dust. My writerly loneliness was particularly high the day I received the news about the Missouri Review Editors’ Prize. I had been toiling away on my manuscript, battling the critic in my head and just like that: the email. And just like that: the feeling of isolation and self-doubt lifted. A lens flare of yes yes yes!

It is so nice to be writing a manuscript about the subtleties of female pain during a time when we are beginning to actively look at the many ways violences against women are embroidered into our culture. I feel a sense of community where I have often felt a void. I felt heard and seen when I learned that I won this prize. I have admired the Missouri Review for quite some time. The caliber of the writers they publish has always impressed me and I am so grateful and honored to be included on their list of writers.

Additionally, the substantial prize money has offered me a few months of financial ease as I continue to refine and work on my project. During this time, I have also discovered new genres and explored ideas for future projects. I feel so lucky to have the time to focus on my art. I am endlessly grateful for this gift.”

Read Meghann Plunkett’s “The Dove” here.

What other contests have you won?

We asked; you answered.

“I just won the Marth C Kraft Writer in South Asia award from my MFA program. This winter, I’ll be traveling to Nepal and India to better place myself within a global context as a writer. I feel nervous about this task as I take traveling to other people’s homes seriously!”    — @GPisMe

“When I was 12, I spent a year at the city playground taking free trampoline lessons. I told no one until it was time for my 1st competition. I asked my parents to take me to a nearby gym and did my routine. I won an award for height and never went back. They knew, and I was done.”   — @brigidmhughes

“I won the Makan Award in Egypt. I wrote it in tears, submitted it, knowing it was my last short story. I was working on a novel then, and the editor had said I should never consider a career in writing. I subbed the story as a farewell of sorts, but boy I was wrong.”    — @RoseInink

“In 2004, I was one of 39 teachers nationwide to be honored as an American DisneyHand Award winning teacher! Disney teacher award! Me! We were treated as royalty, and I’ve never forgotten how very important and special it made me feel to do what I was born to do: teach.”    — @AimeeLRoss

“I won a national championship in Sweden playing American football. Which is kind of like saying you’re Santa’s tallest elf. However, Santa is called ‘Jultomten’ over there, and he’s actually more like a gnome. A freaky-looking gnome.” — @elicranor (2018 Miller Audio Prize Winner for “Don’t Know Tough“)

What other contests have you won? Follow us on Twitter (@Missouri_Review) to join the conversation!