2012 Sophie Kerr Prize
NEW YORK—Washington College has awarded the Sophie Kerr Prize to Kathryn J. Manion at commencement May 20 in the form of a check for $58,274.
Manion and four other Prize finalists read their poetry and fiction aloud May 15, at a private event in midtown Manhattan and then watched internationally celebrated novelist Colum McCann open an envelope and announce her name as the 2012 winner.
For 44 years, the Sophie Kerr Prize has gone to the graduating senior at Washington College who demonstrates the greatest literary ability and promise. Manion, an English major from Clarksville, Md., took the prize with her submission of four short stories she considers works in progress, and excerpts of her thesis on the role of letter writing in literature—a study that drew from the novels of Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, George Eliot and Emily Bronte.
“Characters and character development can bring the simplest plot or most descriptive setting to life, and they can make or break a story,” Manion writes in the introduction to the portfolio she submitted for the Prize. “I have found that finding a voice, whether a character’s or my own, can be one of the most challenging parts of the creative process.”
She’s meeting the challenge, says Washington College English professor Bob Mooney, a member of the Sophie Kerr Committee. “There are flashes of brilliance in her ability to create voice keenly appropriate to the story in progress.”
“Katie excels as both a critical and a creative writer, and her scholarship and her fiction display an intensity of purpose,” adds Moncrief, a Shakespeare scholar who chairs the English Department. “She has a terrific work ethic and is courageous and persistent in taking on difficult subjects. She is always willing to grow and develop as a writer, and her fiction is fun to read, full of wonderful surprises.”
Manion, who minors in Creative Writing and Anthropology, has been a leader in the community of student writers at Washington College. She has been at the helm of the Writers’ Union, a student run group that gathers at the Rose O’Neill Literary House for workshops, readings and social events and publishes an online literary journal. She also participated in the Writers’ Theater and edited copy for the campus literary magazine, The Collegian.