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Elm Editor Wins Sophie Kerr
Catalina Righter, an English major and creative writing minor whose literary work spans genres from wry journalistic essay to tightly woven, searing poetry, has won the 2017 Sophie Kerr Prize. Poet Elizabeth Spires announced the award tonight at an event marking the 50th anniversary of the nation’s largest undergraduate writing award, this year valued at $65,768.
“Catalina has an eye for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. She brings to bear on her poems a reporter’s objectivity and a journalist’s sense of what makes a story both memorable and beautiful,” says James Hall, Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House.
“Catalina’s writing evinces her remarkable ability to capture both the outrageous and the mundane, and to find surprising humor and beauty in both,” says Professor Kathryn Moncrief, Chair of the English department and Sophie Kerr Curator.
Righter’s portfolio reflected flexibility with and commitment to the written word across genres, finding purpose in columns and stories for the student newspaper, The Elm, as well as elegance and depth in her personal essays and poetry. Her wry sense of humor is evident in work such as “A Beginner’s Guide to Not Crying at the Birthday Ball,” and her lyricism and sharp eye for detail revealed in poems like “Route 213 Poet” (which was also runner-up for this year’s Pat Nielsen Poetry Prize).
Righter served as editor-in-chief of The Elm, layout editor of The Collegian, the student review, and she was a poetry screener for Cherry Tree, the national literary journal published by the Literary House Press. She’s also been a valued and astute student worker on the College Relations and Marketing team, and she earned a grant from the Harwood Journalism Endowment Fund to complete a summer internship offered at the Kent County News. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Douglas Cater Society of Junior Fellows, Sigma Tau Delta (the English honor society), and the sailing and dance clubs.
Righter thanked her family, saying that “my that my most true and unwavering sense of self comes from you.” She also thanked her teachers, and her friends and fellow writers, “especially anyone who has trusted me to read a piece of your work.”
“Thank you,” she said, “for anyone who came today because you love someone enough to tell them to continue to write.”
Righter was among five finalists chosen from a number of student portfolios, encompassing essay, poetry, non-fiction, journalism, and print projects. Reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of a Washington College education, the finalists are majors in English, chemistry, American studies, and political science, as well as several who minored in creative writing.
“It is always such a joy reading these portfolios. They reflect the literary ethos and emphasis we place on writing that is the heart and soul of this College,” says Moncrief. “These students and their outstanding work show their diverse interests and approaches, as well as their shared passion for the written word.”
About the Sophie Kerr Prize and Legacy
Eastern Shore native Sophie Kerr published 23 novels, hundreds of short stories, and even a cookbook. When she died at 85 years old, she bequeathed the College a half-million-dollar trust fund, requiring that half of the annual earnings go to a graduating senior who shows the most promise for future literary endeavor. The other half funds student scholarships, visiting writers and scholars, and library books. Through this remarkable gift, Washington College has been able to host some of the nation’s most gifted writers, as well as provide its students with extraordinary opportunities to explore their creative potential in writing and literature. Learn more at http://www.washcoll.edu/departments/english/sophie-kerr-legacy/.