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Five Finalists for Sophie Kerr

  • The 2016 finalists for the Sophie Kerr Prize are (l to r) Nicholas Anstett, Reilly D. Cox, Grace O’Connor, Rachel Brown,...
    The 2016 finalists for the Sophie Kerr Prize are (l to r) Nicholas Anstett, Reilly D. Cox, Grace O’Connor, Rachel Brown, and Alexandria Smythe.
May 16, 2016
Five Washington College seniors have been named finalists for the 2016 Sophie Kerr Prize, with writing that pushed traditional boundaries. On Friday, May 20, one will take home the $65,770 award, the largest undergraduate literary prize in the U.S.

Five Washington College seniors, majoring in disciplines ranging from English to anthropology, have been named finalists for the Sophie Kerr Prize, at $65,770 the largest undergraduate literary award in the country. The winner will be announced on Friday, May 20, during an evening ceremony at which the finalists will read from their work, and novelist Roy Kesey ’91 will offer remarks.

The best-known component of the extraordinary legacy of Sophie Kerr, a prolific and popular writer of the early 20th century, the Sophie Kerr Prize goes to the senior who shows the greatest promise for a future in literary endeavor. Each student submits a portfolio of work in any genre, which is critiqued by members of the Department of English faculty. This year, 20 students submitted portfolios of poetry, essays, short stories, academic writing, and scripts that explored topics from dogs and God to gender and relationships.

“The prize committee was especially impressed by the range and boldness, as well as the high quality, of this year’s group of finalists,” says Kathryn Moncrief, professor and chair of the Department of English and chair of the Sophie Kerr Committee. “These students were pushing the boundaries. There was a breadth of genres, visual images, book-arts projects—a great deal of significant experimentation and daring with form and genre.”

On Friday, May 20, at 7 p.m. in Decker Theatre, Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts, the finalists will read from their work, and Kesey will introduce the award winner. The event is free and open to the public. Here are the finalists:

Grace O’Connor, a 21-year-old from Cochecton, New York, is an English major with a creative writing minor and an education minor with certification. She served as prose editor for The Collegian, participated in the Mixed Martial Arts Club, became a member of Sigma Tau Delta, acted and dramaturged within the drama department, and was selected as a Maryland Teacher of Promise. She also was a tutor in the Writing Center. Her writing portfolio includes academic essays focused on the purpose and craft of writing as well as fiction and poetry that explore the transitions among fracture, trauma, and recovery. After graduation, she plans to take a gap year to explore various education positions before pursuing an MFA. 

Alexandria Smythe is a 22-year-old English major and economics and creative writing minor from Dover, Pennsylvania. She served as president of the English honor society Sigma Tau Delta and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Epsilon honor societies. She worked in the Writing Center and interned with The Summerset Review. Her writing portfolio includes a collection of scholarly essays and fictional short stories.

Reilly D. Cox, from Westminster, Maryland, is a 22-year-old English and theatre major with a creative writing minor. He served as poetry editor for The Collegian, a scenic shop assistant for the Gibson Center for the Arts, and a student manager for the Multimedia Production Center. He has received several honors, including the 2016 William W. Warner Prize for Creative Writing on Nature and the Environment and the 2013 and 2016 Jude and Mariam Pfister Poetry Prizes, as well as a Jacoby Endowment Grant and a Sophie Kerr scholarship. His writing portfolio includes lyric essays, familial poems, his playwriting thesis, and his English thesis on erasure poetry. After graduation, he will be attending the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, after which he will continue several writing and travel projects.

Rachel Brown, a 21-year-old Hispanic studies and anthropology double-major and creative writing minor, grew up in Mechanicsville, Maryland, and Wilmington, Delaware. She served as Editor-in-Chief of The Collegian, and as a leader of the Día de Fútbol Committee and the StoryQuest Oral History Program. She also achieved distinction as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Delta Pi, Lambda Alpha, and the Cater Society of Junior Fellows. Her writing portfolio displays work in a range of forms, including creative nonfiction, academic essays, poetry, fiction, and experimental forms. After graduation, she will begin work as an administrative assistant at National Geographic, after which she plans to return to South America through a Fulbright grant or Peace Corps appointment.

Nicolas Anstett, a 22-year-old English major with a double minor in creative writing and business from Cockeysville, Maryland, was involved in a variety of writing opportunities at Washington College such as working at The Rose O’Neill Literary House, The Elm, and The Collegian. He won the 2016 Literary House Genre Fiction Prize for his short story “A Report on Central’s Operation Conducted in Nairobi, Kenya-July 12, 2016.” He also starred in numerous student theatrical productions including “Equus” and “Boxes.” His writing portfolio combines screenplay/video, creative nonfiction, and fiction to explore personal themes of secrets, young adulthood, and queer identity. After graduation, he plans to continue to continue producing creative works in the city of Baltimore.

About the Sophie Kerr 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 it annually go to a graduating senior who shows promise in the realm of literature and writing. The other half was to be used for scholarships, visiting writers and scholars, books, and literary publications. 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.


Last modified on May. 17th, 2016 at 3:50pm by .