Five for the Prize!


Five graduating seniors, all English majors, have been named finalists for the 2018 Sophie Kerr Prize, this year worth $63,711 to the winner, who will be announced on Friday, May 18.


Five Washington College seniors today were named finalists for the 2018 Sophie Kerr Prize, the nation’s largest undergraduate literary award, this year worth $63,711. All will read from their work at an event this Friday, where author, journalist, and literary critic Maureen Corrigan will announce the winner.

The finalists’ reading and the announcement of the winner begins at 7:30 p.m. in Hotchkiss Recital Hall in the Gibson Center for the Arts and is free and open to the public. It will also be live streamed at .

Although the Sophie Kerr Prize is not limited to English majors, this year’s finalists are all majors in English with one who is a double major in political science. Several also are creative writing minors, and all represent multiple honors societies and campus leadership activities, including Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Tau Delta, and the Cater Society of Junior Fellows. Several have worked on College publications including the student newspaper, The Elm, the student review, The Collegian, and Cherry Tree, the College’s national literary journal.

“It is always a privilege to read these portfolios. They illuminate the best of the literary culture and the commitment to writing that is the heart and soul of this College,” says Professor Kathryn Moncrief, Chair of the English department and Sophie Kerr Curator. “These students and their outstanding work highlight their diverse interests and approaches, their promise in the field of literary endeavor, their dedication to craft, and their shared passion for the written word.”

The work submitted for the prize ranges across genre and topic, encompassing essay, poetry, nonfiction, journalism, academic scholarship, and print projects. “The finalists address politics, entomology, history, family, and social issues including feminism and racism. And they do so with the writer’s devotion to delight, provocation, and craft,” says James Hall, Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House.

The finalists:

Rhea Arora, an English and political science double major from Kolkata, India, is a member of Zeta Tau Alpha, the peer mentor program, an intern at the Admissions department, and a tutor at The Writing Center. She is also a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, and Omicron Delta Kappa, the leadership honor society. Arora’s writing portfolio includes a collection of fictional essays based on her experience as a person of color in the U.S., excerpts from her senior thesis, and journalistic pieces. After graduation, Arora intends to enter the political journalism industry as a writer and reporter.

Caroline Harvey, an English major and creative writing minor from Arlington, Virginia, served as editor-in-chief of The Collegian, managing editor of the Washington College Review, and is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the leadership honor society, and Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society. Harvey’s writing portfolio includes poetry, nonfiction, and academic writing focused on insects and a psychotic episode. After graduation, she is taking a gap year before pursuing an MFA in poetry and a PhD in English.

Brooke Schultz, an English major from Moorestown, New Jersey, served as editor-in-chief of The Elm, prose editor of The Collegian, president of Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s first academic honor society. Her portfolio includes a collection of short stories, an excerpt from her Senior Capstone Experience about Sophie Kerr, and clips from her journalism that appeared in The Elm. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue journalism and literary editing and publishing.

Mallory Smith, an English major and creative writing minor from Ellicott City, Maryland, was a Sophie Kerr Scholar and served as president of the Writers’ Union, poetry editor of The Collegian, and was a member of both Sigma Tau Delta and the Cater Society of Junior Fellows. Her portfolio includes a collection of creative nonfiction and poetry. After graduation, Smith will be a pursuing an MFA in poetry at the University of Florida.

Casey Williams, an English major and creative writing minor from Wilmington, Delaware, has served as president of the Writers’ Union, designs book covers for a local author, is a member of Sigma Tau Delta, and bee-keeps at the Campus Garden. She has served as project manager for The Pegasus and worked as a Literary House summer intern. She has also screened for Washington College’s literary journal, Cherry Tree, and The Summerset Review. Williams’ portfolio focuses on the intertwining of humanity and nature and includes book cover design, a collection of free verse and mixed-media poetry, and her thesis. After graduation, Williams will be attending Emerson College to earn an MA in writing and publishing.

You can read excerpts of the finalists’ portfolios at .

Maureen Corrigan, who will announce the winner on Friday, is a book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air and The Nicky and Jamie Grant Distinguished Professor of the Practice in Literary Criticism at Georgetown University. She is an associate editor of and contributor to Mystery and Suspense Writers (Scribner) and the winner of the 1999 Edgar Award for Criticism, presented by the Mystery Writers of America. Corrigan served as a juror for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Her book So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Endures was published by Little, Brown in September 2014. Corrigan’s literary memoir, Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading! was published in 2005. Corrigan is also a reviewer and columnist for The Washington Post’s Book World. In addition to serving on the advisory panel of The American Heritage Dictionary, she has chaired the Mystery and Suspense judges’ panel of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and is currently a curator at the American Writers Museum in Chicago.

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 earnings annually 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 .