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The Lillian E. Smith Writer-In-Service Award

The Lillian E. Smith Center sponsors the annual Writer-in-Service Award, which includes a two-week residency at the Center, a $500 honorarium, and a $500 travel allowance. Applications are usually accepted from November through mid-January, with the winner named in late February. The Award is open to U.S. residents working to advance writing through public service careers or volunteer work. Eligible activities include, but are not limited to, arts education, literacy instruction, prison arts and education, English as a second language instruction, art-related therapies, etc. While the work of writing instructors and volunteers is vital to the community, the demands often limit personal writing time. This award provides an opportunity for those writers who, like Lillian E. Smith, recognize “the power of the arts to transform the lives of all human beings.”

 

Winners of the Award

2018: Dana De Greff of Miami, Florida

Dana De Greff is a creative writing instructor at the University of Miami and a widely-published and award-winning author of fiction, poetry, and book reviews. She has worked as a writing teacher in various capacities for eight years for both children and adults. She is the executive director for the administration of a $45,000 grant from the Knight Foundation that has created and operates PageSlayers Summer Camp, a series of three consecutive two-week sessions for rising fourth and fifth graders. She also served as the community outreach and public relations coordinator for the VONA Voices Writers’ Conference in Miami in 2016.

2017: Dyan Neary of Tallahassee, Florida

Dyan Neary has many years of experience as a volunteer and as a professional teaching literacy and creative writing in prison systems, low-income communities, and in the classroom. She served as a volunteer with Books Through Bars, a New York-based organization that sent books to prisoners for free. While living in Ecuador, she visited a women's prison twice a week, teaching elementary school children to read in one of only two countries where children are permitted to live in the cells with their incarcerated mothers.  She went on to film a documentary based on her experiences there. Neary also co-founded Picture This, a volunteer-run creative writing and photography workshop in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, NY, where she taught classes for at-risk middle school children. She facilitated creative-writing workshops at Gadsden Correctional Facility, a women's prison in Quincy, FL. "I am committed to helping my students succeed as writers," Neary said.
 

2016: Colin D. Halloran of Boston, Massachusetts

Mr. Halloran is a combat veteran, and his debut collection, Shortly Thereafter, is a memoir-in-verse documenting his experiences on the front lines of Afghanistan and the impact they had on him when returning to civilian life. His follow-up collection, Icarian Flux, explores Halloran's post-military life with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He has conducted numerous workshops for other veterans and their families, teaching writing as a coping mechanism for those suffering from PTSD. He has consulted with the National Center for PTSD and several VA hospitals around the country, working with care teams and leadership to encourage the incorporation of creative arts and narrative medicine into treatment plans for the disorder. 

2015: Nancy Cook of St. Paul, Minnesota

A teaching specialist and the Director of the Community Practice Clinic at the University of Minnesota, Professor Cook strives to integrate her writing, teaching, and social activism while bringing literature and creativity to her community work and addressing issues of social justice in her artistic endeavors. She has conducted numerous workshops for writers and public interest practitioners in St. Louis, Michigan State University, University of Wales College in South Wales, City University in London, and also in Puerto Rico.

 
2014: Scotty Kirkland of Mobile, Alabama

Mr. Kirkland is the curator of history at the History Museum of Mobile. His primary focus of historical research is twentieth-century Mobile politics and civil rights. His work on Mobile has received research and writing awards from the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the Gulf South Historical Association, and the Alabama Historical Association. 

 
2013: Wendy Reed of Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Ms. Reed is an accomplished writer, producer (an Emmy Award nominee), author of essays, short stories, and All Out of Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality (University of Alabama Press, 2006).

 
2012: Kyes Stevens (a 2011 winner) of Waverly, Alabama, and Pamela Best of Atlanta, Georgia

Ms. Best is a performance poet who has taught writing workshops for women in Atlanta through an outreach program called The City of Refuge.

 
2011: Kyes Stevens of Waverly, Alabama, and Foster Dickson of Montgomery, Alabama.

Ms. Stevens is the founder, director, and a teaching poet with the Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project at Auburn University.  The Project teaches creative writing, promotes literacy, and distributes reading materials in Alabama prisons.  
 
“In its most pure form, my work in the prisons is based on the fundamental belief that poetry is life-changing and that opportunities to learn and create should be available for everyone,” wrote Stevens in her application essay. 
 
Ms. Stevens earned a B.A. in English from Auburn University in 1994, and she earned an M.A. in women’s history and an M.F.A. in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in New York.  She has worked as a firefighter with the Farmville Volunteer Fire Department and a Council Member in the Town of Waverly.  She also serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Emerging Arts Leaders of Alabama. 
 
Mr. Dickson teaches creative writing at the Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, Alabama.  He was named Secondary Teacher of the Year by the Alabama PTA for the 2009-2010 school year.  He earned a B.A. in English from Auburn University at Montgomery in 1996, and he completed a Master of Liberal Arts degree from AUM in 2008.
 
“My own writing has kept me engaged deeply in Southern culture, particularly in Alabama’s culture, and I have made sure to carry that engagement into my teaching,” wrote Dickson in his application essay.