UC Irvine Honors Undergraduate Writers

Last Wednesday, faculty and department chairs from the School of Humanities gathered along with family and friends to award the winners of various undergraduate writing awards.
The 13th annual Writing Awards Tea was held at the Phineas Banning Alumni House. The students’ pieces of writing were submitted by their instructors and judged by faculty members specializing in the genre of each category. The categories include prose, poetry, short story, analytical and research essays and narratives. Each award was established to honor either the memory of a deceased family member or a distinguished faculty member.
This year marks the first presentation of the Ariel Miranda Caldwell Memorial Award for the best short story. The award is named in memory of Ariel Miranda Caldwell, the daughter of a staff member in the Department of English. The first winner of this award was Shanna Shiah, a third-year English major with a creative writing emphasis on fiction and a minor in studio art.
‘[I’m] very honored, which is something I kept saying to the Caldwell family. I sounded like a total wind-up doll and I was all red in the face and sweat was bursting out on my forehead like a splitting dam, but it’s an honor, it really is,’ Shiah said.
Other awards include the Bret Baldwin Award for poetry, named for a graduate student who passed away before graduating from UC Irvine. The award was established by his family and awards not only the winner but also two honorable mentions. The winner of this year’s Bret Baldwin award was Michael Hsu, a third-year political science major with an English minor who is currently completing an emphasis in creative writing.
Hsu believes the awards present an excellent mode of validation for young writers.
‘The judges for this award could have picked another worthy writer, but the fact that they chose me means that they saw potential and talent,’ Hsu said. ‘Many writers go through periods of silence and uninteresting works, so these awards can also act as an encouragement to stick through and go beyond those periods.’
There are also awards established by members of the faculty, such as the Nora Folkenflik Essay Awards. Both Professor Robert Folkenflik and his wife Vivian work at UCI as a professor of English and a lecturer in Humanities Core Course, respectively. After their daughter Nora was killed, they established two awards in her memory.
One award honors the best essay in the English 28 series and the other honors the best essay in Humanities Core Course. The winner of this year’s award for the best Humanities Core essay was Jesse Li, a first-year economics major.
Li described her surprise in receiving the award.
‘While I was sitting in my room late at night trying to fit the pieces of my paper together, I would never have thought that it would earn me such an honorable award,’ Li said.
Janet Stevens, the compositions program manager, described the tea from the viewpoint of the friends and family invited to attend.
‘In between the beginning and graduation, [relatives] never really get to come on campus, and here they get to hear their child’s instructor describe what sets them and their essays apart from the rest, and they just love it,’ Stevens said.
Those who attended the tea also got to hear some of the writers read their winning pieces aloud. The winner of the award of the John Hollowell Composition Award for the best narrative, Anna Nguyen, read an excerpt from her narrative entitled, ‘Hiding Until 5:57 p.m.’ Hsu also read his three award-winning poems, entitled, ‘Stepfather,’ ‘Hungry’ and ‘Envision.’ Lastly, Shiah read an excerpt from her short story, ‘The Visitor.’ To read all of the winning pieces in their entirety, go to http://eee.uci.edu/programs/comp.