CCS Alumni Judge Annual Writing & Literature Student Prize Awards

June 11, 2021

Brancart Fiction Award, Richardson Poetry Prize, and CCS Most Excellent Prizes Recognize Creative UCSB Student Poets, Essayists, and Writers

College of Creative Studies (CCS) Alumni are always ready to lend a hand, especially when it comes to enriching the student experience. During this past year, CCS alumni —who are as passionate today as when they were students—went a step further during the pandemic to support remote student learning in a variety of ways. 

This Spring, several alumni—Jennie Devine ‘92 (CCS Literature), Wes Fields ‘76 (CCS Literature), Danielle Miller ‘10 (CCS Literature), and Holly Watson ‘99 (CCS Literature)were judges for UCSB undergraduate writers of fiction, poetry, and essays who submitted their best work to the College of Creative Studies Writing Competition Awards. The 5 awards include: The Brancart Fiction Award, Richardson Poetry Prize, CCS Most Excellent Narrative Prose Content, CCS Most Excellent Poetry Contest, and CCS Most Excellent Essay Contest. The Richardson Poetry Prize, established by CCS alumnus Jeffrey Hewitt, is in memory of Jeffrey’s grandmother Henrietta Wing Richardson, and the Brancart Prize was established by CCS alumna Christine Lehner in memory of her grandmother Reine Brancart. 

"Sharing the work of our students with you [CCS alumni who served as judges] has been incredibly rewarding, and your wisdom and impeccable discernment are a testament to the history of our program.”—CCS W&L Program Coordinator Kara Mae Brown

CCS Writing & Literature (W&L) program coordinator Kara Mae Brown envisioned the contests could become a meaningful experience for the students learning remotely during COVID—and perhaps beyond—by inviting alumni to participate in the contests as judges and provide an opportunity to connect the students to the broader writing and literature alumni community. In past years, UCSB faculty judged the student submissions. For Kara Mae, “Sharing the work of our students with you [CCS alumni who served as judges] has been incredibly rewarding, and your wisdom and impeccable discernment are a testament to the history of our program.”  

 “Whether they [CCS alumni] participated remotely as experts in courses or as judges and speakers in student-focused activities, each brought a unique perspective that combined had a significant impact on our students during the year,” voiced CCS Dean Gerardo Aldana.

"Whether they [CCS alumni] participated remotely as experts in courses or as judges and speakers in student-focused activities, each brought a unique perspective that combined had a significant impact on our students during the year"—CCS Dean Gerardo Aldana

In their deliberations, the alumni judges commented that it was not easy to choose as there were so many excellent candidates. The contest winners were announced at the remote launch of the 64th edition of Spectrum Literary Journal on June 4, 2021. 

CCS congratulates all the student winners, thanks the alumni judges for their enthusiasm, and is grateful to the donors who established the prizes to recognize talented and creative students across the UCSB campus. 

Carson Young ‘22 (CCS Writing & Literature)
Carson Young ‘22 (CCS Writing & Literature)

Brancart Award for Fiction—$600

Winner: Carson Young ‘22 (CCS Writing & Literature) for “Marmalade”

A stark and somber tale of a soul in search of healing, brought to life by intense imagery. In the “Bad At Eating Unit for Special Girls and Boys,” kids with “sugar veins,” “fall risk blankets,” and “coins in our socks at weigh-ins” find loneliness and company as they search for their path through the darkness. 

Danielle Miller ‘10 (CCS Literature)
Danielle Miller ‘10 (CCS Literature)

Judge: Danielle Miller ‘10 (CCS Literature)

As a student at CCS, Danielle Miller had won the Brancart Fiction Prize for her short story, “Helen’s Boys.” At CCS as a student, Danielle served on the editorial staff and as Editor-In-Chief of the student-led literary journal Spectrum in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and also served on staff for Into the Teeth of the Wind, the CCS poetry journal. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and new baby daughter. Danielle started her career as a technical editor at Workday, Inc. where she now manages content for their customer website—it perfectly combines her love of technology with her love of clear, crisp content and editing that she developed as a CCS Literature major and as a Creative Writing MFA student at Mills College. 

Vivian Walman-Randall ‘22 (CCS Writing & Literature)
Vivian Walman-Randall ‘22 (CCS Writing & Literature)

Richardson Poetry Prize$400

 Winner: Vivian Walman-Randall ‘22 (CCS Writing & Literature) for “Persephone”

These four poems are strong individually yet also work in harmony as a cohesive collection. The images are visceral and arresting, and the use of language is inventive and precise. The poems have a rhythm that is breathless and disorienting but compelling. Conventions are artfully employed and ignored in service to the final poem. Phrases from these poems stayed with me long after I read them.

Jennie Devine ’92 (CCS Literature)
Jennie Devine ’92 (CCS Literature)

Judge: Jennie Devine ’92 (CCS Literature)

“I am very honored to have been asked to judge the Richardson Prize this year.  As a Literature graduate from the College of Creative Studies, I know what a rich and inspiring environment it is; the entries to this competition are a testament to that. This was an extremely difficult choice as the standard of poetry was very high. I have been a school leader in International elementary education for 14 years and have taught abroad my entire career. I am also an author of educational articles. The time I spent as a student immersed in literature and writing at CCS has fed a life-long love of writing and reading, and has inspired me to pass that love onto the students I teach. I am proud to be part of the CCS alumni community.” 

CCS Most Excellent Narrative Prose Prize

First Prize$35: Resh Grewal ‘22 (CCS Writing & Literature) for “Boiled Milk and Masala Skies”

I’m so glad I was asked to be a judge in the College’s Most Excellent Prose competition for 2021 because I really enjoyed getting to read all the incredible entries, but choosing a winner was not easy as there were so many good pieces. Ultimately, Boiled Milk and Masala Skies is my winner because it resonated with me from the very first time I read it and I just kept remembering it. I think this kind of “stickiness” is a hallmark of good writing, especially when certain phrases have the ability to capture the reader even upon multiple readings. One example for me was the line, “milk felt like theft” which stood out to me each time I read it as a tremendous sensory metaphor for cultural dislocation and a prime example of that old axiom I remember from my CCS days to “show not tell.” 

Second Prize$25: Elaina Smolin ‘24 (CCS Writing & Literature) for “This is An Ad for Vans”

I really enjoyed the strong narrative arc and the almost sneaky sci-fi ending of my #2 choice, “This is An Ad for Vans.” The plot is not easy, especially in short fiction, but this story really delivered-turning a well written ordinary experience into something other. 

Honorable Mention$15: Mikaela Stone ‘23 (CCS Writing & Literature) for “Stream of Fractured Consciousness: A Talk to Text Story” 

Honorable Mention$15: Sierra Vakili ‘23 (CCS Writing & Literature) for “Mystery House, Mystery Home”

Honorable Mention$15: Pierre Thibodeaux ‘22 (CCS Physics) for “The Check”

Holly Watson ’96 (CCS Literature)
Holly Watson ’96 (CCS Literature)

Judge: Holly Watson ’96 (CCS Literature)

After graduating from CCS, Holly worked for Viking Penguin Books, Norton, and other publishing houses for almost 20 years as a book publicist. In 2015, she founded HWPR, her own independent book publicity firm. Over the years, Holly has worked with such authors, among others: T.C. Boyle, Ruth Ozeki, Terry McMillan, Jared Diamond, Ryan Gattis, Jan Beatty, Sergio Troncoso, adrienne maree brown, Kara Cooney. She has worked with both big publishing houses and academic and small indie presses, including: Harper Collins, Akashic Books, Red Hen Press, Oxford University Press, National Geographic, Liveright, and Cinco Puntos. 

CCS Most Excellent Poetry Prize

First Prize - $35: Carson Young ‘22 (CCS Writing & Literature) for “Body-Centered Lattice, Whale Fall, Circe Should Have Inherited the Earth”

“Body-Centered Lattice,” “Whale Fall,” “Circe Should Have Inherited The Earth,” and “Wet Rats:” Every poem in this set gets progressively and impossibly better. With unique sound, form, and theme—every poem is an expertly crafted tapestry of fresh imagery that jumps off the page with melody.

Second Prize$25: Amelia Rodriguez ‘21 (CCS Writing & Literature) for “Five Poems” 

“When It Rains The Third Graders,”We’re Driving Through a Tunnel &,” “I Drank Milk & Took My Vitamins,” “I’m Sixteen, I’m a Teenage Girl, I Can Be Anything,” and “Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before:” Creative stanzas and turns-of-phrase are the themes that connect this set of poems that feels like a progression from childhood to adulthood. The voice at the center of this world remains ever-so-true to itself and its curious mind while maturing in topic and vocabulary.

Honorable Mention - $15: Jennifer Sor ‘21 (L&S English, L&S Economics) for “Truthful Obit, A Bug's Place, Intake Assessment”

Honorable Mention - $15: Jordan Finley ‘23 (CCS Writing & Literature, L&S Theater) for “BMI, Boys, Barbary (Yawp!)”

Honorable Mention - $15: Tomas Palpallatoc ‘22 (CCS Writing & Literature, L&S Sociology) for “Ancestry, He Dies, Over Years and Overnight, Two Step, Forget me not”

Judge: Danielle Miller ’10 (CCS Literature)

(See above) 

CCS Most Excellent Essay Prize

 First Prize - $35: Kat Yuen ‘22 (CCS Writing & Literature) for “What Is Passed?”

The most excellent CCS essay this year, What Is Passed?, is a tour de force of intellectual argument, analysis of often-biased sources, and individual voice. It’s author flawlessly takes the reader to the limits of current language, where complexities of race and gender are playing out in queer and trans rhetoric. The essay’s conclusion could be an introduction to an even more ambitious thesis.

Second Prize - $25: Celine Pun ‘22 (CCS Writing & Literature) for “Honoring My Scallions”

Honorable Mention - $15: Carson Young ‘22 (CCS Writing & Literature) for “Transangelic: The Idols of a Transgender Existence”

Honorable Mention - $15: Hannah Morley ‘21 (CCS Writing & Literature and L&S Environmental Studies) for “Toasting the Animorphs”

Honorable Mention - $15: Michelle Dalarossa ‘21 (L&S Global Studies, L&S Communications) for “A Literary Translation of Clarice Lispector's "The Departure of the Train”

Wes Fields ’76 (CCS Literature)
Wes Fields ’76 (CCS Literature)

Judge: Wes Fields ’76 (CCS Literature)

Wesley (Wes) Fields, MD FACEP, is a graduate of the CCS Literature program who studied under the founding provost, Marvin Mudrick. The author of three novels, Wes has researched, written, and peer-reviewed essays on healthcare access, integration, and politics as a clinical professor of emergency medicine at UC Irvine.

Visit CCS Writing Competition Awards to learn more about these awards.