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Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

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Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


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Winona Prize Winners for Creative Writing

Heidi Hanson
Sydney Porter, Jack Mulvaney and Alex Peachey are this year’s winners of the annual Winona Prize competition in creative writing. The three writers wrote fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction pieces respectively.

The ninth set of Winona Prize winners were announced this past February, showcasing another group of incredibly talented writers in the Winona State University community. The Winona Prize in creative writing provides an opportunity for students to win a $1500 prize and become a published author before graduating.

This year, three writers found themselves the winners of three respective categories: fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. To submit to the Winona Prize, all that is required is that you are an undergraduate student enrolled full time, are in good academic standing and have taken at least one creative writing class at WSU, i.e. ENG 222, Introduction to Creative Writing or any other upper-level creative writing course.

Sydney Porter, Jack Mulvaney and Alex Peachey were the three names announced as the fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction winners respectively.

Sydney Porter, a communication arts and literature teaching major and creative writing minor who is currently student teaching and getting ready to graduate in May, wrote a fictional short story piece titled “All Shades of Blue.” The short story encompasses the neurodivergent perspective of grief and the differences that may come with it.

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“I wrote on this because I think it is important for people to build empathy towards those who express grief in ways that differ from their own,” Porter said. “The story is based on part of my own experience with seeing someone close to me experience grief and coping with it in a way that not everyone fully understood from the outside.”

The judge of Porter’s piece, Kathleen Peterson, commented on the beautifully written language Porter employed throughout the piece and its overall impact on the story.

“The deceptively simple language elevated the emotional punch of the main character’s experience of the death of his grandmother and her funeral,” Peterson stated. “Every moment rang with real honesty.”

Creative writing often has different impacts on different people, both in the writing and the reading of short stories and other pieces of fiction. It’s easy to see both in her writing and the way she talks about it that Porter enjoys the process of writing and the creation of her pieces.

“I love building a story from the ground up, from creating a rich setting to crafting intriguing characters and discovering all the ways that the elements interact with one another,” Porter stated. “It’s a blast to be a part of because the stories love to write themselves when you are able to have a world that just pulls you right into it.”

Jack Mulvaney, an English-Writing major and winner of the poetry section of the Winona Prize, won with his poem titled “Airing Out My Poetry.” The poem takes a simple task, such as moving your clothes from the washer to the dryer, and makes it into a beautifully written piece about life in its most simple moments.

“I love the idea of playing with a simple task everyone does and comparing that to something grand like life,” Mulvaney said. “The poem, to me, highlights gratitude and not taking for granted the simple things in life, like that feeling of wearing a freshly washed sweater or a nice clean pair of socks.”

Michael Torres, the judge of Mulvaney’s piece, commented on Mulvaney’s ability to take such a simple moment and make it anything other than simple.

“What my favorite poems do so well, so precisely, is slow down a moment by breaking it open and using what’s inside for play; Jack Mulvaney’s poem ‘Airing out my poetry’ does exactly that,” Torres stated. “The poet takes us through what would otherwise be the mindless chore of doing one’s laundry. With a direct and accessible approach to language that manages to feel honest and vulnerable the whole time, the readers get a peek into the life of the speaker.”

Mulvaney explained that on a technical note, his favorite part about writing is writing workshops, where you get to share your own work, take in other’s feedback and learn more about your peers’ work and writing habits. However, creative writing is more than just technicality.

“For me, creative writing is where imagination meets paper,” Mulvaney said. “It is a place of endless possibilities and untapped ideas, a place to create entire worlds.”

Alex Peachey, a second-year CALT major, was the winner of the creative nonfiction category of the Winona Prize. Peachey’s story, titled “The American Dream,” covers themes of parental approval and grief.

“My winning piece is about grief and loss of a parent,” Peachey said. “I go into the intricacies of having a parent who passed away, and kind of the freedom that comes with it.”

The judge of Alex Peachey’s story, Kent Cowgill, commented on Peachey’s ability to take a personal experience and make it into a beautifully written narrative.

“Alex Peachey recounts tense personal experiences that in the hands of a less talented writer could easily have become maudlin and self-absorbed,” Cowgill said. “There is none of that here.”

Creative writing has shown to be a creative outlet for Peachey, but a very talented and valuable creative outlet at that.

“I love having a creative outlet,” Peachey said. “I don’t really think of myself as a writer, but I like being able to tell my own little stories.”

All three writers and the Winona Prize itself encourages people of any major to consider submitting their creative pieces to the Winona Prize or any other creative writing competition. Creative writing competitions sometimes have cash prizes, much like scholarships, and don’t cost anything to submit to.

“I never thought I would actually win when I would submit my stories, but I knew that if I never submitted them, then there was a zero percent chance, rather than a small percentage,” Porter said. “Getting your piece in the ring is part of the process and gives you a way to share what matters most to you with others.”

Although nerve wracking, showcasing creative pieces can show to be therapeutic, eye-opening and worth it in the long run. Oftentimes, any type of creative writing has the chance to fall into a specific category and win a prize or competition.

“If you stop thinking about it as a competition you have to win, the pressure goes away,” Peachey stated. “You can just submit anything you’ve written that you like!”

Finally, the value of creative writing is incredibly invaluable in the scheme of writing and media in general. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to like a piece of writing for its value to be seen by the masses.

“To anxious writers, remember that you’re often your own harshest critic,” Mulvaney said. “Creative writing is incredibly diverse; what may not resonate with you might be exactly what someone else would enjoy.”

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About the Contributor
Heidi Hanson
Heidi Hanson, Features Editor

Heidi Hanson (she/her/hers) is the Features Editor for the Winonan as of fall 2022. She joined the Winonan during her first semester at WSU, back in fall of 2021. Hanson is currently a third year at Winona State University, majoring in Communication Arts and Literature Teaching with a minor in Communication Studies Teaching.

Besides writing for the Winonan, Hanson is a Resident Assistant at the East Lake Apartments and is a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH). She also works as a research assistant for the Communications Department.

For fun, Hanson enjoys reading mystery novels, watching horror movies, and enjoying music from all genres. She also enjoys journaling and exploring the surrounding area of Winona.

Hanson hopes to be a middle or high school English teacher after graduation to spread her love of literature and provide a safe space for future students who go through her English Literature classroom. Before that, however, she hopes to have a fulfilled four years at WSU and grow through work and social experiences.

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