Members of the department are celebrating the contest’s 80th anniversary this year. The contest has grown and evolved immensely since its humble beginning in 1936.
The annual contest originated with the Woman’s Wednesday Club in Fort Worth. The club, which is a women’s group that supports writing and the arts, initiated the first two awards 80 years ago.
The club still sponsors awards today.
“The club had past winners come and read a little bit from their work,” said Dr. Charlotte Hogg, an associate professor in the English Department. “They are wonderfully generous but also really interested.”
The department will award $3,500 to the 2016 winners. The money comes from a range of sponsors and individual donors.
Hogg said some donors sponsor awards in memory of a loved one, while other sponsors donate simply to promote the arts.
The contest is open to TCU students and alumni and currently has 19 individual categories. A winner is picked for each category.
The range of categories has extended the contest to all types of writers. Satire, drama, multimedia and Texas writing are just a few of the diverse categories.
“When it first started, it was mostly just English majors who submitted,” said Lynn Herrera, assistant to the dean of the John V. Roach Honors College. “I’m excited about the growth because it’s not just creative writing that we are celebrating, but a range of writing styles.”
Herrera managed the contest for over four years and designed the cover of the online publication, which publishes the winning essays from each category.
The contest’s submission pool has steadily increased throughout the years. Matthew Pitt, chair of the Creative Writing Committee, said the contest received 119 submissions in 2013. In 2014, that number jumped to 218, he said.
Last year, there were 315 submissions from seven different TCU colleges and 36 different majors.
A single judge is assigned to each category and is given parameters for each award. Faculty, published writers and TCU alumni make up the judges.
In terms of submissions, Hogg said the department has seen it all.
“I’m always surprised with how revealing people will be when they know stuff will be published in the online publication,” Hogg said. “People seem to have no qualms about sharing very personal information.”
The winners will be announced during a ceremony on April 19 in the Dee J. Kelly Alumni & Visitors Center.