Past participant gives advice on NMU’s English Awards contest

2023 VandeZande Fiction Prize Winner, Legler Memorial Poetry Prize Honorable Mention Eli Saylor shares secrets to success.
Eli Saylor gives advice on how they won an  NMU english award.
Eli Saylor gives advice on how they won an NMU english award.
Eli Saylor

As English majors, some strive to earn money for their writing and recognition for its quality. Those are both obtainable if one were to win one of NMU’s Annual Writing Contests. Though the contests are specifically for undergraduate students, categories range from poetry to fiction and papers about modern issues. Monetary prizes are $100 at the lowest and $500 at its peak. Winning pieces are also uploaded to the NMU English department’s website for all to see.

“I think the concept of earning money for your writing is a big draw,” third-year English major Eli Saylor said. “You need to remember to start small.”

Saylor won the 2023 VandeZande Fiction Prize with their piece titled, “For Two.” They were also awarded an honorable mention for the Legler Memorial Poetry Prize, piece titled “On the Death of My Youth.”

Saylor explains writing consistently is how writers get better, and waiting until inspiration strikes to write doesn’t always work.

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“If you wait to feel inspired to brush your teeth, they’re gonna rot,” Saylor said.

Saylor then said something going against popular notion, in terms of what to draw from when you write.

“Toni Morrison was a professor in Washington for a while and said, ‘write what you don’t know.’ If you always write what you know it becomes an iron cage,” Saylor said. “When you write what you don’t know there is an element of discovery, which is my favorite thing.”

There is also the issue of confidence when it comes to submitting work. Often times writers are hard on themselves and don’t think they wrote good enough for the submission. Saylor had similar issues and explained that it was a professor of theirs who inspired them to go for the award.

“Julia Talen pushed for it,” Saylor said. “[Without them] I would have been too afraid to.”

The due date for award submissions is May 2 for the Cohodas Literary Prize, and April 10 for all other awards.

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