Adamsons reward student writers

At the risk of overgeneralizing, I’m going to say that writers often aren’t exactly revered by society. Caught between doctors, lawyers, and engineers, writers aren’t always praised as often as we (I mean, they) would like. Fortunately, that’s the sole purpose of the Adamson Awards, Carnegie Mellon’s annual creative writing awards ceremony, which will take place this Friday.

The Adamsons — as the event is called by members of the creative writing department — will begin with a lecture by novelist Russell Banks, the last speaker in this year’s Adamson Visiting Writers Series. Banks is the author of several well-received novels and short story collections, including Cloudsplitter, Affliction, and The Sweet Hereafter.

“[Banks] is an excellent writer and we are lucky to have him speaking,” said senior creative writing major Julie Brown.

Following the lecture, the department will distribute the awards for first, second, and third places plus an honorable mention in each of five categories: nonfiction, fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and creative writing.
“I think the awards are, more than anything, a time for the writing community at CMU to celebrate the work that has been done over the course of the academic year,” said junior creative writing major Elizabeth Barsotti.

“It’s nice to have an end-of-the-year event for the English department, and awards ceremonies are always exciting,” said Brown, who has submitted pieces to the competition for the past three years.

The Adamson in question is the late Clarence Adamson, a Carnegie Mellon alumnus who donated a large sum of money to the department of English in 1983 in memory of his wife Pauline. In addition to the awards and the visiting writers’ series, there’s also the Adamson Wing, a lecture and event space in Baker Hall that serves as the location of the awards ceremony as well as other, less aptly named events throughout the year.

“[There] is a great amount of participation in the Adamsons from the English department at large — not just creative writing majors. There are categories for scholarly essays, for instance, that I think draw a large applicant pool from outside the creative writing department,” Barsotti said.

The Adamsons are open to all undergraduate and graduate students who wish to apply. However, the fiction, poetry, and screenwriting are only open to undergraduates, while the creative writing category (all genres) is open only to graduate students. The selections are judged by outside judges chosen by the English department. First-prize winners receive $300; second-prize winners receive $100; and third-prize winners receive $50.

“It’s such a valuable part of the sense of community that is cultivated by the faculty, aided in large part [by] Jim Daniels, the creative writing program director, and our good fortune of having the Gladys Schmitt Creative Writing Center as a place to come together throughout the year,” Barsotti said.