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VQR’s 2008 Writing Awards

PUBLISHED: January 6, 2009

Honoring the best writing to appear in our pages in the past year, we’re excited to announce the winners of VQR’s annual writing prizes for 2008.

The Emily Clark Balch Prize for Short Fiction:
Kanishk Tharoor for “Tale of the Teahouse” (Summer 2008 issue).

Kanishk’s story explores the tragic parallels between our current moment and the thirteenth century. In “Tale of the Teahouse,” the citizens of Baghdad prepare for the invasion of another foreign army, the Khan’s, and its devastating effect. The prose soars, even as it resonates with historical weight.

Kanishk is an associate editor at His writings on politics and culture have been published in the Guardian Unlimited and YaleGlobal Online and extensively in India, in the Hindu, Times of India, and Telegraph (Calcutta). He currently lives in London.

The Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry:
Todd Boss for four poems in our Fall 2008 issue: “Ruin,” “Advance,” “In the Morning We Found,” and “The Plat Book.”

Todd’s rapid-fire rhymes and hairpin turns of juxtaposition propel us through this sequence of poems that maps the Wisconsin farm where he grew up to the storm that wiped it out.

Todd is the director of External Affairs at the Playwright’s Center in Minneapolis and lives in St. Paul with his wife and two children. The four poems we published are from his first full-length collection, Yellowrocket, just out from W. W. Norton.

Staige D. Blackford Prize for Nonfiction (co-winners):
Ashley Gilbertson for “The Life and Lonely Death of Noah Pierce” (Fall 2008 issue).
Ashley is an award-winning freelance photographer and author of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer’s Chronicle of the Iraq War (Chicago, 2007). His cover photo for our Fall 2007 issue was selected as one of the “Top 10 Magazine Covers of the Year” by Time magazine.

David J. Morris for “Trophy Town” (Winter 2008 issue).
Dave is a former Marine and author of Storm on the Horizon (Free Press, 2004), an account of the Battle of Khafji in the Gulf War. His essay in our Winter 2007 issue, “The Big Suck,” was chosen for Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Dave reports from Ramadi about the remarkable—and largely unexpected—turnaround in what had once been the center of the insurgency. Yet, his article concludes by wondering about the lingering effects the troops when they return to the US. Ashley provides one heartbreaking example of just that—a Marine, Noah Pierce from the Iron Range of Minnesota, who served two tours in Iraq, only to commit suicide on return because he couldn’t cope with the memories of what he had seen and done. Together, they represent both the successes of our military and the toll those victories have exacted.

The Emily Clark Balch Prizes for short fiction and poetry were established in 1955 and the Staige D. Blackford Prize for nonfiction was established in 2003. The awards are chosen by the staff of VQR and each prize includes a monetary award of $1,000 (split between co-winners). Past recipients include Wendell Berry, John Berryman, Robert Olen Butler, Philip Caputo, Hayden Carruth, Carolyn Forché, Donald Hall, Joyce Carol Oates, Mary Oliver, and May Sarton. A complete list of past winners is available here. Congrats to all the winners!

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