Spring Writing Awards

Dear Creative Writing Students,

Below is a list of our awards for the spring 2017 semester. If you would like to submit for any of the following, you must first fill out this Google form


Then, you must email your actual work to sabrina.delpiano@rutgers.edu. The deadline to submit for the awards is Monday March 22, 2017.

Please be sure to take advantage of this prestigious opportunity. Not only do some students win cash prizes for their work, but winners will also be honored at graduation. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. I wish you all the best of luck!


Sabrina Del Piano

Academy of American Poets 2017 Enid Dame Memorial Poetry Prize

Dedicated to the art of poetry, the Academy publishes prize-winning poems, and a plan is underway for an annual supplement focusing on the prizes.

  • Open to all undergraduates
  • Maximum of 5 poems may be submitted
  • $100 prize for best poem(s)

Evelyn Hamilton Award in Creative Writing

  • Open to all undergraduates
  • Awarded for the best original story, essay, or group of three or more poems                    
  •  *Please label works as essay, fiction, or poetry*
  • May have been written for a course or independently
  • Notes and/or drafts should be submitted with the final entry

Composing in New Media Prize

  • Open to students who have produced multimedia composition, documentary film, digital story, graphic narrative, or any work in new media
  • This year’s prize is underwritten by Writers House
  • Hand in submissions electronically to anna.maron@rutgers.edu or on DVD to Murray Hall 102 or 106

Open Only to Undergraduate Women in New Brunswick:


Julia Carley Prize

Prize awarded for original poetry.


Edna Herzberg Prizes

Prizes awarded for an essay, for fiction, and for poetry.

*Please label works as essay, fiction, or poetry*


Awards and Contests for Coursework

James Suydam Prize in English Composition

  • Open only to seniors
  • Awarded to the best essay on a topic of the writer’s choice of contemporary social, political, or educational significance
  • Minimum length 5 pages

Ernest W. Thomas Memorial Prize for Interpretation of Shakespearean Works

  • Open only to Douglass Residential College Students
  • Awarded to the best paper submitted for a regular course assignment concerning Shakespeare’s works

Irving D. Blum Prize

  • Awarded for the best essay submitted for a regular course assignment
  • Essays may be in original form or revised, but should be retyped and free of instructor’s marks and comments
  • Submit through the instructor for whom it was originally written

English Department Faculty Prize

  • Awarded to an outstanding essay written in coursework
  • Essays of 1,000 to 4,500 words are eligible and will be judged on substance and style

Jamima Dingus Qualls Prize

  • Awarded to the best undergraduate essay on women writers or feminist issues in English or American Literature

Toni Cade Bambara Prize in African American Literature

  • Open to English majors in the Junior year that have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and have taken two or more African American literature courses
  • Submit a paper written to fulfill a course assignment AND a brief personal statement describing how your work in and out of class exemplifies ideals associated with Toni Cade Bambara

Winners will be invited to showcase their work at the Spring Creativity Showcase in April. 

Date: TBA

The English Department reserves the right not to give a prize or award if no entries are judged to be of sufficiently high quality.

The Road Not Taken

Most Popular Poem?

[T]here are at least two reasons to think that “The Road Not Taken” is the most widely read and recalled American poem of the past century (and perhaps the adjective “American” could be discarded). The first is the Favorite Poem Project, which was devised by former poet laureate Robert Pinsky. Pinsky used his public role to ask Americans to submit their favorite poem in various forms; the clear favorite among more than eighteen thousand entries was “The Road Not Taken.”

The second, more persuasive reason comes from Google. Until it was discontinued in late 2012, a tool called Google Insights for Search allowed anyone to see how frequently certain expressions were being searched by users worldwide over time and to compare expressions to one another. Google normalized the data to account for regional differences in population, converted it to a scale of one to one hundred, and displayed the results so that the relative differences in search volume would be obvious. Here is the result that Google provided when “The Road Not Taken” and “Frost” were compared with several of the best-known modern poems and their authors, all of which are often taught alongside Frost’s work in college courses on American poetry of the first half of the twentieth century:


“Road Not Taken” + “Frost” 48
“Waste Land” + “Eliot” 12
“Prufrock ” + “Eliot” 12
“This Is Just to Say” + “Carlos Williams” 4
“Station of the Metro” + “Pound” 2

According to Google, then, “The Road Not Taken” was, as of mid-2012, at least four times as searched as the central text of the modernist era—The Waste Land—and at least twenty-four times as searched as the most anthologized poem by Ezra Pound. By comparison, this is even greater than the margin by which the term “college football ” beats “archery” and “water polo.” Given Frost’s typically prickly relationships with almost all of his peers (he once described Ezra Pound as trying to become original by “imitating somebody that hasn’t been imitated recently”), one can only imagine the pleasure this news would have brought him.

But as everyone knows, poetry itself isn’t especially widely read, so perhaps being the most popular poem is like being the most widely requested salad at a steak house. How did “The Road Not Taken” fare against slightly tougher competition? Better than you might think:


“Road Not Taken” + “Frost” 47
“Like a Rolling Stone” + “Dylan” 19
“Great Gatsby ” + “Fitzgerald” 17
“Death of a Salesman” + “Miller” 14
“Psycho” + “Hitchcock” 14

The results here are even more impressive when you consider that “The Road Not Taken” is routinely misidentified as “The Road Less Traveled,” thereby reducing the search volume under the poem’s actual title. (For instance, a search for “Frost’s poem the road less traveled” produces more than two hundred thousand results, none of which would have been counted above.) Frost once claimed his goal as a poet was “to lodge a few poems where they will be hard to get rid of ”; with “The Road Not Taken,” he appears to have lodged his lines in granite. On a word-for-word basis, it may be the most popular piece of literature ever written by an American.


The Most Misread Poem in America


September 11, 2015

Writing Tips


Toni Morrison | On Creative Space

I tell my students one of the most important things they need to know is when they are at their best, creatively. They need to ask themselves, What does the ideal room look like? Is there music? Is there silence? Is there chaos outside or is there serenity outside? What do I need in order to release my imagination?

Haruki Murakami | On Routine

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.

Joan Didion | On Alone Time

I need an hour alone before dinner, with a drink, to go over what I’ve done that day. I can’t do it late in the afternoon because I’m too close to it. Also, the drink helps. It removes me from the pages. So I spend this hour taking things out and putting other things in. Then I start the next day by redoing all of what I did the day before, following these evening notes. When I’m really working I don’t like to go out or have anybody to dinner, because then I lose the hour. If I don’t have the hour, and start the next day with just some bad pages and nowhere to go, I’m in low spirits. Another thing I need to do, when I’m near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it. That’s one reason I go home to Sacramento to finish things. Somehow the book doesn’t leave you when you’re asleep right next to it. In Sacramento nobody cares if I appear or not. I can just get up and start typing.

George Saunders | On Editing

I write on the computer and then print out at the end of the day, so I can have something on paper to edit in the morning. That’s about the only fixed thing. I have to take the time when I can get it because this year I’m doing a lot of traveling and I commute back and forth to Syracuse to teach. The one thing I’m pretty sure about is that it’s best to edit on paper, rather than on the screen — I think the brain processes text better that way.

Amy Tan | On Process

I think about the novel every single night, before I go to bed, and try to work some aspect out. Usually the beginning and the voice. I sketch out a very very basic outline, a couple of paragraphs. Then I add little funny details—well, not funny, but some specifics that I know I want to include as part of the character. It could be a small attribute or an event. When I finally sit down and write, it is done entirely on computer.

Stephen King | On Privacy

Like your bedroom, your writing room should be private, a place where you go to dream. Your schedule — in at about the same time every day, out when your thousand words are on paper or disk — exists in order to habituate yourself, to make yourself ready to dream just as you make yourself ready to sleep by going to bed at roughly the same time each night and following the same ritual as you go.

John Steinbeck | On Finding Your Own Way

If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that make a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.

Neil Gaiman | On Different Colors of Ink

I try to change my superstitions with each project. Working in fountain pen is good because it slows me down just enough to keep my handwriting legible. Often I use two pens with different coloured ink, so I can tell visually how much I did each day. A good day is defined by anything more than 1,500 words of comfortable, easy writing that I figure I’m probably going to use most of in the end. Occasionally, you have those magical days when you look up and you’ve done 4,000 words, but they’re more than balanced out by those evil days where you manage 150 words you know you’ll be throwing away.

Elizabeth Gilbert | On Snacks

I chew gum ferociously. It’s obnoxious, and another reason why I have to be alone. I chew Trident Tropical Twist Sugarless. Everyone is repulsed by it, but I love it! When I’m writing I’m on, like, a pack a day. The non-smoker’s equivalent of smoking. It activates my brain. I read a study not long ago that chewing actually does activate your brain. It produces some sort of cosmic, seismic activity.