Announcing the 2024 Juniper Literary Prize Winners!

The University of Massachusetts Press and MFA for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are thrilled to announce the 2024 winners of the Juniper Literary Prizes in Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, and Poetry.

Tracy Youngblom has been awarded the Juniper Prize for Ceative Nonfiction for Because We Must. This memoir tells the harrowing story of the author’s youngest son who is in a head-on collision with a drunk driver when he is 23 years old. In sharing her son’s remarkable tale of resilience and recovery, Youngblom simultaneously chronicles her own grief and hesitant acceptance. Youngblom is also the author of two full-length poetry collections and two chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Shenandoah, The Cortland Review, and New York Quarterly, among others.

Lindsey Steffes has been awarded the Juniper Prize for Fiction for her novel Gichigami. On one of Lake Superior’s few inhabited islands, readers meet and follow the story of thirteen-year-old Marta. An eerie coming-of-age story, Gichigami explores the “bad” women and girls of the Midwest: absent mothers, runaway daughters, those who want more than their lives have to offer. It asks how one survives in a rugged and frozen landscape, in a town long forgotten. Steffes’s work has appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Black Heart Magazine, and Atticus Review.

Greg Schutz has been awarded the Juniper Prize for Fiction for his short story collection Joyriders. In this debut collection, tangled bonds of love and family collide with a natural world both fragile and ferocious. Set in locations across the Midwest and rural Appalachia, the stories in Joyriders offer a resonant vision of rural and small-town life: lonely, half-haunted landscapes are pierced with moments of light, and even the most taciturn faces conceal inner worlds both rich and strange. Schutz’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, American Short Fiction, and the Colorado Review, among others.

Carlene Kucharczyk has been awarded the Juniper Prize for Poetry for her debut collection, Strange Hymn. In a voice that is inquisitive and lyrical, these poems are both intimate and broadly appealing. They consider contemporary moments and interrogate the sacred. Throughout, the poet engages the loss of a loved one, as well as the many echoes of that loss. Kucharczyk’s work has appeared in Green Mountains Review, Poetry Northwest, and Tupelo Quarterly, among others.

Mark Irwin has been awarded the Juniper Prize for Poetry for his twelfth collection, Once When Green. This collection, while deeply personal, embodies the earth and addresses mortality, the consequences of global warming and how it impacts humans, animals, and the plant life that sustains us all. It accents the lateness of our attempt to control pollution, while examining the natural world through myth and the voicings of different creatures. Irwin is the author of eleven previous collections including Joyful Orphan and Shimmer. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s, The American Poetry Review, and The Paris Review, among many others.