Announcing the Juniper Prize Winners!

UMass Press and the MFA for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are pleased to announce the 2021 winners of the Juniper Literary Prizes. All of these works will be published in the spring of 2022.

We extend our gratitude to all of the writers who participated in this year’s Juniper Prize competition, sharing their work with us in the midst of such challenging times. We would also like to thank our judges, Gabriel Bump, Arda Collins, Noy Holland, Shayla Lawson, and Dara Wier. In particular, we would like to recognize Dara Wier, who has offered her unwavering support for the poetry prizes, and her insight and leadership over the past decades. This prize cycle was Dara’s final one, and we thank her sincerely for her work.

2021 Juniper Prize Winners

Wendy BarnesLandscape with Bloodfeud, has been awarded the Juniper Prize for Poetry: First Book. Her creative and critical work has appeared in publications like Narrative, storySouth, Painted Bride Quarterly, Frog Magazine, Spoon River ReviewSlice Magazine, Coldfront, and on The Adroit Journal website, as well as in the anthologies Kama Sutra and Paris, Etc. She earned an MFA from California Institute of the Arts and a Doctor of Letters degree from Drew University. Barnes is an associate professor of English at Union County College in New Jersey. 

Kerry Dolan has been awarded the Juniper Prize for Fiction for her short story collection, Safe Places. Her work has appeared in magazines and anthologies, including Quarterly West, Greensboro Review, Robert Olen Butler Prize Stories, the Tartts Anthology: Incisive Fiction from Emerging Writers, and elsewhere. The recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, Millay Colony, and VCCA, Dolan received her MFA in creative writing from Cornell, where she won the Andrews Award in fiction. She currently lives in Philadelphia, where she is working on a novel.

Stacy Gnall has been selected as the winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry for her collection, Dogged. The author of Heart First into the Forest (Alice James Books, 2011), Gnall holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Southern California, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama’s MFA program in Creative Writing and Sarah Lawrence College. Her most recent poems are either published or forthcoming from the Massachusetts Review, New American Writing, Third Coast, and Crazyhorse. She teaches in the Core Humanities program at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Leigh Ann Ruggiero’s debut novel, Unfollowers, has been chosen as the winner of the Juniper Prize for Fiction. She earned a BA from Wheaton College and an MFA from the University of Maryland before moving to Montana, where she teaches literature, writing, and film at Great Falls College. Ruggiero was a finalist for the 2019 Ohio Writers’ Associations’ Great Novel Contest.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, we are unable to announce a prize winner for the creative nonfiction award this cycle. After notifying our winner and working with them on the initial steps towards publication for a couple of months, we learned that they needed to withdraw from the prize for personal reasons. This was a very difficult decision for them to come to, and we respect their privacy.


The Juniper Literary Prize Series takes its name from Fort Juniper, the house that the poet Robert Francis (1901–1987) built by hand in the woods in western Massachusetts. When UMass Press launched the Juniper Prize for Poetry in 1975, we were one of the first university presses to publish contemporary poetry. We introduced the Juniper Prize for Fiction in 2004 to honor outstanding novels and short story collections and expanded our poetry and fiction prizes twofold in 2015 in order to mark the fortieth year of cooperation between the Press and the UMass Amherst MFA Program. In 2019, the first Juniper Prize for Creative Nonfiction was awarded.

The winners of the prizes are published by the University of Massachusetts Press and each author receives a $1,000 award upon publication. This year’s contest runs from August 1—September 30 and guidelines for all of the Juniper Prizes are available at our website