Writing Awards

The USCA Department of English

2018 Writing Awards

Submission Guidelines for all awards are available in H&SS 204.


The Phebe Davidson Prize in Creative Writing

The Phebe Davidson prize in Creative Writing was established in honor of distinguished South Carolina poet Phebe Davidson. The prize, normally a significant monetary scholarship, is offered annually by the USCA Department of English to a full-time, currently enrolled student at USCA whose work demonstrates superior achievement in creative writing. While the competition invites work in four genres (fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and drama), only one award will be presented in a given year. All entries will be judged anonymously by a panel of professors from the Department of English. The Department reserves the right not to present the award if the judges do not recommend a winner.


The Mona L. Martin Prize in First Year Writing

Through the generosity of distinguished USCA graduate Mona L. Martin (B.A. English, 1995), the Mona L. Martin Prize in First Year Writing, normally a significant monetary scholarship, is offered annually by the USCA Department of English to a first-year USCA student who demonstrates excellence in expository writing. All entries will be judged anonymously by a panel of professors. The Department reserves the right not to present the award if the judges do not recommend a winner.

Submission Deadline: March 21, 2018

Baltimore Rising

If you are even slightly intrigued by the Baltimore described in The Other Wes Moore, the following documentary should be of interest:

A couple years ago, a young black man in Baltimore, Freddie Gray, was killed in the police van as he was being transported to the precinct. Several officers were arrested in charged in his death. All were acquitted.  The documentary covers what happened after, including the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, a change in “community policing,” etc. It’s worth a watch.

If you are thinking, “Well, that’s Baltimore,” think again. This is about any medium to large city in the United States–including Augusta, Columbia, Charleston and–gulp–maybe even Aiken.


Blog Prompt #8 (12/1/2015)

For your final blog post, explain specifically and exactly what changes you have made to each of the previous drafts. Consider this blog post as a start for the Reflective Letter to be included in the Final Portfolio.

Reducing Wordiness

First, imagine that you have just been assigned to write a paper on the topic, “what I did over summer vacation.” The paper is due in two weeks. What’s the next thing you want to know?

If you said “how long does it have to be?” you are probably not alone. The due date, the topic, and the required length are normally the three most important things to students when assigned a paper. In fact, you may have had an instructor who lowered grades on papers that did not meet the length requirement and/or required you to put the total number of words on the paper itself. Even the assignments in this course start with the due date and the length before describing the topic and the other requirements. (For what it’s worth, my length requirements are more guides than requirements; I set the length based upon 25 years of experience and what I believe will be necessary to cover the topic in the necessary depth. I strongly suggest that you follow the length suggestions, but I’m not going to waste my time counting your words. I know when it doesn’t reach the necessary depth.) Anyway, after years of writing to prescribed lengths, most students have become masters of saying as little as possible in as many words as possible, probably without even knowing it.

I suggest that wordiness and lack of precision is the single biggest problem with student writing when it comes to Language and Style and Grammar and Mechanics. That’s why the first presentation regarding editing is the concision presentation. Editing for concision is important for two reasons.

First, one of the traits of experienced writers is their ability to come up with several different ways to communicate the same idea in writing. The mark of developing and inexperienced writers is that they use the first thing they come up with to communicate an idea in writing. Experienced writers wrestle with words and phrases, twisting them around and experimenting with ways to “tighten up” their ideas. Inexperienced writers are often so relieved to just get the words down that they take the first thing they get. Of course, they might proofread it, but they begin with the first set of words they think of. If nothing else, I hope in this class you spend a bit more time taking each idea and considering two or three or four different ways of communicating it. Then, choose the one that you think is best. You will almost always choose the best one. Considering how to say something more precisely and concisely is the best first step in doing this.

Second, if nothing else, being more concise will reduce other problems with awkward structures, punctuation, etc.

I know what you’re probably saying to yourself. “Oh, c’mon. You said I need 1,000 words; my first draft is 1,000 words. If I edit it down to 700 words, you’re going to say it’s too short.” If you’re thinking that, let me ask you another question. If you came across a piece of writing that was 700 words long that communicated the exact same ideas than another piece of writing that was 1,000 words long, which one would you rather read? I’m no different, and let’s face it, I have a lot more papers to read than you. But I will suggest that, based upon my 25 years of experience, the 700-word draft probably lacks the necessary depth and development.

Edit the following sentences to be more concise without changing the sentence’s meaning. Try to reduce each sentence by at least 20% but shoot for 50%. The number in parentheses is the total number of words in the original.

  • The stadium has ample parking space available for fans’ automobiles. (10)
  • There is no easy shortcut to learning how to play the game of bridge. (14) (see #3 and #4 above)
  • In the appendix in the back of the book you will find a complete list of all references to the author’s earlier previous works. (24) (see #4 and #% above)
  • Let’s have a discussion on this particular issue sometime at a later date. (13)
  • It is necessary for all of the fire extinguishers in the entire complex to be inspected on a monthly basis. (20) (see #3 above)
  • There were a number of very important issues that were brought up and thoroughly discussed in detail during the meeting. (20) (see #3 above)
  • Fatigue can alter the mental and physical stability of an individual. Each element that has been discussed in relation to extensive physical activity ties directly into the notion that inevitable fatigue will occur. Fatigue at its most violent stage can leave organs, tissues, skeletal joints and the mind feeling exhausted. (51) (consider combining sentences/ideas)

Blog Prompts #5 (10/20/2015–11:59pm) and #6 (November 3, 2015)

Blog Prompt #5

We will complete Blog Prompt #5 in or after class. During class, we will work on your drafts of the Research Proposal. Before the end of the day, copy the “Topic” portion of your Research Proposal draft and paste it as your comment to this blog prompt.


Now that you’ve completed your Research Proposal, go to your response to Blog Prompt #5, click on “reply,” and copy and paste your preliminary thesis. If your preliminary thesis is already clear and has not changed, you can leave Blog Post #5 as it is.

Blog Prompt #6

Reply to at least two blog posts written in response to Blog Prompt #5 and develop an opposing or counterargument to their preliminary thesis sentences.

Banned Topics!

After teaching English 101, Argumentation, and similar classes for over twenty years, I can say with some authority that there are some topics that students should not touch. I present this list to you not only for my sake but also for your sake; I have found that arguments concerning the following topics are almost always doomed to failure:

  • abortion and/or birth control
  • capital punishment/death penalty
  • legalization of drugs
  • gun control
  • sex education
  • school uniforms
  • gay marriage

Just don’t go there!

I reserve the right to add topics as I see fit.