2007 Gift of Freedom Award
for a Woman Writer of Fiction
Summer Wood of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Finalists for the 2007 Literary Gift of Freedom, in alphabetical order:
A largely self-taught writer, Ms. Wood was selected as Guest Author by the University of New Mexico Taos Humanities Program, the University of California Davis Creative Writing Graduate Program, and the Natalie Goldberg Writing Workshop, with her novel adopted for study by all three programs.
Summer Wood's work has been published in National Geographic Traveler, Language and the Land, Cutthroat, and other periodicals. Ms. Wood has read her work in dozens of venues from Elliot Bay Books in Seattle to Cornell University to KGB Bar in New York City. Her previous awards include the 2006 Rick DeMarinis Short Story Award, second place, the 2002 Barbara Deming Memorial Grant, and a 1999 D. H. Lawrence Fellowship to the UNM Summer Writing Conference.
Active in her local literary community, Ms. Wood founded and directs "Crafting the Inside Story," teaching writing classes for professional writers, community groups, and others. She also directed the SOMOS Young Writers Mentorship Program in Taos, New Mexico, tripling the number of high-school-aged participants and adult mentors during her time as Director. Ms. Wood also founded and directed CraftTalks, a series of monthly talks by regional authors in Taos. She volunteers at Artesanos de Questa, a community arts organization.
Ms. Wood worked as a carpenter, house builder and contractor for over twenty years, ultimately founding and directing Summer Wood Creative Builders in San Cristobal, New Mexico. She currently consults on building projects and works on renovations, and has served as President of the San Cristobal Domestic Water Association. She also volunteers through Habitat for Humanity. Prior to her building career, Ms. Wood detassled corn in Iowa, transplanted trees in Maine, coordinated neonatal teams at Stanford Medical Center, set type and performed graphic work in Berkeley, and waitressed in North Carolina.
Ms. Wood has studied at Stanford University and, more recently, at the University of New Mexico, where she received the Pace Grant for outstanding returning students. She plans to finish her undergraduate degree after completing her next novel and collection of short stories.
Ms. Wood and her partner Kathy have raised three sons, the eldest of whom graduated from college in May 2007. They have also served as foster parents through Children, Youth and Family Division's Child Protective Services.
Ms. Wood currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the Gift of Freedom will enable her to complete her second novel, Wrecker, and a book-length collection of short stories, tentatively entitled The World My Heart. She also plans a community project which would involve young students and community elders in capturing the human stories that spring from the New Mexican landscape.
Kirsten Dinnall Hoyte, author of the novel Black Marks, teaches English and Computer Science at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. Ms. Hoyte holds a BS in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MFA in English from the University of Iowa. She has also attended the Breadloaf School of English and has done postgraduate work at Harvard University, focusing on the relationship between narrative, identity, and education.
Ms. Hoyte was awarded the Astraea Emerging Writer Award in 2006, and has also received the Astraea Claire of the Moon Award, a Writers' Week Scholarship Award from Wesleyan University, and several awards from M.I.T., including the Women's Studies Writing Prize, the Boit Manuscript Prize, and the Layla and Jerome B. Weisner Prize for Contribution to the Arts.
Ms. Hoyte's work has been anthologized in The Hoot and Holler of the Owls: An Anthology of New Black Writers and in Education that Works: An Action Plan for the Education of Minorities. Her work has also been published in The Minnesota Review, Room of One's Own, The Harvard Review, Sojourner, and Courtship of Words.
Ms. Hoyte's next project is a novel with accompanying DVD: a work of speculative fiction set in Ohio during the mid-nineteenth and early twenty-first centuries, exploring the historical significance of education within the African-American community by focusing on two young black students at Oberlin College. Ms. Hoyte is very interested in forging creative alliances between students of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds and in increasing teenagers' access to creative and writing opportunities. Ms. Hoyte is the mother of two young children.
Rebecca Meacham is assistant professor of English, Humanistic Studies, and Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. Ms. Meacham is the author of Let's Do, a collection of short stories whose honors include recognition for outstanding achievement by the Wisconsin Library Association, Finalist for the Patterson Fiction Prize, a Selected Writer in Barnes and Nobles' "Discover Great New Writers" Program, Winner of the Anne Powers Book-Length Award for 2005, and Winner of Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction from the University of Texas Press.
Ms. Meacham's short stories have also been honored with a nomination for the 2005 Pushcart Prize, and as winner of the Indiana Review Short Fiction Prize and the Chelsea Magazine Short Fiction Award. Ms. Meacham's short stories have been published in West Branch, Michigan Quarterly Review, Indiana Review, Beloit, Chelsea, and The Journal. She has published reviews, scholarly articles, and encyclopedia entries in Writing African American Women: An Encyclopedia of Literature By and About Women of Color, The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, Post-Jungian Criticism, and Race in the College Classroom: Pedagogy and Politics. Ms. Meacham has also been awarded the Charles P. Taft Advanced Graduate Student Fellowship by the University of Cincinnati and the Richard M. Devine Summer Fellowship in Fiction from Bowling Green State University.
Ms. Meacham holds a BA in American Studies from Miami University, an MFA in Fiction from Bowling Green University, and a PhD in English from University of Cincinnati, where her dissertation included "The 'Larger, Unfinished Story' of African American Short Fiction." She currently is a volunteer for the University of Wisconsin's Learning-in-Retirement program, serves on university-wide committees that address issues of gender equality and disability, runs the campus literary journal, and organizes the Annual UW-Green Bay vs. St. Norbert College Poetry Read-Off Event.
Ms. Meacham's next project is a novel which re-imagines the characters and events of the devastating Peshtigo Fire of 1871.
Michele Moore works as a physical therapist for Stephens County Hospital in Toccoa, Georgia. Her work has provided material for her award-winning fiction. Ms. Moore's unpublished novel All the Symptoms of Dying was a finalist for the Bellwether Prize for Literature of Social Change, sponsored by Barbara Kingsolver.
Ms. Moore's work has been published in The Louisville Review, Habersham Review and Another Chicago Magazine. Her writing has been anthologized in O, Georgia, I am Becoming the Woman I've Wanted, and Groundwater. She has also written op-eds for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and her work has been heard on Georgia Public Radio and at the Twentieth Century Literature Conference at the University of Louisville. Ms. Moore's activism has also led her to work with the Kentucky Health Care Coalition and won her a seat on a City Council in northeast Georgia, where she advocated for environmental concerns.
Ms. Moore holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College and a BS in Physical Therapy from Georgia State University, which she attended on a full athletic scholarship. She is the winner of monetary grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Kentucky Arts Council, and was recognized for her fiction by the National Society of Arts and Letters.
Ms. Moore is currently working on a dramatic piece, "Backsliding," and an historical novel about the American Tobacco Company's Charleston cigar factory in which her father held his first job. The novel will deal particularly with issues of racism and segregation.
Mary Ellen Sanger is currently writing a collection of short stories inspired by the women of Ixcotel State Penitentiary in Oaxaca, Mexico with whom Ms. Sanger shared life in prison for thirty-three days while a land dispute was being settled.
Ms. Sanger won the Best Fiction Award from Mexconnect and First Prize in the 2003 Writers Weekly 24 Hour Fiction Contest. Ms. Sanger has published short stories in several Mexican journals, including Luna Zeta and Zocalo. She has also published poetry, essays, and stories in online venues, including Poets Against the War, Travelers' Tales, Mexconnect, Hack Writers, Delirium Journal, and Mexico Files. Ms. Sanger also has an essay anthologized in Mexico, a Love Story.
Ms. Sanger has had a long and varied career, including work as Production Editor for Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Resort Manager for Apple Vacations in Mexico, elder caregiver, transcriptionist and translator, and Development Coordinator and Human Rights Program Coordinator for Asociación Tepeyac. Ms. Sanger currently serves as Assistant Executive Director for Fort Washington Houses Services for the Elderly.
Ms. Sanger holds a BA in Spanish from State University of New York at Geneseo, with a minor in anthropology. She has a long history of community service, including work with marginalized youth at Milpas de Oaxaca, battered women's support at Casa de la Mujer Rosario Castellano, work in deaf education at CORAL Oazaca, work at Josefino Children's Shelter, Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, and the Women's Venture Fund. Ms. Sanger currently lives in Bronx, New York.
2007 Gift of Freedom Selection Panel
Susan Straight, professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, was a National Book Award finalist and won the Gold Medal for Fiction from the San Francisco-based Commonwealth Club for Highwire Moon. Straight's other critically acclaimed fiction includes a collection of short stories, Aquaboogie, for which she won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, and the novels A Million Nightingales, I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots, The Gettin' Place, and Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights. She has also written two children's books, Bear E. Bear and The Hallway Light at Night. She sets her novels in the fictional town of Rio Seco, California, a loose parallel to her hometown, Riverside. Straight has received the prestigious Lannan Foundation Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is a writer for Salon, the online magazine, and her essays on motherhood appear in the best-selling collection Mothers Who Think. Straight is also the single mother of three girls.
Kim Ponders has published two novels, The Art of Uncontrolled Flight, a BookSense pick which the Los Angeles Times compared with the work of Joseph Heller and James Salter. Ponders' second novel, Blue Mile, was released by Harper Collins in May, 2007. Both novels deal with the experience of women in the military. Ponders' work has appeared in StoryQuarterly, Chattahoochee Review, and the Washington Post. Ponders has worked as a journalist and as a crew member on U.S. Air Force E-3 AWACS surveillance planes during and after the Gulf War. She later served in Korea and Germany. Ponders holds an M.S. in international relations from Troy State University in Geilenkirchen, Germany, and an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. She currently lives in southern New Hampshire with her husband and two boys, where she is a major in the Air Force Reserves and works part-time as a speechwriter for the Pentagon. Ponders also writes about current events on Blogher.org.