The publication and the contest began in 1989 as the brainchild of a few lecturers (including this year’s Meyer Award winner, Eric Schroeder) in the composition program who envisioned a way to showcase the excellent writing done by students at UCD across the curriculum. The first volume was published in Fall 1990, with 12 essays chosen from submissions in the 1989-90 academic year.
Over the years, the program has grown. In 1997-98, the volume was split for the first time into two parts: I: The Essay and II: Scientific and Technical Writing. This meant that we could publish articles meant for more speciliazed readers, and the anthology could be used in scientific writing courses to illustrate the kinds of papers written in those courses.
In 2002, Prized Writing went on-line, with contest forms and an archive of full-text past issues of Prized Writing.
In 2006, a series of Student Author Events was added to allow prizewinning students to present their work in public. In the fall of 2006, 5 students presented their work, and over the 2007-08 academic year, 13 students presented their work. This year, we have 3 events scheduled, and we expect that 10 or 12 students will again present. The students read from their work and talk about their writing process, providing the audience of faculty and students insight into the development of prizewinning writing—whether it’s a piece of journalism, a history paper, or a scientific review article.
In 2007, Prized Writing drew the attention of best-selling novelist John Lescroart, who has since donated money to the program that goes toward student prizes and putting on the Student Author Events.
Significance of the contest/publication
The originators of this program had several objectives for Prized Writing. They wanted an anthology of student writing that would represent the broad range of writing done at UC Davis, in courses across the curriculum, not just in the English Department or the Writing Program; that would illustrate a broad range of genres of writing and of subject matter; that would demonstrate the excellence of UCD students; and that would give students a sense of an audience outside the teacher—that their work might actually have value outside the realm of a specific course.
Prized Writing is unusual in that it publishes expository prose written in courses across campus. Student fiction writers and poets have many outlets for publishing their work, but student writers of excellent expository prose—unless they’re journalists—don’t have many options for reaching a wider audience.
Prized Writing is not only a showcase for excellent student writing; it’s also a teaching tool. Instructors have used PW in wide range of courses: first-year, sophomore, upper division; research, specialty courses in science, engineering, business/report writing, writing for teachers, journalism. It’s a valuable tool, for one thing, because students like it. They find it “relevant” –the pieces are written by students just like them (sometimes by people they know), and they often concern issues that particularly interest them. They also like it because the pieces often help them understand assignments and the criteria for good writing. And some of them like it because it gives them inspiration to submit their own work.
PW is valuable to our program in several ways. For the students whose essays get published, Prized Writing represents a reward for all their hard work and validation that the time and energy and enthusiasm they put into their work was worthwhile—had value beyond simply an assignment for a class. Being published in Prized Writing also gives them credibility in their applications for jobs and graduate school. And for some of the prizewinners, being published has provided them with authority for their own mentoring of other writers.