Willie Morris Awards Announces Fiction and Poetry Winners

De'Shawn Charles Winslow and Christian Garduno honored this year

De’Shawn Charles Winslow

OXFORD, Miss. – A debut fiction writer and a poet are the winners of this year’s Willie Morris Awards, which recently moved to the University of Mississippi.

Winning the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction is De’Shawn Charles Winslow for “In West Mills,” and the Willie Morris Award for Southern Poetry goes to Christian Garduno for “Southern Horses.”

The winners were announced Monday (March 8) through the Oxford Conference for the Book in a virtual award ceremony.

“Congratulations to these wonderful writers, whose prose and poetry enrich our region and world. We honor their efforts with these awards,” said Stephen Monroe, chair of the UM Department of Writing and Rhetoric.

A colorful, renowned and respected editor and author from Yazoo City, Morris was a writer-in-residence and instructor at Ole Miss from 1980 to 1991. The youngest-ever editor to lead Harper’s Magazine, he also found great success as a writer, especially with his nonfiction works such as “North Toward Home,” “My Dog Skip” and “The Courting of Marcus Dupree.”

With their $3 million gift to the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, Reba White Williams and Dave Williams established an endowment to oversee administration of the awards.

More than 100 fiction entries were narrowed to a list of 10, then to a shortlist of three. The process of getting books to a national team of judges became tricky during quarantine, but Oxford’s Square Books bookstore helped facilitate that process.

Winslow, as the fiction winner, receives $10,000. He was born and raised in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a master’s in English literature from Brooklyn College. He lives in New York.

“I really appreciate it; I’m still in shock by it all, I really am,” Winslow said.

“De’Shawn Charles Winslow has given us such a world in his vision of West Mills – a world notably dedicated ‘to the reader’ in which Black stories matter and we cannot help but wish we would linger, listen and learn a while longer,” said Jonathan Haupt, executive director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center and one of the judges for the fiction award.

The Willie Morris Award for Southern Poetry celebrates the diversity of Southern verse and encourages new works. As Morris said, “… words make experience last.” Poets will be challenged and inspired by this opportunity to reveal the South, as they have done over centuries.

Christian Garduno

For winning the poetry award, Garduno receives $2,500. His work can be read in more than 50 literary magazines. He is a finalist in the 2020-21 Tennessee Williams and New Orleans Writing Contest, and lives and writes along the South Texas coast with his wife, Nahemie, and young son, Dylan. 

“It feels fantastic to have people reading my work and recognizing it,” Garduno said. “Thank you to everyone involved, including, you know, all the judges and all the people on the other side of the award. It’s great to be a part of this world.”

Susan Kinsolving, a poet whose four books have drawn critical acclaim, served as judge for the more-than-200 poetry entries.

“Christian Garduno’s expansive poem ‘Southern Horses’ gallops through the South, detailing ‘delicious excess’ with stops in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Virginia and Florida,” Kinsolving said. “His wild ride takes the reader on an exhilarating poetic journey that is full of insight, energy, eccentricity and revelation.”

For more information concerning the awards and nominations, including how to submit fiction and poetry, visit the Willie Morris Awards.