Awards and prizes

MFA awards and prizes

The Sparks Prize

Awarded to a distinguished graduate of the Creative Writing Program as a post-graduation year of residency and writing time, funded by Nicholas Sparks and judged by an external writer. Based on the quality of writing and the likelihood that the submission will be published or will be developed into a publishable book.

Austyn Wohlers Headshot

2022 Winner: Austyn Wohlers, for Hothouse Bloom

Austyn Wohlers is a writer from Atlanta, Georgia. Her work has previously appeared in Asymptote, Massachusetts Review, Short Fiction, Yalobusha Review, and elsewhere. 

The Mitchell Award 

The Mitchell award is designed to honor one MFA second-year student for their special contributions to the Creative Writing Program, namely for distinguished achievement and contributions during residency. It recognizes the student who has been the most involved citizen in the program and one of its best writers.

2022 Winners: Jillian Fantin & Naima Msechu

Jillian Fantin Headshot

Jillian Fantin is a poet with roots in Sheffield, Dallas, and Birmingham. Their poetry tends towards shenanigans, masculinities, and decadence. Jillian is the recipient of a 2021 Poet Fellowship from the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing and a regular collaborator with Chicago-based mixed media artist Kate Luther. Their work is published in or forthcoming from The American Journal of Poetry, TIMBER, Barrelhouse, The Daily Drunk, Harpur Palate, Dream Pop, Homology Lit, and elsewhere, and they credit David Bowie, Val Kilmer, and Bob Dylan for a great deal of their current manuscript-in-progress.



Naima Msechu


Naima Msechu received her B.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University in 2017. Her writing has appeared in the minnesota review, Thin Noon, Wigleaf, and The Masters Review: Volume VIII (an anthology of stories and essays selected by Kate Bernheimer), among others. “Diners,” her flash fiction piece, was nominated by the minnesota review for the Pushcart Prize XLVII, and her short story, “Other Whale,” was named a semi-finalist for American Short Fiction’s 2020 Halifax Ranch Fiction Prize, and a finalist for Arkansas International’s 2020 Emerging Writer’s Prize in Fiction. She spends her time between the United States and Germany, both of which she calls home.

Samuel and Mary Anne Hazo Poetry Award

Recipient's work reflects Hazo's humanistic aesthetic/ideals and commitment to poetic craft. Selected by unanimous decision from current poetry faculty and based upon thesis, student's class performance, and contribution to the creative writing community and the MFA program.

Mary Dwyer

2022 Winner: Mary Dwyer

Mary Dwyer is a poet from the Jersey Shore with recent work published in Guesthouse. She draws thematic and aesthetic inspiration from the poetry of medieval romance, 20th century nursery rhymes and folk songs, gardening manuals, and art. Her poems seek to transform wounds via the linguistic imagination and address a number of topics, including: femme sexuality under Patriarchal religion; a longing to bridge the sacred and the sensual; white working class masculinity and drug addiction; and the cyclicality of grief. 

Undergraduate awards and prizes

Outstanding Creative Writing Student

This award goes to the graduating senior who has excelled in creative writing.

Ella Wisniewski

2022 Winner: Ella Wisniewski

Billy Maich Academy of American Poets Prize

The Billy Maich Prize is awarded to the Notre Dame student, graduate or undergraduate, for excellence in poetry, recognizing for the best group of poems from among those submitted. Students may enter no more than five poems and are encouraged to limit their entries to 250 lines.

Anges Ong

2022 Winner: Agnes Ong

Richard T. Sullivan Award For Fiction Writing

The Richard T. Sullivan Award for Fiction is awarded to recognize the undergraduate student who submits the best fiction manuscript. Entries may be a short story or a chapter from a novel. Only one submission per student.

Bella Niforatos

2022 Winner: Bella Niforatos, for “ROZA”

Ernest Sandeen Poetry Award 

The Ernest Sandeen Poetry Award is awarded to recognize the undergraduate who submits the best group of poems. Students may enter no more than five poems and are encouraged to limit their entries to 250 lines.

Julia Yang

2022 Winner: Julia Yang

Program awards and prizes

Sandeen Prize in Poetry

The Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry was sponsored by the Creative Writing Program in the Department of English at the University of Notre Dame in conjunction with the University of Notre Dame Press. The prize was awarded to an author who has published at least one volume of poetry (authors who are graduates of the University of Notre Dame are not eligible.)

Sheryl Luna

2022 Winner: Sheryl Luna

Magnificent Errors is a collection of poems that shows how mental health challenges can elicit beauty, resiliency, and hope.

In 2005, Sheryl Luna burst onto the poetry scene with Pity the Drowned Horses, which quickly became a classic of border and Southwest literature with its major point of reference in and around El Paso, Texas. Now with the poems in Magnificent Errors, Luna’s third collection and winner of the Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry, Luna turns her gaze toward people living on the margins—whether it be cultural, socioeconomic, psychological, or personal—and celebrates their ability to recover and thrive. Luna reveals that individuals who suffer and experience injustice are often lovely and awe inspiring. Her poems reflect on immigrants in a detention camp, a meth addict, a homeless individual, and someone on food stamps. She explores the voices of people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or PTSD, poets, visual artists, and people living in a mental health community setting. The author’s own journey to recovery from childhood abuse and mental illness also illuminates how healing is possible.

The poems in Magnificent Errors are lyrical, narrative, and often highly personal, exploring what it means to be the “other” and how to cope with difference and illness. They venerate characters who overcome difficulties including ostracism and degradation. People who live outside of the mainstream in poverty are survivors, and showing their experience teaches us compassion and kindness. Ideas of art, culture, and recovery flow throughout the poems, exploring artistic creativity as a means of redemption. With language that is fresh and surprising, Sheryl Luna shares these remarkable poems that bring a reader into the experiences of marginalization and offer hope that grace and restoration do indeed follow.

Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction

The Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction was sponsored by the Creative Writing Program in the Department of English at the University of Notre Dame in conjunction with the University of Notre Dame Press. The Prize was awarded to an author who has published at least one volume of short fiction (authors who are graduates of the University of Notre Dame are not eligible.)

Maya Sonenberg

2022 Winner: Maya Sonenberg

In these dense and startling stories, Maya Sonenberg telescopes seasons, decades, and generations in candid depictions of women’s family lives.

What happens when the urge to ditch your family outpaces the desire to love them? The stories in Bad Mothers, Bad Daughters, winner of the Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction, attempt to answer this question, heading straight for the messiness of domestic relationships and the constraints society places on women as they navigate their obligations. Daughters desert their rheumy-eyed elders in dusty museums, steal a mother’s favorite teacup, or consider throwing their dead parents’ nostalgia-riddled belongings out the window. Mothers conclude that they love one child more than their others. Fathers puzzle over a wife’s inability to balance family and career or accuse a partner of blaming their child for her own misdeeds. Women mourn the children they decided not to have and fret over the legacy they’ll leave the children they do have. But sometimes the generations reconcile or siblings manage to rescue each other. Love tears these people apart, but it mends them too.

The emotions expressed in these stories are combustible, both fraught and nuanced, uncontrollable and common, but above all often ignored or hushed because we’re not supposed to be bored by our children or annoyed with our aged parents, even as we love them. The careful shapes of these stories adapted from fairy tales, verse, letters, or newspaper announcements, the surprise of their wordplay, and the blaze of their lyrical sentences allow them to dig into and contain all those messy emotions at the same time. In these works, constraint creates both understanding and fire.

Guidelines for the Sandeen and Sullivan Prizes

The Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry and Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction were sponsored by the Creative Writing Program in the Department of English at the University of Notre Dame in conjunction with The University of Notre Dame Press. Both series are now complete and are not accepting new submissions. Beginning in 1995, the prizes were awarded to authors who had previously published at least one volume of short fiction or one volume of poetry and helped bridge a gap in publication support between an author’s debut and becoming an established author. To learn more about or purchase a copy of these award-winning books, please visit the Notre Dame Press website for the Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry and the Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction.

Ernest Sandeen was a professor of English at the University of Notre Dame from 1946 until his retirement in 1978. He was an award-winning teacher. His poems appeared in such journals as the Hudson Review, Poetry and the New Yorker. He published six volumes of poetry in his lifetime and served as emeritus professor of English at the University of Notre Dame until his death in 1997. His Collected Poems 1953 – 1994 was published in 2001.

Richard T. Sullivan graduated from Notre Dame in 1930 and joined the University’s faculty as a writing instructor in 1936. In addition to writing numerous book reviews for the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, he published several short story collections and novels, including The World of Idella May, The Three Kings, Summer After Summer, The Dark Continent, and First Citizen. A popular undergraduate teacher, he is remembered for his description of writing as “hard work requiring patience and idiotic perseverance.” He died in 1981.

Notre Dame Book Review Prize

The NDRBP was begun as a first volume prize, awarded to an author who has published short fiction or poetry in the Notre Dame Review. Established in 2013 by the NDR, in conjunction with the Notre Dame Press, the prize is to honor the work of both accomplished and emerging authors, who have yet to publish a volume of stories, or a collection of poetry. Consideration is now given to novels, not necessarily, in their case, first novels. Besides publication, the author is awarded a $1,000 prize. The judge is the editor of the Review, in conjunction with the Press; the prize will be awarded when warranted. There are no entry requirements, other than previous publication in the Notre Dame Review

The first winner of The Notre Dame Review Book Prize was James D. Redwood. His collection of short stories, Love Beneath the Napalm, was published in the fall of 2013.

The second winner of The Notre Dame Review Book Prize was John Shoptaw; his volume of poetry, Times Beach, was published by the University of Notre Dame Press in the spring of 2015.

Thomas McGonigle of New York, N.Y., was awarded the third Notre Dame Review Book Prize for his novel, St. Patrick’s Day. His book was published by University of Notre Dame Press in Fall 2016. McGonigle is the author of The Corpse Dream of N. Petkov and Going to Patchogue.

Direct inquiries about the NDR Book Prize to