The Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Awards In Writing


The Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Awards in Writing

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Glendon Swarthout is the author of 16 novels, many of which were bestsellers and were adapted to film, including The Shootist, a 1976 film starring John Wayne and Lauren Bacall and the film The Homesman, starring and directed by Tommy Lee Jones. Glendon was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and won numerous other awards for his novels, culminating in the Western Writers Award for Lifetime Achievement. Kathryn Swarthout has written a number of acclaimed young adult novels and was a free-form poetry columnist for Women’s Day Magazine for many years. Their son, Miles Swarthout, is a teacher, columnist, novelist, and award-winning screenwriter, notable for adapting The Shootist, among other films.

More information about the Swarthout family and their creative work can be found at


The Swarthout Awards in Writing, established in 1962 by celebrated authors Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout, is financially one of the top five creative writing prizes in America for students from undergraduate and graduate writing programs. With 2012 marking the 50th anniversary of the awards, this award series has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to support emerging creative writers at Arizona State University. The contest is a wonderful opportunity for young writers to receive recognition and financial support for their work. Past winners of the Swarthout Awards have used this support as a springboard for their future careers, reflecting upon Glendon Swarthout’s own fortune in winning the Hopwood Award, the first award in his distinguished literary career. In 2013, the tradition continued when Swarthout Award winner Adam Johnson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Orphan Master's Son.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Swarthout family’s generous patronage, we encourage you to consider donating your own gift to help continue this wonderful tradition of literary support for young writers. From a one-time gift to an annual sponsorship, your financial support will enhance the giving spirit founded by the Swarthouts and will enable the Department of English at Arizona State University to continue to provide unique opportunities to celebrate our students’ creativity and drive.

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Adam Johnson (winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Orphan Master's Son) is Associate Professor of English with emphasis in creative writing at Stanford University. While an undergraduate at ASU, Johnson won the Swarthout Award in fiction in 1992. He acknowledged the award in his opening remarks to his reading at the 2012 Desert Nights, Rising Stars writers conference. You can view Adam's reading at


View Previous Winners of The Swarthout Awards


First Prize in POETRY: Brian Bender

Second Prize in POETRY: Louis Vowell

Third Prize in POETRY: Shane Chergosky

Honorable Mention in POETRY: Skyler LaLone

First Prize in FICTION: Christina Arregoces

Second Prize in FICTION: Dana Diehl

Third Prize in FICTION: June Yoon

Honorable Mention in FICTION: Elizabeth Hutson



First Prize in FICTION: Allegra Hyde

Second Prize in FICTION: Alexander McElroy

Third Prize in FICTION: Cassandra Powers

Honorable Mention in FICTION: Naomi Telushkin

First Prize in POETRY: Elyse Mele

Second Prize in POETRY: Louis Vowell

Third Prize in POETRY: Brian Bender

Honorable Mention in POETRY: Spencer Hanvik



First Prize in FICTION: KJ Kern

Second Prize in FICTION: Naira Kuzmich

Third Prize in FICTION: Shertok Lama

Honorable Mention in FICTION: Heath Wilcock

First Prize in POETRY: Naira Kuzmich

Second Prize in POETRY: Dexter L. Booth

Third Prize in POETRY: Anthony Cinquepalmi

Honorable Mention in POETRY: Haley Cummings



Past Swarthout Award winners talk about the impact that the Swarthout Awards had on their lives:

"At the time, I was grateful for the Swarthout Award because, well--it helped to pay for rent and groceries. But I was most grateful because the award told me there was value in words, value in ideas, and value in what I was doing. That was a powerful message for a young person. It still is." -Robert E. Yen (1976, Poetry)

"Young writers are often told to not worry about publishing, prizes, or awards-- to only concern themselves with the quality of their work, but it's a difficult thing to do, to go into an artistic field blind, unsupported. Thank you to the Swarthout family, not only for the recognition but for the encouragement to continue doing what I love to do." -Naira Kuzmich (2012, Fiction and Poetry)

"Writing is a precarious balance between internal and external measure, and I'm still learning to trust my work whether or not it finds awards, but the Swarthout had a major impact on my life. It was the first external reward that validated my writing, that told me I was on the right path, that said, yes, this." -Danielle Roderick (2001 and 2002, Fiction)

"I know my involvement with the Swarthout Awards has had a positive impact on my life and has encouraged me to continue writing in the years since I graduated. In fact, I still do most of my writing on the laptop I purchased with the prize money. Again, my thanks to the Swarthout family for their truly remarkable contributions to young artists at ASU." -Christopher Hanks (2005, Fiction)

"I live in New York City where I am a freelancer and a published poet, novelist, screenwriter, and journalist, partly in thanks to a little pat on the back I got from the ASU English Department in the form of a Swarthout Award back in the late 1970's. I might have gotten 400 bucks in a check signed by Glendon, whose work I admired and learned from. While financially helpful, it was the endorsement that mattered, not the amount of the award. Newer and bigger awards, fellowships, and publications have replaced older ones on my curriculum vitae, but not the Swarthout Award. It will always stand as my first award as a dedicated young writer, and as a great push in the right direction." -Jack Stephens (1980, Poetry)

"Language is, Carole Maso says, a rose, opening. In that sense writers are gardeners, tilling the earth, raking the dirt with nails, watering the roots. Awards of this nature convince these gardeners that there are people out there who are equally concerned that this rose might not open, and encourage them to bloom one more flower, its fragrance reaching to the distant windows that have forgotten to witness the magic in the air." -Shertok Lama (2012, Fiction)

"I owe a great debt to the Swarthout Awards, which served as a launchpad to my current graduate work, and the opportunity to work on the novel I've nearly finished." -Andrew Marks (2009, Fiction)

"I have long appreciated the generosity that the Swarthouts have bestowed upon young writers, generosity from which I, too, have benefitted. I won second place in poetry in 1982. The money I received was very nice, but it was the recognition that mattered most to me then and now... After the death of my mother in early 2003, I began thinking of something I might do to honor her. For several years, I had noticed that there were awards here at the university for fiction and for nonfiction prose, but not for poetry. Thus, I was struck with the idea of emulating the Swarthouts, and I decided to donate my salary for teaching summer school in 2006 to create a poetry prize. At first awarding prize money to just one poem, the contest, which is now in its sixth year, recently awarded a first prize of $250, a second prize of $150, and a third prize of $100 to three students, and I hope in years to come I can donate enough to make all three prizes truly significant amounts of money. The contest is open to all undergraduates here at Cameron. I modeled the prize to a certain extent on the Swarthout Awards." -John G. Morris, Professor of English, Cameron University (1982, Poetry)