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Accents on English: Spring 2013

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Creative Writers Supported by Rodriguez, Lyon Awards

Aleida Rodriguez“Aleida loved to read,” Sean Coughlon said of his late wife Aleida Rodriguez, who died of breast cancer on August 29, 2012. “Aleida should be remembered as a strong, compassionate woman who empathized with others,” he said. “Aleida believed in working hard to accomplish goals. If something was worth doing it was worth doing right. Aleida believed in the truth and honesty.”

Rodriguez also believed in supporting writers. Not only did she read avidly, but she was influenced by a writer in her own family: brother Jose Antonio Rodriguez, who wrote the poetry collection The Shallow End of Sleep. “Jose’s education benefited from scholarships and awards,” Coughlon said. “Aleida wanted to similarly help other aspiring writers.”

Near the end of her battle with cancer, Rodriguez and her husband talked about ways they could help writers. The result? The Aleida Rodriguez Memorial Award in Creative Writing, an award to be given to one outstanding MFA in Creative Writing student every year.

Coughlon, an ASU English department graduate himself, approached ASU last fall about establishing the prize. “This award will allow writers to write,” Coughlon said. “When writers write, readers have things to read. There is always more life to live. There are always more stories to be told. There are always more experiences to be shared.”

Each year’s Aleida Rodriguez Memorial Award recipient will be selected from the current pool of MFA in Creative Writing students, who will submit creative work as part of the selection process.

The award, of course, will give the MFA students an encouraging boost and invaluable support. In what ways might the writers best celebrate Aleida Rodriguez’s memory and spirit? “Work hard, help others, always be honest/truthful, never accept less than what you deserve in all things,” Coughlon said, “find joy, laugh when something is funny, cry when something is sad, love and care for the people who are most important to you.” 

The first recipient of the Aleida Rodriguez Memorial Award will be named this fall.

This year Creative Writing students will benefit from the spirit of another dynamic woman who wanted to support writers: poet Mabelle A. Lyon, who had in her career published more than 1,000 poems in commercial and literary magazines and anthologies. The Mabelle A. Lyon Poetry Award, brought back this year after a brief hiatus, will be granted to an undergraduate or graduate poetry student each fall. 

Like Aleida Rodriguez, Mabelle A. Lyon loved to read and, in fact, founded the first public library in Goodyear, Arizona. She also co-founded the Arizona Poetry Society in 1966 and served as the first president. After she died, her estate created the Mabelle A. Lyon Poetry Award at ASU to continue her efforts. Lyon’s poems and writings were provided to the English department as an archive for faculty and students.

No doubt both the Aleida Rodriguez Memorial Award in Creative Writing and the Mabelle A. Lyon Poetry Award will inspire and support ASU’s creative writers for years to come.

—Corey Campbell

Photo of Aleida Rodriguez courtesy of Sean Coughlin.